Judge strikes down Texas law requiring burial or cremation of fetal remains

U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra struck down a Texas law on Wednesday that would have required hospitals and clinics to bury cremate fetal remains, causing another courtroom setback for state leaders and anti-abortion groups.

Under Senate Bill 8, passed in 2017, health care facilities including hospitals and abortion clinics would be required to bury or cremate any fetal remains — whether from abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or treatments for ectopic pregnancy regardless of patients’ personal wishes or beliefs. Legislators passed the bill following a ruling that year by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks that struck down a similar rule implemented by the Texas Department of State Health Services. At the time Sparks said it was vague, caused undue burden on women and had high potential for irreparable harm. Over the course of a nearly 30-minute hearing at a federal court in Austin on Wednesday, Ezra gave a synopsis of the ruling, calling the case “a very emotional topic.” The requirement would have been challenging for health providers, in part because it would be diffi cult to fi nd medical waste vendors willing to par-trial in July at which a slew of patients, health providers, state agency offi cials, bioethicists, cemetery directors and religious leaders got on the witness stand.

Abortion opponents have argued that the law is a means to bring human dignity to fetuses. But reproductive rights advocates said it was another way for Texas to punish women who choose to have an abortion, and that the cost of the burials would be passed on to patients, making abortions harder to obtain for low-income Texans.

ticipate. In addition, Ezra expressed wariness about the state having to reach out to private cemeteries to help with fetal remain disposals.

“The implementation of this law, as I have pointed out, would cause and, if allowed to go into effect, would be a violation of a woman’s right to obtain a legal abortion under the law as it stands today,” Ezra said.

Ezra issued a temporary injunction on SB 8 in January after the Center for Reproductive Rights and Whole Woman’s Health sued Texas, blocking the law from going into effect on Feb. 1.

The ruling comes after a five-day