AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – The Texas Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require health care providers to bury or cremate the remains of aborted fetuses, pushing it closer to becoming law despite a judge striking down a similar state rule in January.
Senate Bill 258, authored by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, would penalize health care providers that do not cremate or bury the remains of aborted fetuses.
In the Senate debate on the bill Wednesday, Huffines said his bill was aimed at protecting the “dignity” of the unborn, and “not treating the unborn as medical waste.”
“We’re not going to treat it like we do a cancer, like a tumor, like a diseased organ,” Huffines said. “We’re going to treat it differently.”
The bill would amend current rules for handling fetal tissue, by prohibiting health care facilities from disposing the remains in sanitary landfills, which is currently the most used and least expensive method of disposal.
Similar rules requiring the burial of fetal remains, adopted by the Texas Department of State Health Services in November, were blocked by a federal judge in January.
In a preliminary injunction order, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said that the rules “likely are unconstitutionally vague and impose an undue burden on the right to abortion.”
Opponents to the proposed fetal disposition rules say they will likely increase costs for health care providers, enhance the stigma on women seeking abortions and create potentially devastating logistical challenges for abortion providers throughout the state.
“Why are you forcing a decision that should be made by a family?” Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, asked Huffines Wednesday.
“I just feel like this bill is imposing your religious beliefs on other people,” she said.
Other Democratic senators also questioned the purpose of the bill, and said that the bill is essentially “flaunting” Judge Sparks’ injunction.
The Senate passed a second reading of the bill in a 22-9 vote. It will get a third vote in the Senate before it heads to the Texas House of Representatives.
A similar bill that would require fetal remains to be given a funeral after a miscarriage, abortion, or ectopic pregnancy was left pending in the House State Affairs committee March 8, after several anti-abortion activists testified that the bill didn’t go far enough to protect the unborn.