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Texas federal judge to rule on law requiring burial of fetal remains

A Texas federal judge will soon rule on a law that requires abortion clinics to bury or cremate the fetal remains from all surgical abortions. (Getty Images)

Attorneys for the state of Texas have five days to convince a federal judge to enforce a law which requires all fetal remains recovered by an abortion clinic or hospital to be buried or cremated, the Texas Tribune reported.

In January, U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra granted an injunction that blocked Senate Bill 8, the state fetal remains burial rule, which passed last year. The judge said his previous decision is not an indication of how he would rule in the trial that started Monday.

“It’s a tough case for everybody,” Ezra said Friday during a pretrial hearing, according to The Tribune.

Opponents have argued that the law is another way for Texas lawmakers to shame women and dismantle their reproductive rights.

How are the lawyers presenting their argument?

Lawyers for the state will argue that this fight is about the dignity of the fetus, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The goals will be to keep the fetal and embryonic remains out of sanitary landfills where other medical tissues end up and ban the procedure of grinding and flushing remains into the sewer system.

“This is not going to make abortion unavailable. Abortion is readily available in Texas, that will continue,” Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life told The Chronicle. “This is merely about assuring that the remains of babies who die from miscarriage and abortion are handled in a dignified manner.”

How would it work?

The state built a registry of funeral homes and cemeteries that offer free or low-cost burials, which makes it easy for hospitals and abortion clinics to comply, The Chronicle reported.

Private nonprofit groups, too, can sign up on the record to signal their willingness to help pay other related costs.

Abortion clinics and hospitals would be responsible for making sure the process occurs. Non-compliance could cause the facility or hospital to lose its license. The responsible party could also face a $1,000 fine.

The law would not apply to non-surgical at-home procedures.

Who will testify at the trial?

Funeral home directors who supply caskets for the unborn and the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, which has offered to cover the costs of cremations and burials, will be among those who testify in support of the law.

The daughter of State Rep. Donna Howard (D) will testify against the law.

Howard's daughter was required to consent to fetal burial or make private arrangements when she suffered a miscarriage during her first trimester, according to a story she told last year on the floor of the Texas House.

“The choice has been given to those who want this to bury their fetal remains so that already exists. This new law limits the choice of everybody else,” Howard said, according to The Chronicle.

"If it’s so important to preserve the dignity of the unborn, why is it OK for women performing medicated abortions at home to flush the remains down the toilet?" Howard questioned.

“Do we not have the same respect for those so-called lives?” Howard asked. “It’s arbitrary. It’s restrictive. It takes away choice. It re-traumatizes mothers who are often in a very vulnerable state.”

How many terminated pregnancies occur annually in Texas?

There were approximately 55,000 terminated pregnancies in Texas in 2015, and about 6,000 of those were non-surgical procedures, according to The Chronicle.

Abortion clinics most commonly use a procedure that involves suctioning the fetus out of the woman's uterus.

What else?

The loser in this lawsuit will likely file an appeal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Courts in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Indiana have blocked similar laws proposed by state officials.

One last thing…
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