Judge Temporarily Stops Fetal Burial Rule from Going into Effect

Dec 15, 2016

A federal judge has temporarily halted the Texas fetal burial rule from going into effect on Dec. 19.

Judge Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled on Thursday than an agency rule requiring health care providers to cremate or bury fetal remains will not go into effect before he rules on the case, which will likely be in early January. According multiple reports, Sparks set hearings for Jan. 3 and will likely rule before Jan. 6.

Earlier this week, the Center for Reproductive Right and others filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of abortion-provider Whole Woman’s Health. The plaintiffs claim the rule, which would apply to abortions and miscarriages regardless of gestation time, is unconstitutional.

Following the ruling, Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said the rule "does not create any health benefit for women" and was designed to limit access to abortion care.

"Judge Sparks expressed skepticism about the new rules being about the health and safety of women, and felt like it was a reaction from our victory at the Supreme Court under Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt," Miller said a statement.

This past summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a set of abortion restrictions in Texas. Four days after that ruling, state leaders asked the Texas Department of Health Services to adopt a rule that would require hospitals and abortion providers to no longer dispose of fetal remains in landfills.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s wrote in a fundraising email that he “doesn’t believe human and fetal remains should be treated like medical waste and disposed of in landfills.”

You can read Judge Sparks' order below.

This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.