Texas Will Require Funerals for Aborted and Miscarried Fetuses

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It’s a tough time for reproductive rights. Back in March, Indiana–under then-governor and current vice president-elect Mike Pence–passed a law that banned a person from seeking an abortion because of fetal genetic abnormalities and required the fetal tissue removed from a person’s body during an abortion or miscarriage to be given a proper funeral via burial or cremation. Burial and cremation aren’t free, either. In June, that law was suspended by a judge on the grounds that it violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that protected a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and her right to medical privacy. This week, though, Texas saw Indiana’s law and said, “What a great idea!” Now Texas has passed its own rule mandating funerals for fetuses. As of December 19, Texas will require funerals for aborted and miscarried fetuses. This is probably not the only such law we’re going to see in the near future.

According to the Washington Post, the law applies to fetal remains regardless of the period of gestation. If a still-microscopic embryo were passed, hospitals and healthcare facilities would be required to give it a funeral by cremation or burial. That seems like it could add considerably to the costs and emotional difficulty of going through IVF in Texas.

The rule says it does not apply to abortions or miscarriages that take place at home, which genuinely sounds like a rule that could kill people–not fetuses, actual women who can’t get safe access to medical care when they miscarry or terminate a pregnancy, so they stay home and hope for the best because they can’t face the cost of the hospital or because they fear reprisal. (Recall Purvi Patel, the woman in Indiana who was sentenced to 20 years in prison over a “self-induced abortion” that she maintains was a miscarriage. She was arrested after going to the hospital for help when she couldn’t stop bleeding. If she’d stayed home, she would have avoided the charges, trial and conviction. She might have died, though. States shouldn’t be making it riskier to go to the hospital than to stay home and bleed.)

The health commission says the rule will give “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public,” despite the fact that it does nothing of the sort. Saying something does not make it true. They could say that fetal funerals would fight terrorism and prevent space aliens from attacking San Antonio and make yellow flowers turn pink in the summer, but that doesn’t make it true. All this rule does is make it more difficult for women to get safe, legal abortions in Texas.

Lawmakers praising this new rule don’t even seem to be bothering trying to explain how this aids health and public safety, certainly not for the women involved. Their rhetoric is focused on protecting the dignity of the fetal tissue.

“For far too long, Texas has allowed the most innocent among us to be thrown out with the daily waste,” said state senator Don Huffines, a Republican from Dallas.

Indiana’s law was blocked, but we should expect to see more states pushing measures like this in the future. Fetal tissue and stem cells are extremely important for scientific research, but states are even banning that practice. The Washington Post reports that already in Idaho, South Dakota, and Alabama it is illegal to use aborted fetal tissue in research or to donate tissue for that purpose.