Texas hospitals, abortion clinics, and healthcare facilities will be required to cremate or bury aborted fetuses starting December 19, the Texas Tribune reports.
As it stands now, healthcare facilities in the state that perform abortions dispose of the remains in sanitary landfills. But the new rules, submitted in July by state health officials and finalized Monday, will require abortion providers to bury or cremate the remains and foot the cost, which is sometimes thousands of dollars per case.
According to Texas's Health and Human Services Commission, the new rules were put in place to bring "enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public." They don't apply to abortions or miscarriages that happen at home and won't require patients to get death certificates.
The requirements faced opposition from medical professionals and reproductive rights advocates in the state who argue they place an unnecessary burden on women and abortion providers and don't protect public health.
"The rules target physicians that provide abortions and the hospitals that care for patients," Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told the Dallas Morning News. "It's so transparent that what they're really trying to do is denying access to abortion."
But Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams disagrees. "While the methods described in the new rules may have a cost, that 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," Williams told the Morning News.
Lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights warned Texas health officials in August that the new guidelines would likely be challenged in court, but Republican lawmakers are already gearing up to write them into law when they reconvene in January.
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