The long string of lawsuits between Texas and abortion activists moved again this week, this time involving regulations requiring the humane disposal of aborted babies.
Abortion clinics filed two separate lawsuits challenging the matter in Texas. One involves government rules, the other legislation passed in 2017 to regulate the disposal of aborted babies’ bodies.
My Statesman reported several updates about the legal battle this week, including the state’s decision to drop an appeal of the first lawsuit. The appeal was of a judge’s decision to block the government rules last year.
Also last year, the state legislature passed a law with requirements similar to the rule. The law helps to ensure that aborted babies’ bodies are not sold and are treated with dignity and respect. It requires that abortion facilities, hospitals and other health clinics to bury or cremate the remains of aborted and miscarried babies. Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocacy groups lobbied against the bill, but the legislature passed it with strong support.
Abortion activists responded by filing a second lawsuit against the law.
Here’s the latest update:
… lawyers for Texas recently dropped their appeal, saying the blocked rule will be replaced by a new state law that takes effect Feb. 1, requiring another round of litigation over its slightly different provisions.
The issue is now back in trial court, and this time there’s a new wrinkle.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who blocked the fetal burial rule as unconstitutional — and who has ruled against two other abortion-related Texas restrictions in recent years — has stepped aside.
Sparks, who this week took senior status, a form of semi-retirement, transferred the case to Judge David Ezra, a longtime district judge from Hawaii who also took senior status in June 2012. Seven months later, Ezra was assigned to the Western District of Texas to help with the heavy workload in the understaffed region, which includes Austin.
The abortion industry wants Ezra to block the new law, which takes effect Feb. 1. It claims their abortion facilities will not have time to prepare because the implementation details are not settled yet, according to the report. It also wants the judge to rule that the law is unconstitutional.
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Ezra is an appointee of President Ronald Reagan.
Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in the United States, claims the cost of cremating or burying the aborted babies creates an undue burden on women’s access to abortion.
However, Texas Health Department spokesperson Carrie Williams previously said their research indicates that the measure will not increase costs.
“While the methods described in the new rules may have a cost, that cost is expected to be offset by costs currently being spent by facilities on disposition for transportation, storage, incineration, steam disinfection and/or landfill disposal,” Williams said.
Last year, Texas also attempted to require a proper burial for aborted babies through rules set up by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. However, abortion activists also challenged those rules, and a judge later blocked them.
Serious concerns about the treatment of human remains are a key motive behind the new law.
During a Texas health commission hearing in August 2016, supporters said the rules are necessary because abortion facilities treat unborn babies’ bodies like garbage and sometimes dump them down public sewer drains, Fox 7 reported. Texas state Rep. Mark Keough mentioned a gruesome case in 2005 when a woman who worked near a Houston abortion facility saw tiny aborted babies’ limbs and other body parts in a parking lot when a sewer line broke.
More states are moving to require dignified burials of aborted babies’ bodies after undercover videos revealed evidence that Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities may be selling aborted babies’ body parts. The Center for Medical Progress videos prompted a number of states and the U.S. House and Senate to open investigations into the matter.
The U.S. Department of Justice now is investigating as well.