Texas enacts new abortion restrictions that include tissue disposal

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas governor has signed into law new abortion restrictions that include requiring abortion providers to dispose of aborted fetal tissue through burial or cremation, despite a block on the regulation already imposed by a U.S. court.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz

Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed what is known as Senate Bill 8 into law on Tuesday and it takes effect from Sept. 1. It also includes a ban on the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Texas is the most-populous Republican-controlled state. Its abortion restrictions have often been fiercely defended by the state’s lawyers and copied by other socially conservative states.

“Texas legislation on abortion is typically amplified because the state can be a beacon for restrictions nationwide,” said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.

The anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, praised Abbott and the legislation, calling it the” most significant pro-life victory” of the regular legislative session.

Texas crafted a regulation on fetal tissue disposal last year after it suffered a stinging defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court struck down separate abortion restrictions, which were backed by the state’s Republican leaders, regarding doctors and facilities.

The Texas fetal tissue regulations were more stringent than regulations in almost every other state, which typically allow aborted fetal tissue to be disposed of in a similar manner as other human tissue, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In January, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin put a temporary halt on the fetal tissue disposal regulation, saying the Texas rule imposed “undue burdens on a woman’s right to seek a previability abortion.”

After that, the Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill that included the regulation on fetal tissue disposal, with many party leaders saying the measure was necessary to preserve human dignity.

Abortion rights providers have said the regulation would require the tissue to be treated differently than other human tissue, add another stigma to abortion and increase costs.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker