After Supreme Court Loss, Abbott Wants State To Track Abortion Complications

Jul 14, 2017

During the regular session, Texas lawmakers passed new reporting requirements for abortion providers. Gov. Greg Abbott wants them to pass even tougher requirements during the special session that starts Tuesday.

Senate Bill 8, which Abbott signed into law last month, includes a measure moving basic abortion data collection to an online database that doesn’t exist yet. It also puts the onus on physicians to report the data within a certain time period.

Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said the measures could hurt physicians. “[It] both could endanger the physician’s confidentiality," he said, "and targets the physician for regulatory harassment for paperwork – basically what amounts to paperwork errors, not patient care errors.”

But Joe Pojman, the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said the new reporting requirements are inadequate. Along with the governor, he wants to see that data-collection system expanded to include reporting for complications during an abortion.

“This bill would simply require hospitals who treat a woman for an abortion complication or … the physician who performs an abortion and causes a complication … to report that to the state,” he said.

Pojman said he suspects that abortion complications are being underreported and this would allow the state to get a sense of whether there are problems.

“It may be that the number of complications is sufficient to increase the safety standards of abortion facilities,” he said. “If so, this law should tell us that.”

Rocap said no one is opposed to the idea of better reporting.

“We are not opposed to good neutral health care data collection, but we are opposed to doing it in such a way that puts targets on physicians,” he said. “And I mean that literally.”

Rocap said the push for these reporting requirements is a reaction to a Supreme Court ruling last year striking down a Texas abortion law that placed onerous requirements on abortion providers, like having to perform the abortion in a surgical suite instead of a clinic room.

The requirements were reportedly made in the name of safety, but the court ruled the state could not prove those additional safety measures were needed.

Rocap said collecting more data probably won’t change that.

“I think what we are going to find is – guess what? Abortion practiced by trained medical professionals is safe,” he said. “You are not going to find this huge complication rate. It’s just not there.”

But Pojman said if this special session item passes, we’ll know that for sure.