Abortion providers in Texas will be legally required to bury or cremate fetal remains

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On Monday, Texas' Health and Human Services Commission officials ruled that aborted fetuses can no longer be disposed of in sanitary landfills, but instead must be properly buried or cremated starting Dec. 19.

The then-proposed policy was the centerpiece of Gov. Greg Abbott's fundraising efforts in July, when, in an email to his supporters reported on by the Texas Tribune, he wrote, "I believe it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life." He added, " ... I don't believe human and fetal remains should be treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills."

According to a Monday report from the Tribune, health officials have clarified that the regulations will not apply to miscarried fetuses or the fetal remains resulting from at-home abortions. Additionally, abortions providers will be the ones responsible for the proper disposal of the fetal remains — not the woman who has received the abortion.

Earlier details on this story

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A demonstrator holds up signs in support of pro-life rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold up signs in support of pro-choice rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Stephanie Toti, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, listens to a question from a member of the media outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Anti-abortion advocates stand in protest outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates (left) and anti-abortion advocates (right) rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A demonstrators holds up a sign in support of pro-choice rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds up a sign in support of pro-life rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds up a sign in support of abortion rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Supreme Court justices clashed in their first abortion showdown in almost a decade as a pivotal justice suggested the court could stop short of a definitive ruling on a disputed Texas law regulating clinics. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Anti-abortion advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 2: Pro-choice advocates rally outside of the Supreme Court, March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case, where the justices will consider a Texas law requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to standards similar to hospitals. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the court in. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as the abortion debate returned to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century Wednesday, considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The flag flies at half staff in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia, as members of the public arrive to visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the court. The abortion debate is returning to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scaliaâs death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century and considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a womanâs constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016, as the abortion debate returned to the Supreme Court in the midst of a raucous presidential campaign and less than three weeks after Justice Antonin Scalia's death. The justices are taking up the biggest case on the topic in nearly a quarter century Wednesday, considering whether a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics hampers a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of legal access to abortion rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, March 2, 2016, as the Court hears oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which deals with access to abortion. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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While the latter stipulation certainly mitigates any emotional or financial burdens that would otherwise fall to women seeking abortions, the new requirement isn't without its consequences.

"This rule is a thinly-veiled attempt to shame Texans who have abortions and make it harder for the doctors who provide them," Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement provided to Mic.

Busby explained that abortion providers had already been following state standards for disposal of medical tissue. Monday's decision, then, is first and foremost about restricting women's rights, she said.

"The addition of non-medical ritual to current clinical practice only serves to further interfere with a patient's autonomy and decision making in their own medical care," Busby said.

According to Mother Jones, Texas is just one of several states which have tried to legislate the disposal of fetal remains. Arkansas and Georgia already have laws resembling Texas' in effect, while Ohio, South Carolina and Mississippi have all tried, and failed, to enact similar policies.

In March, Indiana Gov. cum Vice President-elect Mike Pence pushed forward these regulations himself, signing a bill into law calling for the burial or cremation of fetal remains and banning the donation of fetal tissue.

"By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother," Pence said in a statement at the time, according to Mother Jones. "I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families."

A federal judge later blocked the legislation — which also prohibited women from seeking an abortion based on the fetus' race, gender, or disability — in July, deeming it "impermissible."

Reproductive rights activists in Texas have already made it clear that they plan to do anything in their power to thwart the state's new regulations. Lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights warned state officials in August that their plans to require abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains could "trigger costly litigation."

A Tribune article at the time reported on a letter the Center for Reproductive Rights addressed to the Texas Department of State Health Services, deeming the proposed regulations "in plain violation" of June's Supreme Court ruling blocking several other abortion restrictions in Texas.

"These proposed amendments have nothing to do with health and safety, and everything to do with Texas' crusade against abortion," reads the letter. "As such, they are a sham, and they will not withstand constitutional review."

On Monday, Busby too called for Texas' regulations to be judged harshly.

She said, "Instead of passing laws that further complicate a patient's experience and force them to consider burial services, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported, respected and empowered in their decision."

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