Texas appeals ruling that blocked fetal burial rule


Highlights

Paxton argues that Texas has a right to protect the dignity of fetal remains.

A federal judge had blocked the rule, saying it could restrict access to abortion.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to overturn an Austin judge’s ruling that blocked the state from enforcing a rule requiring fetal tissue to be buried or cremated.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled in January that the regulation was vaguely worded, placing abortion clinics at risk of arbitrary enforcement from hostile state agencies, and appeared to be a pretext for restricting abortion access because it provided no health benefits and replaced tissue-disposal regulations that caused no health problems.

Paxton defended the rule, saying it required abortion clinics, hospitals and health centers to treat fetal remains — whether from an abortion or miscarriage — with dignity, replacing regulations that allowed fetal tissue to be incinerated and sent to a sanitary landfill.

Similar restrictions were included in legislation approved last week by the Texas House and Senate. Abortion rights advocates have indicated that they intend to challenge that regulation in court as well.

In briefs filed Tuesday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Paxton argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that states can adopt regulations expressing “profound respect for the life of the unborn” as long as the rules do not create a substantial burden women seeking an abortion.

“Texas has chosen to respect unborn life by adopting rules requiring the dignified treatment of fetal remains,” Paxton said. “The new rules are constitutional, pose no obstacle to health care access, allow compliance at a low cost and further Texas’ valid interest in respecting unborn life.”

But Sparks, after hearing two days of testimony, ruled that a lack of available companies to handle fetal cremation and burial could shut down abortion providers for failure to comply with the rule.



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