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Texas to Sign Into Law Fetal Burial Requirement

Senators voted last week to send anti-abortion bill SB 8 to the desk of Governor Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law soon. The bill itself, an overt attack on women’s physical and psychological health, requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated, prohibits donations of fetal tissue, and implements sweeping bans on certain types of second trimester abortions.

The two types of procedures banned within the bill include dilation and evacuation and dilation and extraction, procedures that anti-abortion extremists refer to by their medically inaccurate phrases “dismemberment abortions” and “partial birth abortions” respectfully. As one of the safest surgical abortion methods, dilation and evacuation abortions make up the majority of second trimester abortions. Any effort in its restriction feigns concern for women’s health and is clearly rooted in the goal to limit abortion access nationwide.

Civilian outrage has followed this bill since its conception, most notably in the form of demonstrated homages to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Throughout the life of this bill, women donning red robes and white bonnets have made their presence known within House and Senate galleries, alluding to the threat of the dystopian reality women face as a result of the continued legislative attacks on reproductive healthcare access.

In December, a federal judge temporarily blocked a fetal burial rule approved by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services that would have required the exact same ceremonies for disposing of fetal remains.

Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, brought to light the financial irony in a statement regarding the bill, “Texas taxpayers will now have to pay for expensive litigation because lawmakers insist on passing bills they know are unconstitutional, simply to appease an extremist anti-choice lobby.” Disregarding the platform of financial conservatism, Texas legislatures put taxpayer’s dollars at risk by pushing forward legislation knowingly doomed from the start.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) responded in a letter to Governor Abbott calling for the veto of the “unconstitutional” and “medically unsound” bill, “Senate Bill 8 clearly falls short of the robust constitutional standard set forth just last year by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health.” penned Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights. Further stating, “We urge you to veto Senate Bill 8 as an unnecessary, unconstitutional burden on abortion access that will have zero positive impact on the health and safety of Texans.”

The Center also reminded the Governor that the State of Texas still owes them $4.8 million in reimbursements due to the legal fees that they incurred successfully fighting Texas’s HB 2 law requiring clinics offering abortion services to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards, as well as mandated that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, leading to the closure of over half the abortion clinics in Texas. That Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case culminated in a historic 5-3 Supreme Court ruling that that law constituted undue burdens on women seeking abortion, and therefore were unconstitutional.

 

 

Media Resources: CNN 5/30/17; Politico 5/26/2017; The Texas Tribune 5/26/2017; Guttmacher Institute 2/21/2017; Feminist Majority Foundation 12/16/17, 6/27/16