U.S. judge extends order halting Texas fetal remains regulation

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By Jon Herskovitz | AUSTIN, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas A federal judge on Wednesday
extended until Jan. 27 a restraining order that halted a new
Texas regulation requiring fetal tissue remains to be buried or
cremated to allow for more time to make a ruling.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks issued the ruling after
hearing two days of testimony this week on the regulation that
Texas contends is aimed at maintaining the highest standards of
human dignity. Abortion rights groups contend it is an
unnecessary and vague regulation aimed at making abortions more
arduous and expensive.

Sparks last month put the regulation on hold before it was
to take effect on Dec. 19. He had previously issued a temporary
restraining order to delay enactment until at least Jan. 6.

Sparks asked the state how the existing law on the disposal
of human remains and dead human bodies would mesh with the
proposed regulation and was told by a lawyer for the state that
fetal tissue is not considered human remains for the purpose of
the statute.

“Texas values the dignity of the remains of the unborn and
believes that fetal tissue should be disposed of properly and
humanely,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said
in a statement. He said he is confident the state will prevail.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, a plaintiff in the case and president
of Whole Woman’s Health, which runs three facilities in Texas,
testified that she believes the regulation would increase costs
and could increase the stigma of an abortion.

“I don’t understand how this puts women’s health and safety
forward,” she said in court.

The Texas limitations would be more stringent than
regulations in almost every other state, which allow aborted
fetal tissue to be disposed of the same as other human tissue,
according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group.

The regulation change in Texas was crafted shortly after the
state suffered a stinging defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court last
year when the justices struck down separate abortion
restrictions backed by the state’s Republican leaders.

Writing for the court, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said
the measures imposing strict regulations on doctors and
facilities constituted an undue burden on abortion access and
violated the U.S. Constitution.

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