The House Health and Human Services Committee (HHS) has recommended passage of an abortion statistics bill, HB 471. Time and again, efforts to pass a statistics law have fallen short. The House can put that sorry history behind it in the first week of the 2018 legislative session, by accepting the committee’s “ought to pass with amendment” recommendation.
New Hampshire is one of only three states that don’t report information about abortion to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Public health officials in New Hampshire can’t even answer the simple question of how many abortions are performed each year in the Granite State. The CDC has conducted abortion surveillance for years as a public health measure. New Hampshire’s failure to participate is an embarrassment.
As a result of painstaking committee work, including a review of work done on earlier statistics bills, HB 471 reflects constructive compromise. Among the greatest concerns of all parties was the privacy of providers and patients alike. HB 471 protects privacy, while authorizing public health officials to collect basic information about abortions and publish aggregate (non-identifying) data. This could help health care providers and social service agencies, including pregnancy help centers, to target their resources more effectively.
Statistics laws are consistent with Roe v. Wade, of course. The CDC’s abortion surveillance program confirms that. Statistics laws are in place in neighboring states. New Hampshire lags behind.
When another statistics bill was under consideration in 2014, an HHS committee report noted “The committee is committed to collect any meaningful public health data in an aggregated form.” Cornerstone called that “putting down a marker for women’s health.” Nearly four years later, the marker’s still there, pointing the way to constructive policy. It’s time for the House to act accordingly, by passing HB 471.