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Texas Will Require Aborted Fetuses to Be Buried or Cremated

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Texas will implement a controversial rule that requires the burial or cremation of aborted fetuses, the Texas Tribune reported.

The rule — which was hotly contested by pro-abortion rights advocates and medical professionals — will go into effect in the state on Dec. 19, and will not apply to women who have miscarriages or at-home abortions, as many previously feared, according to the Tribune. Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission proposed the rule in July at the request of state Governor Greg Abbott. “I believe it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life,” Abbott said in a fundraising email about the rule in July, according to the Tribune.

Pro-abortion rights advocates attempted to stop the rule from going into effect. Almost 6,000 people signed a petition protesting the rule and the Health and Human Services Commission received over 35,000 comments about the rule. At two public hearings, women shared personal stories of abortions and miscarriages to argue that the rule would further traumatize women.

While their efforts haven’t stopped the rule from going into effect, lawmakers did address a handful of their concerns. In response to concerns raised at public hearings that women would be required to shoulder the costs of the burial or cremation, state officials clarified that abortion providers would be required to bury or cremate the fetuses.

The rule could come under legal scrutiny, however. In Indiana, a similar law — signed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence — that required women who had abortions or miscarriages to bury or cremate the fetuses was blocked by a federal judge. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that put significant restrictions on abortion access in the state.

In a letter sent to the Health and Human Services Commission in August, lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights warned that they would challenge the rule should it go into effect.

“Texas politicians are at it again, inserting their personal beliefs into the health care decisions of Texas women,” Stephanie Toti, the senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “The Center for Reproductive Rights is prepared to take further legal action to ensure that Texas women can continue to access abortion and other reproductive health care without interference by politicians.”

[The Texas Tribune]

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Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com