Last June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas laws that would have placed severe restrictions on abortion clinics in that state—laws that were intended to limit access to abortions by severely reducing the number of qualified clinics. (The law made clinics conform to standards of “ambulatory surgical centers”.) In response, the woman-controlling Texas legislature has now done an end run around the decision. At the end of last month, they approved a new regulation that fetuses, unlike other forms of medical waste, must be buried or incinerated like a human body, regardless of the stage of abortion. As the New York Times reported:
According to the rules, aborted fetal tissue must be handled like a deceased person and treated “using the process of cremation, entombment, burial, or placement in a niche or by using the process of cremation followed by placement of the ashes in a niche, grave, or scattering of ashes as authorized by law.”
Here are the new regulations, showing the unwarranted distinction between fetuses and other forms of medical waste, including body organs:
And fetuses? See below, and here it is in larger type:
(B)The products of spontaneous or induced human abortion shall be subjected to one of the following methods of treatment and disposal:
(i)fetal tissue, regardless of the period of gestation, except as provided by §1.133 of this title (relating to Scope, Covering Exemptions and Minimum Parametric Standards for Waste Treatment Technologies Previously Approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services):
(I)incineration followed by interment;
(II)steam disinfection followed by interment; or
In other words, fetuses, even if very early in development, must be buried as if they were humans. This can only reflect the view that a fetus, no matter how far along, is equivalent to an already-born human. That, of course, is a religious view, but it also makes more trouble for abortion clinics, which must now cover the extra expense of burial or cremation/burial. Will the patient be required to pay more to cover these costs?
Further, it’s palpably clear that this rule is meant to shame women who have had abortions, forcing them to treat their fetuses as if they were their already-born children. That is clearly a psychological burden: “My fetus is going to be buried like a person.”
There is no medical or biological justification for treating aborted fetuses differently from animal carcasses (after all, we are animals) or from organs removed from people. The only justification is a religious one, and Texas just can’t stop trying to put obstacles in the way of women seeking abortions.
Donald Trump has already sworn to ensure that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, placing abortion laws back in the hands of the states—and you know what that means. The only consolation is that the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to overturn the Texas law in the first place, and a new Trump appointee won’t change that balance. But several of the Justices are old, and it’s likely that Trump will get another appointment even if he has only one term.
A late addition: reader Pliny The in Between has a cartoon editorial comment on the new Texas law at his/her site: