Hearing on fetal remains packed with people, emotions

State Health Services fetal tissue hearing

AUSTIN - People from around the state made their voice heard Thursday at a hearing on what happens to fetal remains after an abortion or miscarriage.

Gov. Greg Abbott introduced a proposed rule that would require the remains to be buried or cremated. The Department of State Health Services heard from 90 speakers, and say they've gotten 12,000 comments --- all from people passionate about the proposal.

"These are all precious babies who have value and are worthy of a proper burial," said a speaker who supports the burial rule.

"I believe this is being put into place to make those of us that are pro choice, that have had an abortion, feel shame about it and I refuse to feel shame about something that was a medical procedure," said a speaker who opposes the burial rule.

Kelli Bland opposes the rule.

"As a human Texas woman I want to do with my body what I wish," said Bland.

She said a burial should be a woman's choice.

"If it was something where they wanted to mandate that it was a possibility for everyone woman to make that choice for herself, then I would be all for this, but that's not what they say," said Bland.

"The bodies of the victims of abortion should never be treated like medial waste," said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life and supporter of the proposed rule.

"The law currently allow for some horrific things to happen, after an abortion the facility can take the remains of a baby and grind them and flush them down the city's water and sewer system, that's a horrendous thought," said Pojman.

A lot of the speakers against the rule worry about the cost of the burials or cremations. The rule doesn't lay out who is required to pay.

"A woman said they'll do it for less than $500, well $500 is a lot of money for a lot of people," said Sonnet Blanton.

Pojman suggested a medical facility pick up that cost. For now, people continue to make their voices heard.

Yvonne Gutierrez, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, says they also worry about privacy issues.

"When you talk about mandating a woman to have a fetus cremated or buried, regardless of her situation, that could in effect cause some public information issues. So in instance, does that require a death certificate, that's something that was brought forward," said Gutierrez.

"These rule changes are long overdue and provide and more appropriate method for the disposal of human remains than the current rules," said a speaker supporting the rule.

"The decision to have an abortion is a private and personal choice that should not be encroached on by state officials," said a speaker who opposes the regulations.

DSHS said they will look at the comments and make a decision in the coming weeks.

KVUE received statements from a few organizations Thursday regarding the rule.

"This is another politically motivated move by our state's leaders to make it harder for Texans to access abortion," said Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL pro-choice Texas, in a statement. "The rule has nothing to do with the safe practice of medicine, but rather is a thinly-veiled attempt to shame Texans who have abortions and make it harder for doctors to provide abortion. 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 and empowered in their decision."

David Walls, the Director of Operations at Texas Values said in his statement in part: "The rules will ensure that the bodies of aborted babies are treated with the respect they deserve and are no longer callously treated like medical waste and disposed of by grinding and discharging into a sanitary sewer system."

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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