AUSTIN — A coalition of abortion providers have filed suit in an effort to stop Texas officials from requiring that they bury or cremate the bodies of the unborn children they kill instead of having them incinerated with medical waste and dumped in landfills.
“The regulation enshrines into law an exceedingly narrow set of beliefs regarding embryonic and fetal personhood, and what is appropriate for the disposition of embryonic and fetal tissue,” the lawsuit, filed on Monday, asserts. “These views do not reflect the diversity of views people hold about when human life begins and about the proper disposition of bodies.”
As previously reported, the rule, requested by Gov. Greg Abbott, is set to take effect on Dec. 19.
“Governor Abbott believes human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste, and the proposed rule changes affirms the value and dignity of all life,” spokesperson Ciara Matthews said in a statement in July when the proposal was first announced. “For the unborn, the mothers and the hospital and clinic staff, the governor believes it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”
Abortion facilities customarily contract with third party medical waste companies to dispose of the aborted babies, which are usually classified as “pathological waste.” The containers of aborted babies, mixed in with boxes of bodily fluids, tissues and other items that are not permitted to be thrown in the trash, are then transported to an incineration plant where they are burned into ash and then dumped into landfills.
However, current Texas law also allows for other types of disposal, including “grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer system,” “chlorine disinfection/maceration followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill” or other “approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.”
The new law will now mandate that abortionists utilize services provided by funeral homes rather than medical waste companies.
Therefore, several abortion facilities are seeking to put a stop to the requirement, with Whole Woman’s Health, Brookside Women’s Medical Center, Austin Women’s Health Center, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, and others filing suit. As previously reported, the medical waste company Stericycle was fined $42,000 in 2011 for dumping fetal remains from Whole Woman’s Health with household and commercial trash.
“It imposes a funeral ritual on women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion,” the legal challenge, filed in part by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, reads. “It also forces healthcare providers to work with an extremely limited number of third-party vendors for burial or scattering ashes, threatening abortion clinics’ provision of care and their long-term ability to remain open, as well as cost increases for women seeking pregnancy-related medical care.”
It also asserts that the plaintiffs aren’t aware of any burial or cremation service that isn’t more expensive than using a medical waste disposal service, and that the rule will make women feel shame and guilt over ending the life of their unborn child.
“By depriving women of the moral agency to act in accordance with their own views about personhood, the regulation deprives women of dignity,” the suit states. “The regulation’s imposition onto women’s autonomy and invasion of their privacy will also harm women spiritually and emotionally, causing trauma, guilt, shame, anger, and
feelings of exploitation and violation.”
The abortion providers are therefore seeking an injunction, as well as a declaration that the rule is unconstitutional.
“Governor Abbott believes human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste, and the proposed rule changes affirms the value and dignity of all life,” Matthews said on Monday in response to the suit. “For the unborn, the mothers and the hospital and clinic staff, the governor believes it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”