Learning to count: stats bill “interim study” work session next week, open to the public

Rep. Kathleen Souza, chief sponsor of HB 1502 (photo courtesy nhcornerstone.org, http://bit.ly/1oFtmiM)
Rep. Kathleen Souza, chief sponsor of HB 1502 (photo courtesy nhcornerstone.org, http://bit.ly/1oFtmiM)

New Hampshire’s House Bill 1502, calling for collection of abortion statistics, will finally get some follow-up on June 3. Last March, the House voted to send the bill to interim study. Three members of the Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs committee said they were committed to following through. The public is welcome to attend the committee’s work session on the bill Tuesday, June 3, 3:15 p.m. in room 205 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

I plan to be there. I think an audience is in order. The more scrutiny this process gets, the better.

At work sessions, there can be give-and-take. People with specialized knowledge in a particular area might be invited to provide information to the committee. Who will be the specialists on call for abortion statistics? The same people who have lobbied for years to kill such bills? We’ll see.

What I wrote in March still holds.

If you cared about women’s health, why wouldn’t you want to know how abortion affects it? Why won’t the Granite State collect and report abortion statistics to the Centers for Disease Control, as nearly every other state does?

In New Hampshire, the absence of reporting requirements screams “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Let’s not talk about how many women and adolescents choose abortion. We don’t want the public to know if anyone has post-abortive complications or if a particular provider is a Gosnell-in-waiting. No need to know if late-term abortions are happening.

It’s time for New Hampshire legislators and public health officials to shrug off old attitudes. It’s time to stop relying on voluntary reporting by abortion providers, who are happy to provide data to the private Alan Guttmacher Institute while fighting to block state reporting requirements.

On a New Hampshire Public Radio call-in show this morning, an abortion provider from Bedford phoned in to say, “The statistics are known. Abortion is safe. I’m sort of upset about these continued attacks on women’s rights.”

No, doctor. The statistics are not known. They’re guessed at. There is no reporting requirement. And the fact that a doctor can call this an attack on women’s rights underscores how thoroughly the abortion industry has co-opted what used to be an unquestionably honorable profession.

The states that report statistics to the CDC don’t all collect the same information. Some states track the number of abortions, period. Others seek more detail. Some New Hampshire abortion providers expressed concern at the hearing on HB 1502 that statistical collection might not preserve anonymity for women and for providers. To them, I say look to other states and see how they get the job done.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England covers Vermont and Maine as well as New Hampshire. At the hearing on HB 1502, one committee member asked the PPNNE lobbyist if statistics were collected in the other two states. She said yes – and went on to object to HB 1502 anyway.

“Interim study” can mean “file and forget.” This time, a legislator speaking for a committee has said “the committee is committed to collect any meaningful health data in an aggregated form.”

The marker is down. Let’s see what happens.

HB 1502 is a bipartisan bill with eight sponsors: Reps. Souza (R-Manchester), Notter (R-Merrimack), Peterson (R-Merrimack), LeBrun (R-Nashua), Kappler (R-Raymond), Baldasaro (R-Londonderry), Hopper (R-Weare), and Berube (D-Somersworth).