Texas law will make it easier to retrieve miscarried babies for burial

Pregnant Credit Alex Krisan via wwwshutterstockcom CNA 1 11 16 Alex Krisan via www.shutterstock.com

A regulation in Texas going into effect this month gives mothers and families the right to know about their child's burial, and gives unborn babies who die the opportunity for a respectful burial – regardless of the circumstances of their death.

Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for Americans United for Life, who helped create the model legislation for the new Texas regulations, told CNA the legislation both prevents unborn infants who died through abortion as being treated as waste, as well as helping families who lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth to retrieve their infant's body for burial.

"This effort empowers women and informs them of their options," she told CNA. "It does not require anything of the mothers, but it does require that the facility handle the bodies of unborn infants with the same respect we show the remains of other people who die in a medical setting."

The new regulations, proposed earlier this year by the  Texas Department of State Health Services, will go into effect Dec. 19. Similar laws have been passed in Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio.

The rules require that medical facilities care for remains of unborn babies with recognizable body parts who do not survive until birth. The remains of the unborn infant must now be cremated or buried, as opposed to being treated as medical waste.

The parents of the deceased unborn child must also be given the opportunity to take care of arrangements themselves – though if she does not wish to do so, a woman may consent to relinquish control of the remains to the medical facility. "No woman is required to take the body of the infant with them or to have it released to her,"  Hamrick stressed.

The new regulations do not apply to unborn persons who are passed at home.  

These new regulations stand in sharp contrast to how the remains of miscarried and aborted infants are currently treated.   

"Currently, facilities dispose of the infants, often without input from the mother," Hamrick stated. This often makes retrieval of the baby's body intensely difficult, particularly for families who miscarry or have a stillborn child.

"We've seen families who lose a child to miscarriage go through intense efforts to have the body released to them for burial," she continued.  Hamrick noted that the new regulations actually give mothers more options than they currently have for how to treat the remains of their child, in most cases.

Jaqueline Harvey, a policy analyst and mother who attended the hearings for the regulation in Austin, Texas, says she sees a need for the new rules and thinks, at least in her case, they might encourage women to make safer medical decisions.

Harvey pointed to her own decision not to have a Dilation and Cuterage (D&C) procedure earlier this year after a miscarriage.

While the procedure would have been safer, she said she chose the more risky route of passing the baby at home because she knew her baby's remains would be sent to pathology with the D&C procedure: "After that point you cannot retrieve the child," she explained.

She said she also feared for what might happen to her child after it went to pathology. "The present rule in Texas is an absence of rules," Harvey explained. "It's much easier for them to just put the baby down the garbage disposal."

While she respects and understands mothers who do have D&C procedures after miscarriage and realizes that her choice was risky, she said she made the decision she did in order to honor her son.

"I made the decision to give birth at home because I wanted his body to be intact," Harvey said. "I felt like I owed it to him."

Harvey said that while she realizes "that not everyone has the same conviction I do," she thinks the new regulations can bring relief to families in situations like hers, as well as to the broader community.

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"I think people would want to know how unborn children are treated, whether they are wanted or not."

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