Within a week of the Supreme Court striking down Texas’ HB 2 bill for creating an “undue burden” on women seeking abortion, the state’s Health and Human Services Commission proposed new rules that would require that all fetal remains from abortions be cremated or buried.
Such policies are a new tactic from anti-choice legislators, with Texas joining Indiana, Arkansas and Georgia in attempting to implement these types of requirements. Currently in Texas, fetal remains from abortions are disposed of “in sanitary sewers and landfills for medical waste” -- in a manner similar to other biological medical material, such as “organs removed during surgeries.” The rules would apply to all abortions at any period of gestation, even though more than 90 percent of abortions in Texas occur in the first trimester, and as the Houston Chronicle described, “within those first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus ranges from the size of a poppy seed to roughly the size of a lime.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not cite sanitary or health concerns as motivations for the proposed rules, but that didn’t stop a local Texas news station from speculating otherwise. In reporting on the potential new rules, Fox 7, an Austin, TX, Fox News-owned station, allowed an anti-choice activist, Carol Everett, to baselessly speculate that current methods for handling fetal remains are unsanitary. “There’s several health concerns. What if the woman had HIV? What if she had a sexually transmitted disease? What if those germs went through and got into our water supply?” Fox 7 quotes Everett saying.
The Austin American Statesman quoted Gov. Abbott’s spokesperson saying the proposed rules are meant “to protect the unborn and prevent the sale of baby body parts,” even though a spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services said the rules wouldn’t apply to fetal tissue used in research.
The Texas Tribune noted that the proposed rules were “published in the Texas Register” with “no announcement.” Publication of the proposed rules begins a 30-day public comment period after which they may go into effect in September.