New Texas Health Rules Will Require Fetal Remains to Be Cremated or Buried

By
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A controversial set of new Texas rules that was quietly approved earlier this year and is set to take effect in mid-December will place restrictions on how fetal remains can be disposed of. Under the new rules, hospitals, abortion providers, and other health centers will no longer be allowed to dispose of the fetal remains in a sanitary landfill and will instead have to cremate or provide a burial for them, regardless of the gestation period, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Texas Health Commission filed the new rules with the secretary of State’s office on Monday, and they are set to take effect on December 17. The final draft of the rules also includes language that makes an exception for miscarriages or abortions that occur at home, according to the Tribune. Birth and death certificates will also not be mandated, so as to not interfere with privacy concerns. The rules have garnered a lot of criticism from medical professionals and reproductive-right’s activists, who call into question whether such costly measures are necessary at all and instead make a woman’s situation more difficult.

Despite a lot of public outcry, however, Texas’s Health and Human Services Commission proposed the new rules under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott, who said in a fundraising email that he doesn’t believe fetal remains should be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.” As for who would pay for the sometimes costly cremation or burials (which can reach into the thousands), state health officials told the Tribune that health providers and not patients will absorb the costs. They added that those costs would also be “offset by the elimination of some current methods of disposition.”

The new rules are likely, however, to be challenged in court at a later date. Republican lawmakers have already filed to have the rules written into statute in the New Year.