Judge gives Texas abortion clinics longer reprieve from giving aborted babies proper burial
AUSTIN, Texas, January 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge continued to block new state rules mandating proper burial of aborted children in Texas until late this month, signaling he may block them permanently.
Last week U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks extended the temporary restraining order sought in a December lawsuit filed by New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) on behalf of several abortion providers.
The rules were set to go into effect December 19 and require hospitals or other medical centers and abortion facilities to bury or cremate the remains of children they abort or who die from miscarriage at health centers.
Sparks delayed a final decision last Wednesday and extended the order blocking the rule until January 27 after a two-day hearing which had the abortion groups testifying the rules are “morally offensive,” unnecessary, have no medical benefit, and interfere with women’s “reproductive health.”
Before rendering the delay Sparks indicated he may block the rules permanently, calling them “political” and without “any benefit to all.”
Sparks said it was “obvious” the new rule has no health benefit, the San-Antonio Express-News reports. “I don’t think there’s any argument about that,” he said.
The judge also expressed concern that the law would impede abortion access, according to High Plains Public Radio
On January 3, Sparks had ordered state lawyers to return to court the following day with more information on a Texas law permitting cremated ashes to be scattered on private property with the owner’s consent, after expressing concern the rules for burying fetal remains could preempt the existing law.
The pro-abortion plaintiffs argued during the hearing that requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains would reduce access to abortion by increasing the cost. However, the state’s lawyers countered that any increase would be nominal.
The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops told the court its 15 dioceses are willing to provide cemetery space and burials for aborted or miscarried children. The services would be provided free of charge, but abortion facilities and health clinics would be responsible for bringing the remains to the cemetery or funeral home.
State health officials said that in addition to requiring a proper burial for aborted children, the rules aimed to stop the spread of disease.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission initially released the new rules in July, which do not apply to children aborted or miscarried at home.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at the time that human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste.
An example of such disposal of remains was described in a Commission hearing in August. According to Fox7 Austin, Texas State Representative Mark Keough recounted at the hearing, "A woman, working near an abortion facility in Houston, observed tiny baby limbs and other body parts in a parking lot after a sewer break."
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio were found by the state’s attorney general in 2015 to be discarding aborted children’s remains in landfills, the law requiring disposal of the remains in a “humane” manner. Planned Parenthood and other South Carolina abortion businesses were fined that same year for illegally disposing of aborted fetal remains in landfills.
Other states have moved to enact fetal-burial regulations as well.
Currently Texas law permits the remains of its aborted or miscarried unborn children to be handled as medical waste, meaning they are either incinerated, buried or disposed of in a sanitary landfill, or they are ground up and flushed down a sanitary sewer.
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