Judge blocks Texas law requiring humane disposal of fetal remains
AUSTIN, Texas, September 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge issued a permanent injunction Wednesday against a Texas law requiring burial or cremation for the bodies of aborted or miscarried babies, claiming the law burdens women for no benefit.
In 2017, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, which established that embryonic and fetal remains were not “pathological waste,” and that any facility in which a baby is either aborted or miscarried must dispose of their bodies by interment, cremation, or incineration. It specifies that the remains may not be dumped in a landfill. The legislation codified state health department rules issued the year before, which were already facing legal challenge.
U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra ruled this week that the law imposes “significant burdens on women seeking an abortion or experiencing pregnancy loss,” NPR reported, while providing "minimal, if any, benefits."
"Women who do not believe embryonic and fetal tissue has a special status will be required to accept the State's prescribed methods of disposition as a condition of obtaining pregnancy-related health care,” Ezra wrote, which he claimed “increases the grief, stigma, shame, and distress of women experiencing an abortion, whether induced or spontaneous.”
At worst, he added, the law would “intrude into the realm of constitutional protection afforded to 'personal decisions concerning not only the meaning of procreation but also human responsibility and respect for it.'”
Ezra’s ruling “is disappointing but not surprising,” Texas Right to Life lamented in a statement. “The ruling today was very convoluted since on one hand the judge asserted that Texas does have a legitimate state interest in protecting and promoting preborn Life; however, he further stated that interest is not substantial enough to outweigh the abortion industry’s heckler’s veto.”
The law places its legal obligations and their associated costs solely on abortion or medical facilities, however, meaning the only “burdens” the law places on women are whatever personal inferences they draw from recognizing the humanity of their dead children. Further, it was not based on “the State’s view of pregnancy” but rather on the settled biological understanding of what constitutes a living human being.
The “abortion providers failed to prove that the humane disposition rules in any way increase the difficulty for women to obtain abortions,” Texas Alliance for Life pointed out in its response to the ruling. “They agreed to not argue that cost is a factor, and they testified that they neglected to reach out to their current or any other medical waste providers to find a provider to meet the law’s requirements.”
The group further noted that the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has offered to provide pro-bono fetal burial services to any hospital or even abortion centers in the state.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pledged to “continue to fight to uphold the law.”
“I remain confident the courts will ultimately uphold the Texas law, which honors the dignity of the unborn and prevents fetal remains from being treated as medical waste,” he declared. “We established during a weeklong trial in July that the law is constitutional and does not impact the abortion procedure or the availability of abortion in Texas.”
The state has 30 days to appeal Ezra’s ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.