After Court Blocked Texas Fetal Remains Rule, Chairman Cook Vows to Press on with Legislation

“For me, it's never about getting credit, it's about doing what is right. And that is shepherding legislation beneficial for the voiceless and most vulnerable.”

The following article was originally published in the Quorum Report.

Following a federal judge’s ruling blocking new rules about the disposal of fetal remains in this state, the powerful Chairman of the Texas House State Affairs Committee did something on Saturday he has never done during the entirety of his political career: Rallied the troops on the south steps of the Capitol.

Known in Austin for always being soft-spoken and thoughtful, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, took to the microphone to headline a rally of thousands of anti-abortion activists to tell them he will press forward with legislation to do away with what he has maintained is an “abhorrent practice” – specifically, the grinding of a fetus in a garbage disposal. It is something that’s been legal in Texas for about three decades.

“Since being elected by the citizens of District 8 in 2002, this is the very first time I have ever agreed to speak at a rally, and it’s an honor,” Cook said. “For me, it's never about getting credit, it's about doing what is right. And that is shepherding legislation beneficial for the voiceless and most vulnerable.”

Though not an official estimate, law enforcement on the scene pegged the crowd at the annual March for Life at roughly 3,500 at about 2pm on Saturday. As with any protest or rally, those who side with the protesters will tell you the crowd was bigger than that. Opponents will say it was smaller. Naturally, the crowd size fluctuated as people came and went. Quorum Report does not conduct independent estimates of crowd sizes.

A small contingent of pro-choice activists were busy counter-protesting, chanting slogans like “Abortion is a human right!”

In introducing Cook at the rally, President of the Texans for Life Coalition Kyleen Wright said “Since he became chair of the State Affairs Committee, where nearly all of our pro-life bills go, over 50,000 lives have been saved and some of them started kindergarten this year."

Turning his attention to Friday’s ruling by US District Judge Sam Sparks that Texas cannot require burial or cremation of fetuses, Chairman Cook said to the crowd “we now have even more work ahead and that’s where you come in once again.”

In a statement issued to QR, Cook called Sparks’ ruling “disappointing” but added “the two-day court hearing provided us with essential input to ensure we pass good, constitutionally sound public policy.” Rep. Cook’s legislation is about “changing antiquated, abhorrent practices that do not offer dignity for unborn children as we do for all deceased humans,” the chairman said.

Abortions rights advocates and attorneys for plaintiffs in the case have argued the new rules have no medical purpose and could limit access to abortion if the cost of internment is passed on to women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

Though the garbage disposal is not a method used by Planned Parenthood or other well-known abortion providers like Whole Woman’s Health, it has been utilized over the years by smaller, independent abortion providers.

In his ruling, Judge Sparks said “The lack of clarity in the Amendments inviting such interpretation allows DSHS to exercise arbitrary, and potentially discriminatory, enforcement on an issue connected to abortion and therefore sensitive and hotly contested."

Despite that setback in court, Cook said he is “committed to pursuing this important endeavor during the current 85th Session of the Texas Legislature.”

Copyright January 28, 2017, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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