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Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016)

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of several abortion clinics challenging new Texas regulations that would require the burial or cremation of fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriages, or ectopic pregnancy surgeries.

Plaintiffs allege that requiring that fetal tissue be cremated or buried infringes on the right to privacy and violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Since a burial or cremation would be accompanied by a fetal death certificate, Plaintiffs argue that the name and address of every woman who has had an abortion could be publicized under the new regulations.

Plaintiffs further allege that the regulations are unconstitutionally vague because they do not provide abortion providers a reasonable opportunity to know what is required of them. For example, it is unclear what types of tissue fall within the regulations’ definition of “fetal tissue.”

Plaintiffs also allege that requiring healthcare facilities to dispose of embryonic and fetal tissue differently from human remains and from other types of human tissue violates their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.


On January 27, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks blocked Texas from enforcing the rules. Texas has appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.