NH stats study committee recommends “future legislation”

A legislative committee has agreed that New Hampshire needs a law requiring collection of abortion statistics. Now comes the fun part: passing one.

The interim study committee examining House Bill 1502 from the 2014 New Hampshire House session issued its brief report on November 14. Representative Laurie Harding (D-Lebanon) wrote on behalf of her colleagues on the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee:

The committee voted in favor of future legislation that is focused on meaningful, confidential collection of abortion statistics only for the purpose of public health analysis and intervention. The data would be summarized and made public in an aggregated form. The committee supported the motion to recommend future legislation only if the data collection is guaranteed to protect the anonymity of the provider and patient and the appropriate resources are available. (Vote: 16-1)

Interim study reports are non-binding but influential on future legislative action. The next time an abortion statistics bill comes up, this recommendation will be used somewhere along the line as a point of reference, particularly since many of the people on the study committee were re-elected a couple of weeks ago.

As it happens, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester) has filed her intent to introduce a statistics bill in the session beginning in January. Souza is strongly pro-life. You can bet she’s going to do her best to keep this needed legislation from going off the rails.

Off the rails? Yes, it could happen.

I attended several of the study sessions on HB 1502. The consensus of the committee, dominated by abortion defenders, was that statistics were a good idea to the extent that they might help identify populations currently underserved by contraception providers. (No wonder PPNNE stopped objecting to the bill. From their standpoint, a stats law would be market research at the state’s expense.) One needn’t track post-abortion morbidity and mortality to get at that information. Another point of consensus was explicitly written into the interim study report: abortion providers should remain anonymous. So much for women’s health.

It’s true that any statistics law will be a step in the right direction. New Hampshire public health authorities have no official idea how many abortion providers work in New Hampshire, or how many women and girls get abortions, or how many of those abortions are late-term surgical or early-term chemical. Any effort to fill in those gaps will be a public health boon. Let’s take it further and pass a law that tracks how women fare after abortions, at least to the extent that a provider who consistently had awful outcomes could be identified and stopped.

The text of Souza’s bill is at least a month away from being ready for release. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by the colleagues who have just said there oughta be a law.