Starting Dec. 19, Texas will require fetal remains after an abortion or miscarriage to be cremated or buried instead of disposed of in sanitary landfills.
The controversial law, which met fierce opposition from abortion advocates and the medical community, is part of a new wave of legislation mandating what should happen to fetal remains after abortions or miscarriages. Indiana enacted a similar law in July. Arkansas and Georgia already have similar statutes in place, and Ohio, South Carolina and Mississippi all recently considered enacting burial and cremation requirements.
In Indiana, a woman who has either had an abortion or a surgical procedure because of a miscarriage will be told, verbally and in writing, that she has the right to choose what she does with her fetus, as long as it is buried or cremated. She does not have to give the fetus a name, it does not receive a death certificate, but it does receive its own burial-transit form that will accompany it to a funeral home for final preparations. The law doesn't require a funeral, a headstone or an urn, but regardless of gestation, it gains the rights to be laid to rest as a human, according to the Atlantic magazine.
The law applies to the earliest stages of gestation: Even if the fetus is no bigger than a pea. More than 91 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur during the first trimester, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 80 percent of miscarriages also occur within the first 13 weeks.
The cost of the new laws is unknown.
Many anti-abortion advocates have heralded the new rules as treating the fetuses in death the way they should have been treated from within the womb -- as a human, deserving of life. Texas's health commission has stated that the new rules will result in "enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public."
I'm not writing this to get into a debate about abortion.
But what bothers me about these new rules is that they are salt to the wound for women like me: Women who very much wanted their babies, women who planned and dreamed and hoped for their pregnancies, but in the end had miscarriages because of circumstances beyond their control.
About one in four women will have a miscarriage. While some of those miscarriages will happen before the woman even knows she's pregnant, and other early miscarriages will occur naturally at home, there are many other miscarriages, even those in the first trimester, that require surgical intervention following the death of the fetus.
I am one of those women. Twice. I can tell you the awful feeling of entering a hospital knowing your child is dead inside you. And I know the feeling of leaving the hospital and knowing your baby is no longer there.
At the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that it should be up to the women to decide what happens to the remains.
Mandating burials or cremation could put undue cost and emotional burden onto women who are already going through a terrible experience. It may make women choose to stay at home to miscarry rather than go to the hospital for a dilation and cutterage (D&C). If I had done that with my second miscarriage, I would have died. My emergency D&C and the blood transfusions that followed saved my life.
Would I have buried or cremated the babies I lost, given the choice? Perhaps. Instead, after an EF4 tornado tore across Tuscaloosa in 2011, we planted new trees honoring our children, those who are alive and those we lost.
But not everyone feels the same. Women should be allowed to grieve in their own way. Regardless if it's after an abortion or after a miscarriage, it should be up to the woman to decide how the remains are handled -- not the government.
-- Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.