Legislative Testimony

Texas Health & Human Services Commission 

Disposition of Embryonic & Fetal Remains

11 December 2017

Written Testimony

Joe Kral, M.A.

President, Society of St. Sebastian

Editor-at-Large, Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture

Bioethics in Law & Culture

Spring 2018        vol. 1  issue 2 

Disposal of Fetal Remains

 

Written Testimony of Joe Kral, M.A.

To the Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Re: Rules on the Disposition of Embryonic and Fetal Tissue Remains TRD-201704590

December 11, 2017

 

Greetings; my name is Joe Kral and I am the President of the Society of St. Sebastian and editor-in-chief of its publication Bioethics in Law and Culture. I formerly was the legislative director for Texas Right to Life and I have also consulted several prominent pro-life organizations within Texas on pro-life legislation. My area of specialty is the relation between the civil law and moral issues that involve bioethics.

 

I am writing in support of the rules that are being proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission regarding the proper disposition of the remains of embryo and fetal tissue. I have written on this issue before last year in Truth and Charity Forum[1]. My basic argument in favor of such a policy was twofold: 1) it will help prevent the selling of fetal body parts and 2) these unborn children who died still deserve the moral respect for a proper final disposition.

 

Firstly, let me begin by stating that it has been shown on numerous occasions that those in the abortion industry have become suspect when it comes to the procurement and selling of fetal body parts. Recently, it was announced that the Justice Department will begin an investigation into this matter regarding Planned Parenthood[2]. This is obviously a grotesque practice since it permits a double indignity to the child: the abortion of the child and then the use of the parts of the child without respect to the inherent dignity of the child. Federal law prohibits the practice of this and so does Texas and the rules, as drafted, help protect from the practice of illegally selling fetal body parts as found in §138.3 and §138.5. The simple fact is that Texas law and these rules mandate that the remains of the aborted child be humanely disposed of. This, of course, would not allow abortion businesses to sell those body parts, but rather ensure that the remains be treated in a way that is consistent with normal and moral practices that regard deceased human beings.

 

This last point begins the second part of my argument; that is, that the remains of the aborted child ought to be treated with respect. As Pope Francis correctly pointed out a few years ago, much of Western culture has become a “throw away culture”[3]. He argues, in his address, that society has not only a disregard for creation, but for human life as well. Meaning many people are just as willing to litter as to abort an innocent human life. This shows an extreme disregard for God’s creation (both the environment and unborn child). Pope Francis, in many ways, essentially helps clarify what St. Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) which was published 22 years ago.  Consider the following from the encyclical, “Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded.”[4] In essence, not only is human life degraded by acts such as abortion and the selling of fetal body parts, but the medical profession itself is degraded as well. Why is this the case? Because some in the medical profession use the innocent human unborn child as an object, or rather as a means to an end. They do not treat this unborn person with dignity and respect which is due to every person regardless of age. Because the person is treated as an object, they degrade the medical profession by seeking gain that is contrary to what the medical profession is, namely the true end which is to be sought which is the health of the human person.

 

For decades, it has been known that in some circumstances the abortion industry has also disposed of aborted human remains by merely discarding them with other refuse. For years, many pro-life activists have tried to collect these remains in order to bury them in a proper manner. One activist has detailed her accounts with this situation in a book called Abandoned. In it she relates this testimony, “Burial of the dead is a sign that human beings are in relation to one another, tied together by more than just nominal relationships. Authentic human living requires a recognition that human beings are interrelated on a very personal level.”[5] People do not leave their dead on the side of the road; instead they see the dead as still dignified; meaning people treat the dead with respect. Common practice in our country is not to throw away an unclaimed deceased person, but rather bury that deceased human being. Inherently, we recognize the profoundness of the human person and still recognize the need to treat even the dead with utmost respect.

 

In conclusion, I believe the rules, as they stand, are helpful in establishing a culture which better respects human dignity. The Texas law and HHSC rules helped to correct an absence within the law; namely that the law, prior to the passage of the recent legislation, did not recognize the dignity of the remains of the aborted child. This helps correct that particular problem. It is as Dr. Miller concluded in her book, “These children were treated like garbage while they lived. We should give them the dignity in death that they didn’t have in life.[6]

 

Thank you for all the work you do for the State of Texas.

 

[1] See http://truthandcharityforum.org/humanizing-the-unborn-the-case-for-burying-the-unborn-legislation/; retrieved December 8, 2017.

[2] See https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-12-08/justice-department-to-investigate-planned-parenthood; retrieved December 8, 2017.

[3] See http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2013/pope-says-throwaway-culture-harms-environment-and-human-life.cfm; retrieved December 11, 2017.

[4] St. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 4.

[5] Miller, Monica, Abandoned, page 159, Saint Benedict Press, 2012.

[6] Ibid, page 164.