Judge extends injunction against rule requiring proper burial for aborted babies in Texas

(Reuters/Darren Abate)Whole Woman's Health founder Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks to members of the media during a media tour of the Whole Woman's Health clinic in San Antonio, Texas, in this file photo taken February 9, 2016.

A federal judge has extended the injunction against a rule that would require medical centers and abortion facilities in Texas to bury or cremate the remains of aborted babies.

The rule, which was proposed by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services last July, was supposed to take effect on Dec. 19.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued a temporary restraining order to block the rule after the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit on behalf of several abortion providers. The lawsuit claimed that the regulation is unconstitutional and does not benefit the public.

Sparks delayed his final decision on Jan. 4 and extended the restraining order until Jan. 27, according to Life Site News.

Sparks had expressed concern that the rule for burying fetal remains could overrule a state law that allows cremated ashes to be scattered over any private property with the owner's consent. On Jan. 3, he ordered state lawyers to return to court the following day with more information about the law on scattering cremated remains.

The judge had suggested that he may permanently block the rule, calling it "political" and without "any benefit to all."

The plaintiffs have argued that the regulation would reduce access to abortion by increasing the cost. However, the state lawyers have contended that any increase would be nominal.

The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops has indicated that its 15 dioceses are willing to provide cemetery space and burials for the aborted babies free of charge.

Amy Hagstrom Miller with Whole Woman's Health testified that her clinics would be in danger of forced closure due to the limited number of vendors available to comply with the regulation, Statesman reported.

State health officials have stated that the regulation is aimed at stopping the spread of disease. But Dr. Lendol Davis, who operates the Austin Women's Health Center, argued that the burial and cremation requirement would not reduce the risk of infection or offer other health benefits.

Texas currently allows aborted fetal remains to be incinerated, buried or disposed of in a landfill, or ground up and released into a sanitary sewer.

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