New Abortion Stats Dispute Comes Up in Committee

“It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

Let those words roll around in your head for a moment. We’ll get back to them.

No, I’m not digging up my notes from HB 158, the abortion statistics bill killed by the New Hampshire House a few months ago. The quote that opens this post is from a hearing on another bill altogether, SB 111, on healthcare data. Having passed the state senate, SB 111 is now in the hands of the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee.

SB 111 was meant to be a housekeeping measure, revising and updating procedures for collection of various health-related data. Take a look at the fascinating NH Health WISDOM web site to get a sense of the kind of information the state tracks. SB 111 was introduced at the request of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Independently, it occurred to several people that with health care data up for discussion, DHHS’s lack of abortion data was a missing piece. Four representatives – Walter Stapleton (R-Claremont), Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield), William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro), and Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead – drafted an amendment to SB 111 for the HHS committee to consider, basically adding abortion to the data covered by the bill.

That is not what DHHS had in mind. Thanks to my day job, I was present when the amendment was introduced at a subcommittee work session. I think “dismay” is the best word for the look on the faces of the DHHS staff present when they heard it.

Some of the state reps weren’t thrilled, either.

To make a long story short, the subcommittee declined to accept the amendment, and instead recommended that the bill as introduced be forwarded to the full HHS committee for a vote on May 7. When that day came, Rep. Stapleton politely brought up his proposed amendment (slightly tweaked and re-numbered since the subcommittee session). After a half hour of discussion, committee chair Rep. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole) decided to put off the vote on SB 111 and any amendments until the week of May 13.

That’s where it stands. I can say with confidence that the underlying bill is not in dispute. Any proposed amendment involving abortion statistics is another story. There are procedural objections to an amendment, but the substance is where one finds the real rub.

During the May 7 committee discussion, Rep. Joe Schapiro (D-Keene) took note in the calmest of tones of what he called efforts around the country to restrict abortion. (Maybe if someone were to tell him about New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, he’d feel better.) Then came his summation about the amendment: “It’s hard for me to separate statistics from a movement to make abortion more restricted.”

His colleague, Rep. Susan Ticehurst, was noticeably agitated as she registered her opinion about the controversial amendment. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’re talking about data.”

Actually, we are. Abortion and data collection are not mutually exclusive. Data collection and privacy protection are not mutually exclusive, either, as SB 111 underscores: it covers many kinds of data the state has collected for years while protecting patient privacy.

Insistence on suppressing data collection regarding one condition suggests fear of what the data will show.

One rep stated that DHHS already collects abortion statistics, but I’m skeptical about that. I’m not aware of any mandatory reporting rule that has gone into effect at the freestanding facilities where most of New Hampshire’s abortions take place. (No one is seriously asserting that hospital records would tell the whole story.) Given the intense opposition from abortion-friendly reps to any suggestion that abortions be counted, I don’t believe New Hampshire makes a serious attempt at present to find out how many induced terminations of pregnancy are happening statewide.

DHHS officials needn’t lose sleep. I expect passage of SB 111, with no provision for abortion statistics. Still, I’m glad that a few representatives are willing to point out the missing piece .

But Wait, There’s More

[Update, 2 p.m.: According to a source present at the hearing, the committee voted “inexpedient to legislate” on this bill immediately after the hearing. The bill is likely to go to the full House on February 7.]

[Edited 1/24/18 to clarify the distinction between parental consent and notification.]

Just when you think you’re on top of all the life-issue bills in Concord, something else turns up. Comes now a measure that would nullify the parental notification law for abortion – and would eliminate the need for parental consent for cosmetic surgery, setting a broken bone, or anything else that health care professionals consider “treatment” – for minors 16 years of age and older. HB 1503 will be heard Wednesday, January 24, at 10 a.m. at the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee, room 205 of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Concord.

The hearing is open to the public, and comments may be emailed to the committee at HHSEA@leg.state.nh.us.

HB 1503 is sponsored by Rep. Caleb Dyer (L-Pelham).

“A health care provider shall obtain the independent consent of any minor 16 years of age or older who undergoes any elective or non-elective medical procedure. For the purposes of this subdivision, “health care provider” means any person, corporation, facility, or institution either licensed by this state or otherwise lawfully providing health care services….This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.”

New Hampshire’s parental notification law for abortion would be effectively nullified by HB 1503. The judicial-bypass provision of that law would be moot with the passage of a law giving 16- and 17-year-olds the authority to provide consent on their own.

The law doesn’t single out abortion. Nor does it explain just where parents would fit in at all: would a parent be financially responsible for procedures to which a minor child consents?

Whatever the sponsor’s intent, he has added another item to my watch list.

 


A few other hearings of note, all on January 31, 2018 (Wednesday):

  • HB 1787, relative to conscience rights for medical professionals, House HHS, 1:15 p.m., room 205 LOB
  • HB 1680, relative to abortions after viability, House Judiciary Committee, 10:00 a.m., room 208 LOB.
  • HB 1721, relative to coerced abortions.

Not yet scheduled: SB 490, establishing a committee to “study” end-of-life issues.

Abortion Statistics: “Inexpedient to Legislate,” Says N.H. House

The New Hampshire House today rejected HB 471, on abortion statistics. The bill would have put New Hampshire in line with the Centers for Disease Control, which has collected statistics for abortion surveillance for many years.

The vote on an “inexpedient to legislate” motion was 200-154.

Two hundred legislators voted like people who are afraid of evidence-based public health policy and afraid of political retribution from abortion providers.

How many children are terminated annually? It doesn’t matter, was the unspoken message in Representatives Hall. How many adolescents are aborting their pregnancies? We don’t care. How many late-term abortions? How many repeat abortions? Where are most abortions being done? We don’t want to know. 

The bill had stringent provisions to protect the anonymity of patients. Data would have been provided to the CDC in aggregated form. That wasn’t enough for the fearful reps.

Already, in the name of compromise and cooperation, the bill had protected provider anonymity. It thus would have prevented the state from identifying abortion providers with a pattern of leaving patients injured or worse.  Even that was not enough to win over abortion apologists.

Somewhere, Kermit Gosnell is nodding his approval.

Time to update the graphic I made a few years ago. I’m running out of room.

List of N.H. abortion statistics bills since 2002.
New Hampshire abortion statistics bills: a short history.

The roll call is available at this link from the N.H. General Court web site.

Of the 154 representatives who voted against killing the bill, two are Democrats: Barbara Shaw of Manchester and James MacKay of Concord.

Of the 200 who voted kill the bill, 41 are Republicans. One of them, James McConnell of Swanzey, gave a speech before the vote encouraging his colleagues to kill the bill.

Still think the New Hampshire GOP is a pro-life party?

Credit where it’s due: Reps. Jess Edwards (R-Auburn) and Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) spoke in support of the bill before the vote, stressing its importance to public health and women’s health. Rep. Larry Gagne (R-Manchester) made sure the ITL motion got a roll call vote.

The ITL motion was preceded by a motion of “ought to pass as amended,” which failed 165-189. Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack) gets the credit for asking for a roll call on that one.

Contact information for state representatives

Watch for an email newsletter with a breakdown of the vote by representatives’ names and counties.

 

Subcommittee Named to Review Abortion Statistics Bill

Five representatives from the New Hampshire House Health and Human Services committee have been named to a subcommittee studying HB 471, the abortion statistics bill that was retained in committee earlier this year.

New Hampshire is one of only three states that do not collect public health information regarding abortion.

HHS committee chairman Rep. Frank Kotowski named Rep. Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield) to chair the subcommittee. Other members are Reps. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), John Fothergill (R-Colebrook), and Jess Edwards (R-Auburn). The subcommittee must report back to the full committee by November 1. The full House will take up the committee recommendation in January 2018.

Subcommittee work sessions have not yet been scheduled. The sessions will be open to the public.

Rep. Nelson chaired the study group whose work resulted in the last abortion statistics bill, HB 629, which passed the House in 2016 but was tabled in the Senate after an “ought to pass” motion failed on a 12-12 vote.

Update: abortion stats bill retained

New Hampshire House Bill 471, abortion statistics, has been retained in committee and will not get a vote in the full House until 2018.  This is a step sideways, but it keeps the bill alive.


A subcommittee is likely to work on the bill between now and January. I’ll watch for those work session dates.

This is 2015 all over again, when the last statistics bill (HB 629) was retained. A subcommittee assigned to work on the bill had six work sessions between May and October 2015. They produced what I thought was an improved bill that enjoyed bipartisan support. The full House passed the resulting version of HB 629 on a voice vote in January 2016.

Then the state Department of Health and Human Services got a new commissioner, who yanked the Department’s participation in crafting the bill. Planned Parenthood, whose representative had attended the work sessions (I know because I attended them as well), refused to support the amended bill. That was enough to prompt a pair of Republican senators to join ten Democrats in voting against HB 629. That tied the vote at 12-12 in the Senate in May 2016, and the bill then died after being tabled.

That was then; this is now. Under House rules for retained bills, HB 471 must come back for a House vote next year. Last time around, the House did its job: careful study with involvement from a variety of stakeholders, yielding a bipartisan bill so strong it passed without debate. I expect no less from them this time with HB 471. The Senate will then have a chance to redeem itself from 2016’s fiasco.