On July 1, at the urging of Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission published proposed rules that would require burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue remains following an abortion or miscarriage. These rules dictate how healthcare facilities must dispose of tissue at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for genetic testing, research or pathology and no consideration for best medical practices or patients’ wishes or religious beliefs. These rules have nothing to do with the safe practice of modern medicine, but instead are part of a nationwide effort to enact unnecessary regulations that restrict access to abortion.
The health agency could update these rules without making them a backdoor ban on abortion by holding public hearings, consulting with medical providers and writing rules that follow modern medicine. The addition of a non-medical ritual to current clinical practice only serves to further interfere with a patient’s autonomy and ability to make their own decisions about their medical care.
Every patient makes the decision to have an abortion for their own reasons based on their own experience. Instead of passing laws that further complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected in their decision. Read more about why these rules are a problem here.
The public has until July 30 to comment on these rules, which are set to go into effect by September 1, 2016. Make your voice heard by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “Comments on special waste from health care-related facilities.”
We encourage you to share your personal experience in your comments. Here is a sample letter you can send:
Dear Ms. Hughes,
The rules have nothing to do with the safe practice of modern medicine, but instead are part of a nationwide effort to enact unnecessary regulations to restrict access to abortion. Health care providers like hospitals and abortion clinics currently follow the state’s standards for the sanitary disposal of medical waste including embryonic and fetal tissue. The addition of non-medical ritual to current clinical practice only serves to further interfere with a patient’s autonomy and decision making in their own medical care.
Every patient makes the decision to have an abortion for their own reasons based on their own lived experience. Instead of passing laws that further complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected in their decision.
Furthermore, families going through miscarriage or needing to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons deserve the respect of having the option to have genetic testing performed on the embryonic and fetal tissue so they can successfully carry a healthy pregnancy to term in the future. Infants and children also benefit from medical research on embryonic and fetal tissue.
These rules also violate religious freedom. Not all faiths have the same tradition and ritual, and forcing a patient to violate the tenets of their faith to receive healthcare is unconscionable.
Finally, the regulations as published appear to require that a public death certificate be filed, violating patient privacy. The regulations turn what is currently a private matter–a medical procedure–into public record. This violates the patient’s constitutional right to privacy. Without a full opportunity to comment and receive feedback, healthcare facilities are left in limbo–not knowing if a death certificate will be required before cremation, or if these rules violate statutory dictates that families be allowed to take miscarried and stillborn fetuses home with them.
Any attempt to ban certain types of scientific research deserves to happen in the light of day,not through a rushed rulemaking process. Gov. Abbott should have the courage to rescind these rules.
The Agency should rescind these draft rules and not publish a final version for adoption until the Legislature can provide it with direct authority to do so.
Your name & address
On August 4 at 9 a.m., DSHS is holding a public hearing in Austin on these rules. Sign our petition to make your voice heard and tell state officials that you don’t support medically unnecessary regulations enacted to restrict abortion access. Your comments will be included in our testimony during the hearing. You can also RSVP here to attend the hearing in person.