HB 35: Protects dignity of the human person

Jennifer Carr Allmon

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops supports H.B. 35 because it seeks to protect the dignity of the human person. In particular, the Bishops are grateful to Chairman Cook and his staff for their role in bringing this issue to light.

The revisions contained in H.B. 35 are long overdue and provide a more appropriate method for the disposal of children lost to abortion. The proposed rules allow for disposition procedures that are practiced worldwide and are known as ‘sensitive disposal.’ It involves ensuring that human bodies are separated from medical waste and given the respect of cremation and burial. These rules honor a universal respect, beyond religious, cultural, or societal norms, for the sacred nature of the human person. This remains our position. Treating the dead with respect is a duty of the living and a right of the dead.

In many local dioceses, the Catholic Church has an existing burial ministry by which Catholic Cemeteries offer free common burial for miscarried children. After the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) held their first hearing regarding the current law on this issue, the Church began to explore the possibility of expanding the current burial ministry to include aborted children. Through the current burial ministry, cemeteries cooperate with many hospitals, families, and funeral homes to provide a proper burial for children who die in utero.  Catholic cemeteries in many (arch)dioceses, such as the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Diocese of Austin, have provided these common burials for years.

The TCCB announced in December 2016 that we will continue to work with Catholic cemeteries and funeral homes to further develop this ministry to provide the same service throughout the state to children who die by abortion. The service will be provided at no charge.

Catholic cemeteries that we contacted estimate that they will incur costs that will range from $1,500 to $13,800 per diocese annually to inter children who die from abortions. The Church will absorb these costs. The cost differences are based on the frequency and number of burials and the local costs of each participating cemetery. Cemeteries that conduct more frequent monthly burials will incur higher costs than those providing quarterly burials. The Catholic cemetery with the lowest expenditures that currently provides quarterly common burials incurs expenses of about $140 per common burial. There are more than 100 Catholic cemeteries in the state; the TCCB also hopes to collaborate with non-Catholic cemeteries, funeral homes, and mortuaries.

The provisions which establish a registry with the Department of State Health Services listing participating funeral homes and cemeteries willing to provide free common burial and low cost private burial will facilitate access to proper burial.  We propose to follow a process whereby hospitals and abortion providers use their existing transportation services to transport the remains of deceased unborn children to our cemeteries where we will inter them in accordance with state and federal laws at no cost to the facilities. Cemeteries may temporarily reserve the remains, according to industry practice, as they await a common burial.

Free common burial will be available to all unborn children who die by miscarriage or abortion, regardless of their origin. This is an important service for the most vulnerable children in our state. We must treat the remains of all human beings, no matter how long they lived or how they died, with dignity, charity, and respect. Our respect for the dignity of the dead is an extension of our respect for the dignity of the living.  People with and without faith have always understood this.

The bodies of the unborn should be afforded the same dignity and respect as those of children and adults. When medical school students are first introduced to the cadavers that they will use to practice procedures, they are lectured on the respect that should be afforded to the persons who so nobly gave their bodies to science.  At the conclusion of the semester, medical schools then have cremation ceremonies to memorialize and honor the human person who donated their tissue for this research. This respect for the remains of the human person should be given to those whose lives end before even taking a breath. This respect conforms practices of people of goodwill across the world, who treat the dead with respect and charity.