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Pro-choice groups sue the state of Texas

Abortion rights activists hold placards and chant outside of the U.S. Supreme Court (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Pro-choice groups and activists have filed a lawsuit to attempt to block the implementation of a new Texas law requiring burial or cremation for fetal remains following an abortion or miscarriage, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced Monday.

Supporters of the new rule, which is set to take effect Dec. 19, argue that it protects the dignity of the unborn and is in the interest of public health, while opponents argue that the rule is an effort to increase the costs associated with abortion, thus restricting access to the procedure. Women who suffer miscarriages at home are exempt from the rule.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, authorized the rule, saying that fetal remains should not be “treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Abortion clinics usually dispose of fetal remains as medical waste.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Whole Woman’s Health, which successfully challenged a Texas law in the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Texas Department of State Health Services recently wrote in the Texas Register, “The rules carry out the department's duty to protect public health in a manner that is consonant with the State's respect for life and dignity of the unborn.”

These rules provide a comparable level of protection to public health, while eliminating disposition options that are clearly incompatible with the Legislature's articulated objective of protecting the dignity of the unborn. The adopted rules meet the department's duties under law, while properly weighing considerations regarding public health, overall public benefit, and costs.

Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that her organization is challenging the rule because “these regulations are an insult to Texas women, the rule of law and the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared less than six months ago that medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion access are unconstitutional.”

“These insidious regulations are a new low in Texas' long history of denying women the respect that they deserve to make their own decision about their lives and their healthcare,” Northup added. “The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to fight for Texas women, and women across the nation, to ensure their rights are protected.”

A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life wrote in a post on their website earlier this month: “We support policies that provide dignity to preborn children before they are victimized and the ultimate way to accomplish this goal is to enact laws that challenge Roe v. Wade.”

“With limited time and political will, Pro-Life efforts must not be focused on how babies are discarded after they are aborted," the post stated. “Rather, the Pro-Life movement should prioritize bills that affirm preborn children’s constitutional Right to Life and will immediately save lives, like the Dismemberment Abortion Ban.”

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