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The Brief: Judge blocks implementation of fetal remains rule

The rule — which was scheduled to take effect Monday — would require health providers to bury or cremate aborted fetuses.

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The Big Story

On Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks delayed Texas' fetal remains burial rule, which was set to take effect Monday. Here’s the story so far:

Sparks issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the rule from going into effect until Jan. 6. He also set a hearing for Jan. 3-4, during which each side would have about five hours to make their cases.

The regulation, set to be implemented by the Department of State Health Services, would require health care providers to bury or cremate aborted fetuses instead of disposing of them in sanitary landfills. While some medical and funeral advocacy groups claimed it would be a financial and emotional burden for families, anti-abortion groups said incinerating unborn fetuses was cruel. At the Thursday hearing, Texas Assistant Attorney General John Langley said the rules "in no way, in any way, shape or form, regulate women. They only regulate health care facilities." 

Sparks initially asked the state to delay implementation of the rule voluntarily and appeared frustrated when they declined. "This is the first time ... the state of Texas has ever said, 'We're going to go ahead,' when there's a lawsuit of substance before the United States District Court," Sparks said. "I'm old. I won't remember as long, but I'll remember."

• The Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued the state over the rule on Monday, hailed the temporary restraining order as a victory. David Brown, senior attorney for the organization, said after the hearing that the state fumbled in its response over the public health benefits of the rule because there wasn't one.

What We're Reading

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

Democrats Vow to Fight, Kill Dan Patrick’s Bathroom Bill, Texas Observer

Judge orders school to restore Charlie Brown Christmas decoration with biblical message, Houston Chronicle

Zika travel warning has some Brownsville residents on edge, San Antonio Express-News

Cruz campaign manager seeks Trump gig, POLITICO

Houston's new police chief: Body cameras should start recording automatically after police leave vehicles, Houston Chronicle 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

•   A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with the University of Houston's Renu Khator on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

•   A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center

•   A Conversation on Mental Health on Jan. 26 at The Austin Club

•   A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center

•   A Conversation with Reps. Senfronia Thompson & James White on March 31 at Prairie View A&M University – W.A. Tempton Memorial Student Center

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