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Judge Halts Texas Fetal Burial Rule Until Trial

Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune
Demonstrators protest Texas' fetal remains burial rule outside the governor's mansion on Jan. 6.

A federal judge has extended his injunction against the Texas fetal burial rule. Judge Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled Friday that he wants to hold a trial to determine whether the rule requiring health care providers to cremate or bury fetal remains is constitutional. 

In his ruling, Sparks raised several issues with the rule, including its “vagueness.”

“It is also undisputed there may be only one facility in the entire State of Texas both willing and currently able to handle disposal of fetal tissue as required by the Amendments,” he wrote Friday. “It is therefore reasonable to conclude there may be insufficient vendors to handle the disposal of fetal tissue in compliance with the Amendments, which would deliver a major, if not fatal, blow to healthcare providers performing abortions. Consequently, there is sufficient evidence to grant injunctive relief, given herein, to preserve the status quo to allow discovery followed by a trial on whether the Amendments violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

“Today, Judge Sparks saw past the state's claims and ruled on the right side of history,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of abortion-provider Whole Woman’s Health. “This ruling allows Texans to have the dignity to continue to make their own private healthcare decisions.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights and others filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health. The plaintiffs claim the rule, which would apply to abortions and miscarriages regardless of gestation time, is unconstitutional.

This past summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a set of abortion restrictions in Texas. Four days after that ruling, state leaders asked the Texas Department of Health Services to adopt a rule that would require hospitals and abortion providers to no longer dispose of fetal remains in landfills.

Gov. Greg Abbott has supported the rule and said fetal remains shouldn’t be treated like medical waste.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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