Is Texas really trying to shame women? Check out this story from Quorum Report, reprinted here with permission, for a good tutorial on the issue.Abortion advocates file suit to block fetal burial rule in Texas (published by Quorum Report, December 12, 2016)
Chairman Cook fires back that this neither about abortion access nor a reaction to the SCOTUS ruling on HB 2
Abortion providers have filed suit to oppose newly adopted rules requiring the cremation or burial of the remains of aborted fetuses, which they allege is a ploy to put the cost of abortion procedures out of reach of many Texas women.
Gov. Greg Abbott has taken credit for the creation of the rule and has done his share of fundraising on it. It’s set to take effect Dec. 19. Abbott, a practicing Roman Catholic, said the rules are intended to respect the sanctity of life rather than treat aborted fetuses like other medical waste.
Abbott directed the change after the office of Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, sent letters back in May to the Health and Human Services Commission asking for new rule. That was prior to the United States Supreme Court ruling that struck down portions of House Bill 2, the most sweeping anti-abortion measure adopted by Texas to date.
Chairman Cook has also pre-filed a bill along the same lines, including a penalty for non-compliant clinics.
On a conference call with reporters, Nancy Northrup of the Center for Reproductive Rights called the fetal burial rules another round in the fight to maintain safe, legal, affordable abortions in Texas.
“These regulations are an insult to Texas women, the rule of law and the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared less than six months ago that medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion access are unconstitutional,” Northrup said. “These insidious regulations are a new low in Texas' long history of denying women the respect that they deserve to make their own decision about their lives and their healthcare.”
The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Austin, makes a number of claims in its initial filing. Plaintiffs argue the requirement is an inconvenient burden on the woman and the abortion provider, it would add cost to the abortion procedure, the requirement was based on a pretext of public health but was intended to restrict abortion access, and it amended a section of code that had never previously applied to the disposal of a fetus.
The Center for Reproductive Rights wants a declaratory judgment that the regulation is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Meantime, some activists are urging women to send used feminine products to Gov. Abbott’s office in protest.
When Texas passes related to abortion, it is usually not the first state to do so.
In this case, Indiana has led the way on the burial of fetal remains. An article in The Atlantic notes at least five states have considered enshrining such changes in law. In the wake of the controversial hidden video from the Center for Medical Progress, lawmakers also have moved to stop the sale of fetal tissue. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, has filed a bill about that.
Northrup, who is once more representing Whole Women’s Health, characterized the fetal remains rule to be one more effort to limit abortions, this time through a costly burial process.
Chairman Cook’s office issued a statement pointing out that the fetal remains rule was not in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling that overturned portions of the state’s abortion law.
“Claims that the rule change is a result of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling on House Bill 2 of 2013 are entirely inaccurate,” Cook said. “The fact is that on April 19, 2016 my chief of staff brought to my attention the previous rule, which included abhorrent options to dispose of fetal remains including the use of a garbage disposal that drains into our state's water supply, and disposal into a landfill.”
Cook sought to make clear what his bill will not do: It does not require funeral rituals. It does not restrict abortion access. It would not require fetal death certificates. Nor would it require the publication of the name and address of a woman seeking an abortion. He also disputed that the procedure would add to the cost of an abortion, since disposal costs already were built into the cost of the procedure.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops issued its own statement today, saying it would work with abortion providers to offer alternatives for burial. The Archdiocese of San Antonio has provided some services for years, said executive director Jennifer Carr Allmon. The 50 Catholic cemeteries in the state estimated their cost would range from $1,500 to $13,000 annually.
“To bury the dead is a work of mercy,” Allmon said. “As Pope Francis reminds us, the victims of our ‘throwaway culture’ are ‘the weakest and most fragile human beings.’ It is right and just for us to be assisting the victims of abortion.”
The response from the Health and Human Services Commission was brief: “We are aware of the news release and lawsuit and are reviewing the information, though we have not yet been officially served,” spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.
By Kimberly Reeves
Copyright December 12, 2016, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved
(reprinted with permission)