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Texas Matters: Texas Medical Association Questions Fetal Burial Dictate

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A new state mandate demands burials for fetal tissue is soon to take effect – but the Texas Medical Association says it’s in the dark about the requirements.

State and federal officials investigate allegations of corruption and bribery where law breakers could buy their way out of jail.

And rural hospitals in Texas are in trouble – there’s been an epidemic of hospital closures. And a growing number of counties in the state are without a single doctor.

This is Texas Matters from Texas Public Radio – I’m David Martin Davies

In June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of a Texas law that restricted abortion. It found that the state requiring a doctor  to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital to be an undue burden on the ability to obtain an abortion – and the same for the state’s requirement for abortion providing clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

The 5 to 3 ruling was the high court’s strongest statement supporting the constitutional right to an abortion since Roe v. Wade - the 1973 landmark case that established the right.

The summer ruling may have been a defeat for the anti-abortion forces – but it energized the pro-life base and made the future of the Supreme Court and Abortion a central part of the recent presidential election.

And Texas leaders were also undeterred by that legal loss. They have devised another rule that would make getting abortion more costly and difficult to access.

The regulation requires the burial or cremation of fetal tissue. Currently the remains are disposed of in a regulated sanitary landfill – similar to other human tissue that results from surgeries. In a fund raising email Governor Greg Abbott wrote “I don’t believe that human and fetal remains should not be treated like medical waste.” and he said that the rule “reflects our respect for the sanctity of life.”

Officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services have said the new rule “will protect the public by preventing the spread of disease.”

The new rule is set to go into effect on December 19th.

However there are more questions than answers about how this rule will work. The Texas Medical Association is trying to get answers to basic questions about which cases require burials, the need for death certificates, who is responsible for paying the additional costs and more.

Doctor Shanna Combs is the chair of the Texas Medical Association Committee on Reproductive Women’s and Perinatal Health.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi