AUSTIN — Friday will likely be the final day of the federal trial challenging Texas’ fetal remains burial law.
If found to be constitutional, the law would require aborted or miscarried fetal remains to be buried or cremated, instead of treated as medical waste.
The Texas Funeral Directors Association isn’t taking a stance on this law, but it is monitoring what could happen to the services funeral homes provide, as well as potential changes to the demands and workload on their industry.
“It’s really an unknown as to how many fetal deaths we’re really talking about,” Michael Land, the spokesperson for the organization, said.
Staffing changes may be necessary if funeral homes get more calls from local hospitals if the law goes into effect, Land explained.
“We don’t really know what it’s going to take to gear up, to man the positions and vehicles needed for the transport and delivery [of fetal remains],” Land said.
At Providence-Jones Family Funeral Home in Elgin, families are guided through all their available options to them. Funeral director Christine Jones says usually a local hospital will call and let them know if a family wants a burial or cremation often after a miscarriage. Between their two funeral homes, they’ll get around five to 10 calls a year.
Jones says families will get services at little to no cost in those cases.
“It really depends on the merchandise and things that they choose,” she said. “We don’t charge for our services.”
Their funeral homes are also unsure of what the law could mean for their operations.
“It’s such an unknown right now because we don’t know what kind of numbers you’re looking at,” she said. “I would assume that right now, from five to 10 a year, if you went up to 100, obviously there would have to be some changes to prices and things like that, just because of your time and the staff on making removals.”
Regardless, the top priority is to be there for families when they need it the most.
“The main thing is to be comforting to them,” she said.
When the state formed this law, it directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop a grant program that uses private donations to cover these costs. However, a spokesperson for the agency says no funds have been donated to the account.