Hearing on Texas' fetal remains burial rule starts Tuesday

AUSTIN, Texas -- After a federal judge delayed Texas' fetal remains burial rule, a hearing  started Tuesday morning to address the issue.

Abortion providers filed a lawsuit last month to block the state rule requiring the burial or cremation of fetal/embryonic tissue after an abortion or miscarriage.

The new rule is a revision to update the deposition regulations that have been in place since 1989 and would apply to abortion providers, OBGYN offices, hospitals, pathology labs and forensic labs. Currently there are seven approved methods of deposition. The revision eliminates four of them: grinding, chlorine disinfection and maceration, deposition in a sanitary sewer or deposition in a sanitary landfill; leaving burial, incineration and cremation and requiring the ashes be sprinkled or buried anywhere other than a landfill.

Judge Sam Sparks temporarily blocked the revised rule from going into effect and listened to arguments Tuesday. 

The attorneys for the abortion providers called witnesses throughout the morning and early afternoon including a doctor, minister and economist who said the rule puts an emotional burden on women, is cruel and has no public health benefit.

"I think this law unjustly intrudes on a woman's private decision making and imposes one set of belief systems on all women who may not share those beliefs," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President & CEO, Whole Woman's Health.

 

"The reason the law is unconstitutional is because it takes what has to be an intimate, personal, private moment between a woman, her doctor and her family deciding what do we do in this case, inserting the state's viewpoint and requiring women to do things that they would not otherwise be doing," added David Brown, Attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The proceeding included a considerable amount of testimony on how much the new rule will actually cost health care providers. The Department of State Health Services, which changed the rule, estimates it would cost between $0.50 and $1.50, but estimates from the opposition were more expensive.

Tuesday afternoon the State called it's first witness, Jennifer Sims, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of State Health Services. She testified the revision started in January 2016, before she was with the department. She also said the revision does present a public health benefit because it clarifies and better defines the current rule. 

Sims did acknowledge the rule eliminates the most commonly used practice of deposition. 

Testimony is set to continue Wednesday morning.

KVUE's Ashley Goudeau is reporting live from the hearing. Follow her on Twitter for updates:


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