Pro-Choice Activists Sue State of Texas Over New Abortion Law
THE STATE OF TEXAS – Since June of this year, the state of Texas has been entangled in a heated debate following the Department of State Health Service and Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that a new law would be implemented requiring all medical facilities that perform abortions to either cremate or bury the remains of aborted and miscarried babies, regardless of the period of gestation. After much protest from reproductive rights activists in Texas, the nation and beyond, the Center for Reproductive Rights is suing the state to prevent the law from going into effect.
The New Law
This controversial new law was quietly proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in June of this year. The law was conceived in an effort to regulate abortion, the Texas Tribune reported. In a public statement, health commission spokesman Bryan Black said, "The Health and Human Services Commission developed new rules to ensure Texas has maintained the highest standards of human dignity."
The proposed rules were published in the Texas Register on July 1, allowing a 30-day public comment period before being finalized. After much debate and an upswing in public comments, the Department of State Health Services resubmitted several updated rules within the law, as well as an analysis of the latter’s financial impact; people had an additional month to submit opinions.
In a Dallas Morning News article dated October 26, Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, argued that "the rules target physicians that provide abortions and the hospitals that care for patients for no reason other than to make it harder to get a safe [and] legal abortion in Texas." He added, "It is so transparent that what they're really trying to do is deny access to abortion.”
Protests also came from medical and funeral industries critical of the costs associated with cremating or burying fetal remains. The Texas Funeral Directors Association voiced their members’ concerns as well, and feared that the impending law might affect the families they serve negatively, pointing to the cost associated with compliance. Cremations through a third-party crematorium range between $75 and $100 per specimen; for those who choose burials, the minimum for a small space in a cemetery is estimated at $500; and those who opt for a casket would likely have to pay an estimated $100, summarized another Texas Tribune article.
Michael Land, funeral home director and spokesman for the Funeral Directors Association added, "If you add labor on the part of the funeral home, the fees could go into the thousands of dollars."
However, Carrie Williams, Department of Health Services spokeswoman, told the Dallas Morning News that "while the methods described in the new rules may have a cost, the cost is expected to be offset by costs currently being spent by facilities on disposition for transportation, storage, incineration, steam disinfection and/or landfill disposal."
On November 29, the Texas Department of State Health Services finalized its new regulations.
Recently, Ele Chupik’s Facebook post has been circulating among Texas women with a bold call-to-action, asking menstruating females to “send any used tampons, pads, or ‘indefinitely ruined underwear’ to Abbott, so that the Governor can test their ‘fertilized status’” on December 19, the day the law was supposed to go into effect (Facebook post is no longer available). The joke is, said TheBerry, “that women who are on their period technically have no idea about the fertilization status of any of the eggs released in their menses; so how are they to know which process of disposal is most appropriate according to the highly-invasive Texas state law?”
The new rule requiring the burying or cremation of aborted or miscarried fetal remains due to abortions was supposed to go into effect on Monday, December 19. However, just seven days prior to its implementation, and 12 days after the Department of Health and Services finalized the rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) sued the state of Texas to “stop the latest unconstitutional abortion restriction.”
In a press release, CRR stated that “the politically-motivated rules are designed to restrict a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion by increasing both the cost of reproductive health care services and the shame and stigma surrounding abortion and pregnancy loss.” Those at CRR are angered as these new laws proposed by the state of Texas can be read as an attempt to undermine the victory of the Supreme Court Case Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt that ruled the state of Texas could not shut down state abortion clinics with medically unnecessary restrictions.
President and CEO of CRR Nancy Northup emphasized that “these regulations are an insult to Texas women … 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.” Northup assured Texas women, however, that “the CRR will continue to fight for Texas women, and women across the nation, to ensure their rights are protected.”
As of December 15, federal Judge Sam Sparks has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new state law until January 6, 2017, reported Reuters. According to electronic court filings, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Judge Sam Sparks, will hold hearings on January 3 and 4. Sparks said last Thursday “each [side] would get about five hours for a hearing on January 3-4 to make their cases. There [will] likely be a decision on January 6.”
For more information about what happened in the court room on December 15, please visit here.
The state of Texas and the CRR now have a little under three weeks to prepare for their hearing dates.