The Brief: Texas Quietly Moves to Further Regulate Abortion

As opponents to abortion rights regroup after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Texas’ House Bill 2, the state's health agency pushes to regulate the practice further.

A protester holds up a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the morning the court takes up a major abortion case focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings interferes with the constitutional right of a woman to end her pregnancy, in Washington March 2, 2016.

The Big Conversation

As opponents to abortion rights regroup after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Texas’ House Bill 2, the state Health and Human Services Commission has quietly moved to regulate the practice further by proposing that providers be required to bury or cremate aborted fetuses.

As the Tribune’s Alexa Ura writes, the proposed rules would no longer allow abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, instead allowing only cremation or interment of all remains — regardless of the period of gestation. Abortion providers currently use third-party special waste disposal services.” 

Published in the Texas Register on July 1, the proposal came with no formal announcement. Health commission spokesman Bryan Black described them as developed to “ensure Texas law maintains the highest standards of human dignity” and said they are expected to go into effect in September, following a 30-day comment period.

The revelation of the proposed restriction comes as anti-abortion activists in Texas work to set their agendas in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June ruling that two major abortion regulations passed as part of a 2013 state law are unconstitutional.

As Ura and the Tribune’s Aneri Pattani write“for Texas Right to Life and Texas Alliance for Life — two of the state's most active anti-abortion groups — the ruling appears to be driving a further wedge between the groups as each considers its distinct agenda for the 2017 session. 

Abortion opponents are considering lobbying to ban specific abortion practices, such as the procedure known as dilation and evacuation abortion, or prohibit scientific research using fetal tissue. Some activists also plan to push for more funding for Texas’ Alternatives to Abortion program, among other measures.

Abortion rights supporters, meanwhile, are preparing to play defense. “They will have an agenda, but only they know what tactics they’ll take. We are in a position to react, but in a much stronger position” after the Supreme Court decision, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Blake Rocap told the Tribune.

Trib Must Reads

After Court Win, Fenves Says UT is Ready to Re-Examine Admissions Policies, by Matthew Watkins — The University of Texas at Austin's long legal fight over race and admissions is over. But in his first extended interview about the case, President Greg Fenves says the school is now ready to review its policies and possibly make changes.

Three UT Professors Sue to Block Campus Carry Law, by Matthew Watkins — Three University of Texas at Austin professors sued their university and the state on Wednesday, claiming that Texas' new campus carry law is unconstitutional. 

Ted Cruz Reorganizes His Kitchen Cabinet, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz shook up his Senate office Wednesday in moves that were widely viewed as aimed at positioning the Texas Republican for a future run for president.

Cornyn Wants FBI to Open Clinton Files. And Then What?, by Ross Ramsey — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn thinks it would be a great idea to open the FBI’s investigative files on Hillary Clinton. But there's a reason for separating police and prosecutors and courts — and for separating all of them from politics.

Paxton Ramps Up Fight Against Transgender Policy, by Alexa Ura — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked a federal judge in Wichita Falls to put a nationwide halt on the Obama Administration’s directive instructing school districts across the country not to discriminate against transgender students.

State Might Let Homeowners Sign Away Right to Sue Insurers, by Jim Malewitz — Texas Insurance Commissioner David Mattax heard public testimony Wednesday on whether his department should allow insurers to offer lower rates for homeowners who agree to settle disputes through a mandatory mediation-arbitration process — effectively signing away their right to sue. 

Texas Agency Votes to Expand Coal Mine Near Border, by Julián Aguilar — The state’s environmental regulatory agency on Wednesday rebuffed a coalition of border residents and environmental activists who hoped to halt a coal mine from expanding its operations near the Rio Grande.

Abbott Slams New York Ad that Paints Texas as Discriminatory, by Aneri Pattani — After years of Texas trying to lure businesses away from other states, New York has struck back — with an ad that paints the Lone Star State as unwelcoming and discriminatory to the LGBT community.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Committee on County Affairs meets at 10 a.m. at the Harris County Commissioners Court Courtroom in Houston to hear testimony on several interim charges, including a call to assess the Texas Commission on Jail Standards; study the impact of making mug shots and information about individuals’ criminal history public online; study Texas programs to mitigate natural disasters; and identify gaps in counties’ cybersecurity policies.  

Elsewhere

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Texas GOP delegate resistance to Trump growsHouston Chronicle

Cruz allies press Trump to hand over convention speaking spotPolitico

Abbott's pre-K funding falls short, The Associated Press

Ted Cruz’s immigration bill blocked by Senate Democrats, Austin American-Statesman

Rep. Castro appointed to Intelligence Committee, San Antonio Express-News

Cornyn reveals Trump was not his first choice for president, The Dallas Morning News

Surveillance photos of flooding and oil can be posted, state says, Austin American-Statesman

Harris County warns of possible contaminated drinking water; more testing set, Houston Chronicle

State delays execution of Houston killer, Houston Chronicle

Witness: Zetas paid off top officials in Mexican border state, San Antonio Express-News

City: Trash found in recycling bin will result in a $25 fine, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“We have a responsibility to provide access and opportunity to smart kids from underserved areas of the state. And I think we do a great job of that.” 

 — Greg Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, in an interview about the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of affirmative action

Today in TribTalk

Preventive health care for women key to Zika defense, by Janet Realini —  Access to public health information, insect repellants and preconception and prenatal care are all vital components of a Zika prevention strategy. So is access to contraception.

News From Home

•    While several high-profile cases have fueled a national debate on police shootings, there is no comprehensive data on such shootings in Texas. With reader support, we hope to introduce a new layer of transparency here. And you can help. Click here for more information on how to assist in making this project a reality.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

•   TribFeast: A Dinner To Support Nonprofit Journalism on Sept. 24 at the University of Texas at Austin's Etter-Harbin Alumni Center