Austin, Texas — Texas Catholic bishops and the state's Catholic cemeteries are working together on efforts to provide a proper burial for children lost to abortion.
Effective Dec. 19, new state regulations from the Department of State Health Services require the interment of the remains of all children who are lost through abortion or miscarriage at a health care facility or abortion clinic.
According to a Dec. 12 news release from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Austin-based public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, many hospitals already work with families, funeral homes and cemeteries to provide a proper burial for children who die in utero.
The conference said Catholic cemeteries in many of the state's dioceses have provided such burials for years.
The Texas Catholic conference said it will continue to work with Catholic cemeteries and funeral homes "to further develop this ministry to provide the same service throughout the state (at no charge) to children who die by abortion."
"To bury the dead is a work of mercy," Jennifer Carr Allmon, the conference' executive director, said in a statement. "As Pope Francis reminds us, the victims of our 'throwaway culture' are 'the weakest and most fragile human beings.' It is right and just for us to be assisting the victims of abortion."
Catholic cemeteries estimate that their costs will range from $1,500 to $13,000 annually to inter children who die from abortions. The state has more than 50 Catholic cemeteries, and Catholic conference officials said they hope to work with other cemeteries, funeral homes and mortuaries to provide the service.
The Catholic ministry is available to all, regardless of their situation, according to Allmon.
"This is an important service for the most vulnerable children in our state," she said. "We must treat the remains of all human beings, no matter how long they lived or how they died, with dignity, charity and respect. In addition, this ministry offers a place to pray for healing to those who regret their abortion, or for abortion workers who leave the industry."
The Department of State Health Services reported that 54,902 abortions were performed in Texas in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. In the same year, there were 2,200 fetal deaths statewide.
The new law modifies a section of the Texas Administrative Code that already includes interment as one of three possible ways to handle the remains of children lost through abortion or miscarriage. The revision only removes the other two options: "deposition in a sanitary landfill"; and "grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer system."
The Catholic conference news release said that patients are not required to participate in deposition of the remains, and the law specifically applies only to health care or abortion facilities. It also does not apply to women who lose a child outside of a health care or abortion facility, such as at their own home. Burial records will be maintained by hospitals and cemeteries.