Hearing on fetus burial rule is latest in abortion battle

Governor Greg Abbott, last month, proposed a new rule to require abortion providers to dispose of fetuses by burial or cremation. Abbott’s call came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down tough abortion regulations passed by state lawmakers in 2013. Thursday, those for and against this latest attempt by Texas to regulate the abortion industry, had a chance to weigh in.

Most of those who packed into the hearing room at the Department of State Health Services were familiar faces in the long running Texas abortion debate. Most who testified voiced familiar arguments, like Rachel Baker-Ford who is against the rule. "The decision not to have an abortion is not one to be made by politicians."

Those who support the proposal argued again that someone had to stand up for the unborn. "All children should be treated with dignity even after their death,” said Teresa Comera.

The state is drafting a new rule to require abortion providers to bury or cremate fetuses.

"Disposing of these babies in a way that is not humane is wrong. This has nothing to do with so called women's reproductive health,” said Christine Melchor with the Houston Coalition for life.

Supporters of the rule noted an incident ten years ago saying unborn babies were treated just like garbage. State Rep Mark Keough (R) of The Woodlands said an incident that happened in 2005 is one reason why he believes the rule is needed. "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."

Pro-abortion advocates disputed the claim that fetuses are being flushed sewers and say clinics typically contract with medical waste disposal companies to handle the tissue. Kay Arnold pointed out a similar law in Indiana was recently blocked by a federal Judge. "This reckless policy is so far reaching that it would even apply to women seeking care following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy,” warned Arnold.

The rule, for those who oppose it, is nothing more than another attempt to restrict access to a legal medical procedure. "The real effect is that these regulations will make abortions more expensive,” said Trisha Trigilio with the Texas ACLU.

According to the most recent public data in 2013, there were almost 55,000 abortions in the state of Texas. This hearing before state health officials may be a preview of what's to come when the legislature reconvenes in January. There may be attempts to link abortions to human trafficking as well as to frivolous lawsuits.

"Wrongful birth lawsuits are when the parents of a child born with disabilities sue the doctor and the hospital because they feel they were not properly informed of the child's disability in time to have an abortion, even though the doctor is not responsible for the disability at all,” said Joe Pojman with the Texas Alliance for Life.

Pro Choice advocates warn the attempted to regulate will eventually come with a cost.

"I fear the Texas taxpayers are going to have their hard earned money spent on further lawsuits as Texas passes more unconstitutional laws trying to remove health care from Texans,” said Heather Busby with NARAL Pro Choice Texas.

Enforcement of the new burial rule is targeted to start this fall.