What does Austin, Texas, have to do with Rome? Two events occurred the week of Nov. 28, casually unrelated, but sharing a common theme: burial.
In Rome, Pope Francis wrapped up his series of Wednesday general audience talks on the corporal works of mercy by speaking about “burying the dead.” He especially saluted those who risk their own lives, amid war or civil insurrection, to afford others this last rite/right. The Pope then compared such examples of mercy with that of Joseph of Arimethea, “who offered his own tomb for the burial of Jesus.” The Holy Father also mentioned the association of November with prayer for the dead, a further example of merciful care for those who have gone before us.
The Pope could also have mentioned Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo (To Rise With Christ), the Vatican’s own instruction, released Oct. 25, which reaffirmed the traditional Catholic preference for earth burial over cremation.
So, again, what does Rome have to do with Austin?
On Nov. 28, the state of Texas released final regulations, effective Dec. 19, requiring that the remains of unborn children killed by abortion be buried or cremated. The regulations mirror similar requirements in Indiana (signed by now-Vice President-elect Mike Pence) and Louisiana.
The Texas regulations have predictably generated outcry by the usual suspects. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, branded them as unnecessary, claiming that they burden women and that abortionists already provide for “safe disposal of medical tissue.”
Abortionists assert the regulations are further examples of “TRAP” (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws, i.e., laws devoid of any purpose except, in their view, to impede or discourage abortions. Such laws, they maintain, suggest that abortion does not rank up there alongside baseball and apple pie as quintessentially “American.” Of course, some people’s TRAPs are other people’s life-protective legislation.
Planned Parenthood has a vested interest in pushing the TRAP argument, because it managed to convince a majority of the Supreme Court June 27 (in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt) to expand Roe v. Wade by striking down state laws deemed “unduly burdensome” to procuring abortions.
In that case, Texas had adopted legislation setting standards for abortion businesses that required them to act like other ambulatory surgical centers, e.g., mandating that physicians have admitting privileges in an accredited hospital somewhere within 30 miles and they meet space standards, etc. Most abortion facilities could not meet those standards.
Many abortionists are nomads with no local affiliations, and refitting abortion centers to meet space rules (e.g., have doorways that can accommodate gurneys) is expensive. Common sense dictates that the quality of health care demands meeting standards. But abortion has always been “special,” trumping rules applicable to other medical procedures.
On the one hand, that’s true: Abortion has nothing to do with health because killing is not therapeutic, especially for the victim. But abortionists have also always contended that abortion is just another medical procedure, no different from an appendectomy. So why shouldn’t it have to meet general medical standards?
That’s the paradox: Abortionists will maintain their procedure is “just another medical procedure” until they’re held to general medical standards. Then abortion turns the tables, evaluating standards by their impact on abortionists, not vice versa.
Abortion providers have a vested interest in claiming that protective legislation is “medically unnecessary” and “burdensome” because, under post-Hellerstedt jurisprudence, they have a greater shot at finding some sympathetic federal judge who will strike down such legislation.
Why oppose the Texas rules requiring burial of babies killed by abortions? One dirty little secret, exposed by the Center for Medical Progress’ videos, is that abortionists find trafficking in fetal body parts profitable. And it’s not just Planned Parenthood. All sorts of biogen companies, genetic research groups (universities, big pharma) and the reproductive technology industry (IVF) have vested interests in obtaining fetal body parts. For them, aborted fetuses are the equivalent of junkyard cars to be harvested for parts. Lots of people make lots of money in this area; they are not going to give that up without a fight.
Similarly, while the abortion establishment pretends that Texas’s new rules will cost women — especially poor women — money, the truth is that the financial duty for burial or cremation of the remains of the unborn belongs to the abortion businesses. While abortionists may be shedding crocodile tears for poor women, they should at least be honest enough to disclose their own financial conflict-of-interest regarding the regulations they oppose.
Apart from financial interest, however, abortionists see the Texas rules as a threat because the regulations do the one thing absolutely forbidden by abortionists: They humanize the unborn child. And if you humanize the unborn child, the whole unscientific edifice of the abortion license created by Roe — “we don’t know when life begins”; “this is a problem of ‘ensoulment’”; “embryos are not human” — begins collapsing.
The same problem arose last year when the Montana Legislature adopted legislation requiring anesthetization of a fetus in a late-term abortion. Even that minor modicum of humanity drew the ire of abortionists (and the veto of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock) because it suggested that the unborn are humans who can feel pain. “That’s taboo!” according to the abortion industry. Likewise, “to bury” suggests humanity, or at least something valuable, and both those properties are absolute red lines for the abortion establishment.
That’s why abortionists want no graves.
Think about it: Since Roe was handed down in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions in the United States. Have you ever wondered: Where are the bodies?
Monica Migliorino Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, has written a most painful book that answers that question. Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (St. Benedict Press, 2012) describes her discoveries of literally crates of aborted fetuses in storage sites, on loading docks and in a Milwaukee pet cemetery crematorium (where the remains of the children were incinerated alongside pets). Her text is not for the squeamish, and her pictures are graphic, but the fact is: What she describes is reality, and what she has tried to do is to make the corporal work of “burying the dead” real.
If you don’t think so, consider this quote: “Milwaukee pro-life activists organized a burial for the bodies of babies retrieved from local abortoria — enough corpses to fill six coffins. Consider this reaction by a policeman to a bystander who, stopping and observing the size of the funeral and the hearses, “asked one of the police escorts, ‘Who died?’ The policeman shook his head and answered, ‘No one’” (189).
Pope Francis reminds us that “burying the dead” is an act of mercy. Failing to bury the dead is an act of barbarism.
Remember Antigone? She defied King Creon, who had denied her brother burial to degrade him. The same was true in Christ’s day. It was not accidental that the Pharisees had to seek a special exception to take down the bodies of Christ and the criminals crucified with him “because the Sabbath was a solemn feast day” (John 19:31). Crucified criminals typically hung on their crosses until their bodies rotted off, were picked off as carrion or consigned to a common grave so the next criminal could be nailed up. Petronius aptly described them: “crow’s food.”
The culture of death promotes death, but hates to give the dead much visibility. Wakes are now generally minimalist. Children (and, increasingly, adults) have almost no contact with the dying or the dead. Cremation has even gotten rid of the body (and often the funeral).
Texas is clearly going to be battered for its new regulations, branded “extremist” and “radical.” Here’s a chance to stand up and say: People have a right to a grave.
After all, even Leo Tolstoy answered his own question about “how much land does a man need?”
“Six feet from his head to his heels.”
Unborn children in Texas will need proportionately less.
John M. Grondelski writes from Falls Church, Virginia.