Seton Medical Center forces women to bury miscarried fetuses, enforces conservative catholicism

Austin: the epitome of liberalism and diversity in Texas. Although the capital is politically blue, it is still surrounded by a red state, meaning the statewide policies aren’t always going to fit the tone of the city. This includes a policy quickly and quietly created by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that basically makes it so that mothers who recently miscarried or had an abortion would be forced to bury the remains of the removed fetus.

Why are we only now hearing about this? Well, the Texas Observer posted an investigative article Monday following the experiences of Blake Norton, daughter of Democratic State Rep. Donna Howard, and what she went through after she miscarried in June 2015.

The article goes into detail about Norton’s experience at Seton Medical Center Austin. Just before her procedure to remove the fetal tissue, Norton was forced to sign a form asking whether she wanted the hospital to bury the fetus or if she wanted to pay for a funeral herself. Of course, Norton couldn’t op out of the burial.

It’s very clear that many Catholics care more about unborn children than they do people who are already living, struggling, and dying outside of the womb. Though the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops claims they support comprehensive immigration reform, they also support the U.S. in its enforcing the the border despite the fact that enforcing these boundaries has led to a 17 percent increase in migrant deaths at the U.S.- Mexico border.

Despite how America proudly proclaims the word of separation of church and state, it is clear that many policies are motivated by religious beliefs. Just last year, President Donald Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast that he would repeal the Johnson Amendment, which bars religious institutions and charities from using donated money to back certain campaigns and political candidates.

Another example is SB 2065, passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015. This Senate bill makes it so that any clergyman in Texas can legally refuse to marry a same sex couple, which of course goes against the legalization of gay marriage.

What is the point? What can the U.S. government stand to gain from stopping same sex marriage? What can the government gain from burying fetuses? There, of course, are clear cut benefits from repealing the Johnson Amendment, but would they really help the government in serving its people?

Church and state aren’t separated, and they haven’t been for a very long time. That is made increasingly clear when religious ideology is enforced in our government and our hospitals. That is made increasingly clear when a woman’s autonomy over not only her body, but the body of her unborn child, is taken away without her consent.

Will burying fetuses help those in poverty? Will burying fetuses help the socio-economic inequality in America? Will it spur prison reform?

Of course not, and yet policy makers are passing these laws anyway. Instead, politicians should focus on laws for education reform and quality healthcare, which are solutions that don’t breach the First Amendment by imposing religious responsibilities onto others.

We need to address these issues, and we need to address the fact that we have been lied to about the separation of church and state. Once we identify this problem we can actively take steps towards helping those who these religiously conservative laws work to harm.