Abortion providers sue Texas over new policy requiring the burial of aborted fetuses
After Texas’ vicious crusade against abortion providers was struck down by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt last summer, refusing to take a hint, the state went on to pass a law requiring women who have abortions to pay for the burial or cremation of the aborted fetal tissue, no matter how early the state of gestation. The law will go into effect this Sunday, and cost every woman in the state who has an abortion an additional $2,000. But as of Monday, there’s some cause for hope — state abortion providers are suing Texas with the help of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the same organization that initiated and won Whole Women’s Health. Nancy Northrup, president of the organization, has called the fetal burial requirement a “new low” for the state, which means a lot if you’ve been keeping up with its long, aggressive war on women.
A law virtually identical to Texas’ new fetal burial requirement briefly passed in the state of Indiana earlier this year and was signed off on by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, only to be swiftly struck down as unconstitutional. And indeed, experts responding to Texas’ passage of this law have already noted the unconstitutional undue burden it places on women — particularly low-income women, for whom affording the abortion procedure in itself is already difficult enough without government assistance, while also substantially violating their rights to privacy.
Aside from posing an undue burden to women seeking abortions, the law is also an obvious violation of the religious freedom conservative Republicans claim to care so much about. It literally forces Texas women to dig into their own wallets for other people’s views and ideologies. If Texas evangelicals care so much about humanizing clusters of fetal tissue at the expense of living women, they’re more than welcome to pay for this bullshit themselves.
The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court in Austin, notes that this new law “burdens women seeking pregnancy-related medical care,” and “imposes a funeral ritual on women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a vocal opponent of reproductive rights, identified the new regulations as a move to “turn the tides against the soulless abortion industry in Texas” in a series of emails. Because somehow, offering women crucial reproductive health services is soulless and financially punishing women for not conforming to your religious beliefs isn’t.
Beginning in 2013, TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion) laws passed in Texas placed expensive and medically unnecessarily requirements on abortion clinics, forcing them to essentially act as full-service hospitals or shut down, and in the process, misleading the public that abortion was a dangerous procedure. Similarly, the state’s new fetal burial law also mires the procedure in stigma by portraying it as murder, and the cultural implications of such regulations can be just as harmful as the regulations themselves.
For example, morbid misrepresentations of abortion have resulted in laws like the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment denies federal funding for poor women unable to afford the procedure, putting living human beings and public health second to religious ideologies largely due to the procedure’s controversial nature. Meanwhile, in recent years there has been a rise in extreme opponents of abortion taking things into their own hands and leading violent attacks against clinics after a series of illegally obtained, edited videos appeared to expose Planned Parenthood for “selling baby parts.”
However, this new lawsuit should offer a glimmer of hope to Texas women. The Center for Reproductive Rights has a history of winning critically important abortion rights battles, and after all, a law just like this wasn’t able to survive in Indiana, so let’s try to stay positive.