This article was first published in “Sebastian’s Point,” a weekly column of the Society of St. Sebastian regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas that impact the Culture of Life.
The undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in 2015 were shocking to many pro-lifers, especially to those in Texas where much of the footage was obtained. We learned even more about the gruesome practices of the abortion industry: their eagerness to profit from selling body parts from aborted babies was disturbing, even for an industry that profits from ripping apart unborn babies in the womb.
Sadly, the United States Supreme Court severely limits what pro-life laws can be enacted at the state and federal level. This is due to the Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which holds that judges can strike down laws if they constitute an “undue burden” to women seeking an abortion. However, that hasn’t stopped us from trying several different approaches to promote a culture of life in Texas. One important legislative issue we have been working on in response to the CMP videos has been to require the humane disposition of aborted babies.
In Texas, the remains of aborted babies may be disposed of by interment, cremation, incineration followed by interment, steam disinfection followed by interment, grinding fetal remains and flushing them in the sewer system or discarding them in landfills. In 2016, the Department of State Health Services proposed a rule change, and then last legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed a law, SB 8, removing the options of grinding fetal remains and flushing them in the sewer system or discarding them in landfills.
This law would not make abortion illegal or more difficult to obtain. To use the legal jargon of the Court, it did not create any “substantial obstacle” to women obtaining abortions. She still has a completely free choice whether to choose abortion. The law would simply allow the state to recognize the human dignity of the aborted child, and treat those remains with the respect they deserve.
Unfortunately, the U.S. District Court has issued a preliminary injunction against the state of Texas from enforcing the law.
One of the major objections to the law has been a made up claim by abortion supporters that SB 8 will increase the cost of abortions so much that it will make abortion unaffordable to many women. This is completely untrue.
In Texas, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops worked tirelessly to find private funeral homes and cemeteries who were willing to transport and bury aborted babies for free or at low cost. At trial, the abortion facilities’ own expert witness estimated the increased cost would be less than $5 per abortion. This could hardly be seen as an excessive increase in the cost of an abortion. Certainly, the state’s interest in respecting the dignity of the unborn child outweighs the minor cost increase.
If abortion supporters truly don’t believe aborted unborn babies are human beings, why are they so opposed to pro-lifers transporting and burying those clumps of cells? What harm does it do to them, if they are not involved in the transport or burial of the remains anyway?
Texas has the right, and the duty, to respect the human dignity of all people, including the unborn. This right was recognized in Gonzales v. Carhart, the case that upheld the partial-birth abortion ban, where the Court insisted that states may express their “profound” respect for the dignity of the life of the unborn. That right does not allow them to take the abortion decision away from women, but it does allow states to require the bodies of aborted unborn babies to be treated humanely.
Deirdre Cooper is a public policy analyst for Texas Alliance for Life, one of the leading pro-life organizations in Texas, where she has successfully lobbied for the sonogram law, Choose Life license plate, defunding Planned Parenthood, and HB 2. She is also a board member for And Then There Were None Pro-Life Outreach.