State Health Department Makes Fetal Tissue Rule Final

Anti-choice rule takes effect Dec. 19

Despite two public hearings and thousands of comments, HHSC has finalized a new fetal tissue rule that pro-choice advocates say stigmatizes abortion and adds cost burden to care.
Despite two public hearings and thousands of comments, HHSC has finalized a new fetal tissue rule that pro-choice advocates say stigmatizes abortion and adds cost burden to care. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Despite emotional public hearings, roughly 35,000 comments, and major pushback from pro-choice advocates, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission finalized a new rule on Monday that would require women to bury or cremate fetal tissue after their abortion or miscarriage, rather than deposit them in sanitary sewers and medical-waste landfills.

The rule, initially drafted under the radar in July, is set to take effect on Dec. 19 (in 20 days).

During public hearings in August and November, anti-abortion activists – often using loaded and graphic language – praised the rule as a measure that promotes “dignity” and “respect” for the unborn, without pointing to any evidence of the rule’s medical necessity. Pro-choice advocates relayed their personal experiences with abortion and miscarriage and stressed the new rule would serve to shame abortion-seeking women in Texas, add financial barriers to abortion, and further restrict access. Nonpartisan medical organizations, the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Hospital Association, have questioned the rule and its cost burden. According to estimates from the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas, the rule could add $2,000 to the price of abortion care, and since the state has refused to pick up any of the tab, the cost burden falls on providers, and then down to patients.

HHSC spokesperson Carrie Williams says after listening to public comment, the commission changed rule language to make clear the regulation doesn’t apply to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home. It also added language clarifying that the issuance of death and birth certificates isn’t required. However, those changes may not be enough for the anti-choice rule to withstand a constitutional challenge following the summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Legal groups argue the regulation is wholly unnecessary, fails to advance any health or safety benefit, and increases the procedure's cost, which poses an undue burden on abortion access. (Sound familiar?) The ACLU of Texas and the Center for Reproductive Rights have hinted at a potential lawsuit should the rule officially pass.

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More abortion rights
Court Delays Undocumented Minor's Right to Abortion
Court Delays Undocumented Minor's Right to Abortion
Jane Doe again faces government engineered obstacles to abortion

Mary Tuma, Oct. 20, 2017

Texas Backs Trump Agency in Holding Undocumented Abortion-Seeking Minor
Texas Backs Trump Agency in Holding Undocumented Abortion-Seeking Minor "Hostage"
Federal agency sent minor to crisis pregnancy center instead

Mary Tuma, Oct. 12, 2017

More Reproductive Rights
Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Ban
Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Ban
Yeakel slams D&E ban as an "undue burden" on women

Mary Tuma, Nov. 22, 2017

Providers Back in Court To Stop Texas Abortion Ban
Abortion Ban Back in Court
Doctors say law would impose risk, pain for patient

Mary Tuma, Nov. 3, 2017

More by Mary Tuma
The Premature Death of the WHAC
The Premature Death of the WHAC
How Gov. Greg Abbott killed vital oversight for women’s health

Jan. 19, 2018

Paxton: Whose Due Process?
Paxton: Whose Due Process?
A.G. files amicus brief against undocumented pregnant minors

Jan. 19, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

abortion rights, reproductive rights

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle