Reproductive rights advocates at a sparsely attended public hearing of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) on Wednesday once again warned state officials against implementing proposed rules that would require the burial or cremation of aborted or miscarried fetuses.
The Republican-backed rule could add $2,000 to the cost of abortion care, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas.
DSHS heard public testimony on the proposed rules during an August 4 hearing.
The proposed rules, which would prohibit abortion providers from disposing of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, requiring that they be buried or cremated instead, were quietly published by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on July 1.
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The regulations would apply to all fetal remains regardless of the period of gestation. Under the proposed rules, any other tissue, “including placenta, umbilical cord and gestational sac,” could still be disposed of through “grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer system; incineration followed by deposition of the residue in a sanitary landfill.”
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said he fully backs the “fetal remains” regulation, urging Texas’ GOP-held legislature to support the new rule when lawmakers reconvene in January.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has promised to take legal action if the rules are implemented.
Gordon Vincent, a physician in Temple, Texas, testified during the hearing that the rule has nothing to do with “dignity of life” because it allows for mass burials and mass cremations, reported the Austin American-Statesman. “This is not about children. … This is not about dignity. … This is not about health,” Gordon said.
Ashley Blinkhorn, an Austin resident, testified that if the proposed regulation were in effect she would not have sought medical care during her two miscarriages because disposing of the fetal remains would have been too expensive, reported the Austin Chronicle.
“There’s no health reason that we should do this,” Blinkhorn said. “Health clinics are already following state standards, there’s no reason to change the rule for this kind of waste. It’s not reasonable and not necessary. This is targeted at [women], and this is not something we need to stand for.”
Jim Bates, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas, testified that private burials or group burials are options that should be available to “dispose of the fetus in the least harmful way,” reported the Texas Tribune.
“One year’s worth of fetuses would be smaller than the space of a refrigerator in the ground, so it would be very little,” Bates said. “What we see with at least these two choices is a very least cost way to do it, it gives the women choices to do the disposition and allow that fetus to just return to the earth in a very respectful, private manner.”
Joe Pojman, executive director for the anti-choice Texas Alliance for Life, accused reproductive rights groups of “crying wolf” about the impact the proposed regulations would have on women, reported the Texas Tribune.
“We’re talking about the difference between a landfill or cemetery for the final disposition of ashes,” Pojman said during the hearing.
DSHS officials said the agency will take all the testimony into consideration while they determine if and when the regulations may be implemented. The proposed regulation would take effect 20 days after the finalized rules are published, a DSHS spokesperson told the Texas Tribune.