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Water Cremation is Illegal in Texas, but Why

Water Cremation is Illegal in Texas, but Why
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The majority of people are choosing cremation. People are more environmentally focused than ever. Yet, water cremation is illegal in Texas. But, why?

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Nearly five years ago Texas House Bill 1155 was filed. That bill’s aim was to legalize alkaline hydrolysis in Texas. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the house. The last activity was back in April of 2017 when a favorable report for the bill was submitted by the Public Health House Committee, and it was sent to the House Calendars Committee for consideration.

House Bill 1155 was never voted on.

So, what happened? The bill was actually submitted by a House Democrat (Bobby Guerra) and Republican (Sarah Davis), and there seemed to be bipartisan support. As more and more states legalize alkaline hydrolysis, also known as water cremation or aquamation, no progress has been made in Texas. The bill just simply wasn’t prioritized.

Another House Bill was submitted in 2021 to again legalize alkaline hydrolysis. However, this time House Bill 1404 stalled even sooner. It was referred to the Public Health House Committee, just as the other bill before it, but that’s where it ended.

Today, more and more Texans are interested in alkaline hydrolysis. Green Cremation Texas alone has helped hundreds of local families arrange water cremation services through our partner in Missouri. Clearly it’s an end of life service that many Texans want to have as an option. The only problem is a few key parties are standing in the way.

Why There’s Been Opposition to Alkaline Hydrolysis in Texas

In late 2018, Dallas County rejected the idea of using alkaline hydrolysis to cremate unclaimed bodies, despite the fact that UT Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center uses the same method for those who donate their bodies for medical research. The reasoning for rejecting the use of water cremation wasn’t a matter of cost or efficiency. It was because some Dallas County commissioners thought the practice was distasteful. They used personal preference to make the decision.

When you consider the history of alkaline hydrolysis legalization in Texas and other states, that isn’t very surprising. There have been three primary groups opposing alkaline hydrolysis legalization. They are:

  • Legislators who personally don’t agree with the practice for reasons outside of legality, safety or public opinion.
  • Some religions that oppose cremation, sometimes in any form.
  • Casket makers who understand another cremation option could further cut into their sales.

An example of religious opposition came in 2019. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops released a statement that year opposing HB 773, “because it allows for the aqua cremation of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis.” The group felt that alkaline hydrolysis is, “ disrespectful of the human body and does not allow for burial of the body.”

While cremation is now acceptable in the Catholic religion there are limitations, and there is still clear preference for burial over cremation.

On the opposite side is the group that suggested alkaline hydrolysis be allowed for unclaimed bodies. It was the Dallas County medical examiner’s office that suggested the process be used. Their reasoning – it could serve as a backup or additional method of disposal in addition to traditional cremation. It’s a reasonable suggestion given the county was hindered in the past when a crematorium that was used burned down.

When you analyze the debate around whether or not alkaline hydrolysis should be legal in Texas it becomes clear that opposition is mainly rooted in personal feelings. On the other end, legalization advocates point toward the improved safety, affordability and reduced impact on the environment. Furthermore, no one is advocating that alkaline hydrolysis replace current disposal methods but simply that it be another legal option in the state.

For those reasons, many Texans are hopeful that alkaline hydrolysis will be legalized in the near future as the process becomes more common around the country.

One Instance When Alkaline Hydrolysis is Legal in Texas

Right now there is one instance where alkaline hydrolysis is legal in Texas. The state anatomical board at UTSW are able to use water cremation for body disposition. This is something that alkaline hydrolysis advocates emphasize. UTSW has proven that alkaline hydrolysis is a highly safe and effective means of body disposition.

The only thing holding legalization back is politicians that personally don’t like the idea of alkaline hydrolysis. And because of that, their personal beliefs are taking a viable option away from millions of Texans.

If you’d like to learn more about the alkaline hydrolysis process or how to arrange water cremation in Texas, please contact our team. We’re available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

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