As of December 19, Texas healthcare providers will be required to bury or cremate embryonic and fetal tissue that results from abortions or miscarriages at their facilities.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) finalized the new regulation on Monday, inviting a legal challenge from reproductive rights advocates, who strongly oppose the rule on the grounds that it has no medical or safety benefits, would be costly to implement, and could exacerbate what for some women is already a difficult experience.
"The state agency has once again ignored the concerns of the medical community and thousands of Texans by playing politics with people's private healthcare decisions," Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement.
The proposal was initially put forth at the direction of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott; a bill to be taken up by the Texas legislature next session closely mirrors its language.
Since it was put forward this summer, the rule has been revised to reflect some of the outcry—it will reportedly not apply to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home. Still, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) criticized its implications for "women who seek abortion, treatment for miscarriage, or removal of an ectopic pregnancy."
"These new restrictions reveal the callous indifference that Texas politicians have toward women," said David Brown, senior staff attorney at CRR, which in August warned (pdf) DSHS that the regulation would "almost certainly trigger costly litigation."
And while a DSHS spokeswoman told the Dallas Morning News that "the proposed rules won't increase total costs for healthcare facilities," it remains to be seen who will in fact bear any associated costs.
"Forcing a woman to pay for a burial after she ends a pregnancy or experiences a miscarriage is not just absurd—it is an unnecessary burden and an intrusion on her personal beliefs," Brown said on Tuesday.
Texas is the second state to endorse a fetal burial law. As governor of Indiana in early 2016, Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed a bill that included such a provision. In June, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect.