The Austin Chronicle

Bill of the Week: Eating Fetuses the Legal Way

A bill for a nonexistent problem would present a new one

By Maggie Q. Thompson, January 27, 2023, News

A couple of weeks ago we spotlighted a half-baked bill from state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, which would let pharmacists refuse to dispense abortion-inducing drugs with zero justification, even though we live in a state where doctors can only legally prescribe abortion drugs to save the life of the mother.

Well, Hall is back with another bill that doesn't make sense. This one, seemingly written in response to the made-up problem that fetuses are in Pepsi, inadvertently legalizes eating fetal tissue. Senate Bill 314 says a person can't sell medical, makeup, or food products containing human fetal tissue unless they're clearly labeled. Or, put another way, a person can sell those products, so long as they're clearly labeled.

As you might expect, Texas already has laws around how you can treat human remains, rendering fetal food products illegal. Abuse of a corpse, which includes selling it and dissecting it, is a felony. Hall's new bill seems to create a loophole.

Such consequences can be expected when you write legislation around problems that don't exist. Reuters had to debunk the aborted-babies-in-food myth last month after viral tweets and Facebook posts from users including "Raw Egg Nationalist" (whose username is, I shit you not, @Babygravy9), claimed that "flavour enhancers made from aborted fetal tissue are being eaten without the knowledge of consumers." There is no evidence of that, and, as we said, it would be a felony. While it's true that the controversial HEK 293 cell line derived from fetal cells collected in the 1970s has been used to research how sweeteners and flavors affect cells, those cells have not ended up in food products.

A problem that does exist relating to fetal remains? Lack of support for parents who must bury their miscarried children. A common thread in miscarriage stories is parents' sudden realization that they don't know what to do with remains or who can help. House Bill 1452 from Rep. Rafael M. Anchía, D-Dallas, would require health and life insurance plans to cover the cost of burial or cremation for fetuses with a post-­fertilization age of 20 or more weeks. Now that's helpful.

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