The State of Texas: Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Fetal Burial Rule
Plus: Corpus Christi’s water crisis continues, inspiring stories highlight the high school football championships, and a Charlie Brown Christmas display lives to see another day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We filled a package full of dog poo and put it out there. Went to run an errand, was gone maybe an hour and the package was gone.”
—Rosa Faubush, of Schertz, to KENS-5. Fabush and her neighbors had apparently been struggling with a string of incidents where robbers stole packages that were sitting on their front steps. So, Faubush took the situation into her own hands: twice, she filled mock-packages with poop and trash. Both times, the robbers unwittingly made off with a far less lucrative loot than they had expected.
Texas’s controversial rule requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Thursday, just a few days before it was set to go into effect across the state, according to the Texas Tribune. The ruling by Judge Sam Sparks delays the rule’s start date until at least January 6. By that date, Sparks said, his court will likely have reached a decision in the lawsuit against the fetal burial rule brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Whole Woman’s Health earlier this week. In the lawsuit, the abortion rights advocates allege that the fetal burial rule “has no public health benefit… does nothing to improve public health or safety,” and is actually just “a pretext for restricting abortion access.” In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Fatimah Gifford, a spokeswoman for Whole Woman’s Health, said the group is “glad that we don’t have to comply with these completely medically unnecessary rules. They’re so ridiculous.” During a court hearing in Austin on Thursday the state’s attorneys argued that the rule was truly about making sure fetal remains were treated with dignity instead of treating them like medical waste, which Assistant Attorney General John Langley called “disrespectful.” Langley also claimed that the rules “in no way, in any way, shape or form, regulate women. They only regulate health care facilities.” But groups in both the medical field and the funeral industry have criticized the rule, saying it will add unnecessary costs and place an extra burden on families. The two sides in the case are set to make their arguments during hearings on January 3 and 4.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Corpus Christi’s ban on tap water has been lifted for some residents, but a good chunk of the city is still being warned not to use tap water for anything—that includes drinking, showering, and brushing teeth. The ban went into effect early Thursday morning after a contaminant—the chemical Indulin AA-86, which is an asphalt emulsifier—had apparently entered the water system due to a backflow issue at an industrial site downtown, resulting in school and business closures and leaving residents scrambling to find alternative water sources. According to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, people were lined up in grocery stores to buy bottled water, in many cases only to find out that the store had already sold out. It’s been a rough time for the city. Residents are apparently furious that the city allowed yet another water problem to occur (water boil warnings are all too common in Corpus Christi), and are equally upset that the city apparently hadn’t learned from its past mistakes and was woefully unprepared. On top of that, the city was first notified of the current dirty water problem two weeks ago, the Caller-Times reported. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are both investigating the water issue.
Friday Night Lights
The Texas high school football championships are never short on inspiring stories, but this week’s matchups at AT&T Stadium in Arlington have perhaps carried a bit more meaning than usual, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Woodlands High School faces Austin’s Lake Travis in the 6A Division 1 finals on Saturday, a few weeks after senior linebacker Grant Milton collapsed on the sidelines during a game and went into a coma, which the team later found out was due to a brain injury that required an emergency surgery. The high school football community has rallied around Milton and donated $137,000 for his family (thanks in part to a $100,000 donation from J.J. Watt), in addition to showing support at Woodlands’ games. Meanwhile, West Texas’s Iraan High School took on Bremond in the 2A Division 2 title game on Thursday after a school bus carrying Iraan’s cheer squad crashed on its way back from a game earlier in December, killing a cheer sponsor and injuring seven cheerleaders. Iraan lost the state title game, but the bigger story was the team’s inspiring run and the outpouring of support. According to the New York Times, about 750 cheerleaders traveled from across Texas and New Mexico to cheer the team on during the semifinal game.
In yet another ridiculous Christmastime battle over free speech and religious freedom (just another holiday tradition in Texas), a judge has ordered that a Killeen middle school Christmas display featuring Charlie Brown characters and a biblical passage be restored after school officials originally ordered it to be taken down. According to the Houston Chronicle, a door display put up by a nurse’s aide featuring Linus and his explanation of why Christmas matters was removed after the Killeen school board upheld the school’s decision. But Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly got involved in the small-town dispute over religious displays, filing a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the district’s decision. The judge ruled in favor of Paxton’s proposed restraining order to ensure the display would be back up by Friday, the last day of the semester. The judge did, however, say the display has to add a disclaimer that says its message is not endorsed by the school. It’s unclear whether the judge considered an obvious alternative remedy to the school’s religious dispute: as a secular countermeasure to the poster, the school could have just installed alongside it a pink aluminum tree.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The Houston Police Department’s body camera program could be set for a much-needed change Houston Chronicle
Austin will start covering the costs of legal services for its documented and undocumented immigrants KXAN
Here’s a story about a Texan Jeopardy! contestant who died of cancer before her episode aired SB Nation
A white family in Denton says someone torched their truck and wrote a racial slur on their garage CBSDFW
Waco’s zoo is holding a baby shower this weekend for its expecting orangutan couple KCEN