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How Texas' fetal burial rule undermines women

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Here's what's wrong with Texas' new fetal burial rule

Starting on Dec. 19, Texas will require hospitals and reproductive health clinics to cremate or bury all fetal remains resulting from natural or induced miscarriages. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t sitting well with many in the medical community and reproductive rights advocates, who have been opposing this regulation, originally proposed in July.

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At that time, the health commission — headed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — argued that the new rule is necessary to ensure the “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public,” the Texas Tribune reported. However, the version of the proposal adopted on Monday does not require the burial of fetal material resulting from miscarriage or abortions that take place at home, citing concerns over confidentiality, and undermining the argument in favor of fetal material burial for public health purposes. In other words, supporters of the new regulations say that fetal remains coming from hospitals and clinics pose a threat to public health, but for some reason, remains resulting from miscarriages at home do not.

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"This regulation has no basis in public health, and it's just a pretext for putting an additional burden on women who choose abortion or who suffer miscarriage," David Brown, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Broadly.

What is being challenged yet again is women’s ability to make decisions regarding their own bodies. Following a miscarriage or abortion, some women may choose to cremate or bury their fetus. If doing so brings comfort or closure, then she should by all means be permitted to do so. The problem arises when the element of choice is taken away, as it is for the women of Texas, who may find a federally mandated burial for their fetal remains traumatizing.

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