A federal judge blocked the newly passed Texas rules on the burial or cremation of fetal remains, rather than disposing of them as medical waste.

The decision came after endless lawsuits trying to prevent abortion clinics in Texas being forced to cremate or bury fetal remains after miscarriages and abortions.

The new rules were presented by Governor Greg Abbott. Photo credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images / The Washington Post
The new rules were presented by Governor Greg Abbott. Photo credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images / The Washington Post

The rule on the disposal of fetal remains was supposed to be imposed on Monday, but U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks enacted a restraining order, suspending the implementation until January 6.

To bury or not to bury?

Opponents of the ruling state that the new law does not have anything to do with medicine forcing medical institutions to take part in a religious custom where nothing changes for the patient’s state of health. On the other hand, forcing abortion patients to cremate or bury their unborn child may attempt against their privacy and their mental health, making the ruling potentially harmful.

“The methods allowed by the rules will protect the public by preventing the spread of disease while also preserving the dignity of the unborn in a manner consistent with Texas laws,” wrote Texas’ health department.

The new rules were presented by Governor Greg Abbott right after the Supreme Court had made it clear that people in Texas deserved full abortion rights and facilities. Now, the ruling states that fetal remains should be treated like people, requiring a burial or cremation.

Usually, fetal remains are disposed of as medical waste in dedicated landfills. Disposing of the remains as if they were humans will create an extraordinary financial burden on a budget of abortion clinics within the state, seeing that they must pay for the whole process. On the other hand, a group of Catholic bishops offered to pay on behalf of abortion clinics within the state and the Texas Catholic Conference announced that it is looking into providing free burials for fetal remains exclusively.

To some extent, the decision to bury or cremate a fetus would put the act in a different perspective, as the child would not be treated as waste but as a child. Even if one could argue that the ruling is not as concerning, the First Amendment explicitly supports the separation from religious belief and law. Passing laws forcing to bury or cremate fetuses goes against such belief, seeing that by burying the fetus nothing is being accomplished in a medical sense.

Many believe that the rules proposed by Abbott are a methodology for shaming mothers who undergo abortions or miscarriages. Such measures would attempt against the person’s sense of morality based on spirituality and religion. For example, the Satanic Church played the same card on the matter and, through the Religious Freedom Act, imposed that its members could not be forced to bury their unborn baby, seeing that such act would attempt against their freedom of religion.

The fetal burial rules will most likely fail, but it appears that Republican legislators in Texas are testing the waters for more conservative laws on controversial matters, in this case, abortion.

Source: The New York Times