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U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks ruled Texas cannot require health providers to bury or cremate fetuses, delivering another blow to state leaders in the reproductive rights debate.
The ruling comes more than a month after the Texas Department of State Health Services slated the mandate to go into effect Dec. 19. Lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued in December to stop the rule, won a temporary restraining order to halt its implementation, and earlier this month Sparks delayed his decision, saying he needed more time to review the evidence.
The agency initially released the proposed burial rule in July just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Texas’ abortion provider restrictions. The rule announcement spurred intense debate between reproductive rights groups and anti-abortion groups.
During two public hearings, department leaders heard stories of abortions, miscarriages, and general grief over losing a baby. While anti-abortion groups argued that the rule was a means to bring human dignity to the fetuses, reproductive rights advocates said the rule was another way for Texas to punish women who chose an abortion, saying the cost of the burials would be passed on to patients, making abortions harder to obtain for low-income Texans.