Abortion Statistics (HB 471, 2017)

Cornerstone Policy Research has supported abortion statistics bills going back to 2004. A representative of Cornerstone Action sat in on study committee hearings on the last two statistics bills considered by the House. We saw firsthand the commendable and painstaking bipartisan work in 2015 and 2016 that went into the last statistics bill, HB 629, which this committee sent to the House on a 12-1 vote and which the House passed on a voice vote.

We remain committed to supporting the collection of abortion statistics, in aggregated form, as a positive step in terms of public health and public policy. It is time for New Hampshire to join the more than forty other U.S. states that collect abortion data and report it to the Centers for Disease Control.

In New Hampshire, the absence of reporting requirements sounds uncomfortably like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Public health officials, and you as policymakers, do not know how many women and adolescents exercise their right to abortion, because the only statistics to which you have access are figures voluntary given to you by abortion providers. You do not know at what stage in pregnancy abortions are performed, a data point that could be relevant to public policy.

It’s time for New Hampshire legislators and public health officials to shrug off old attitudes and to stop relying on voluntary reporting by abortion providers. Public policy relative to women’s health should be based on something more than anecdotes and unverifiable numbers.

HB 471 provides for anonymity for patients as well as providers. While we understand concerns over potential data breaches at the state level, the response to such concerns needs to be on data protection – not declining to collect data since it might be breached someday.

We recall the encouraging words of a member of this committee in 2014, speaking about a statistics bill under consideration at that time: “the committee is committed to collect any meaningful health data in an aggregated form.” Cornerstone endorses that commitment, and we urge you to renew it by voting Ought to Pass on HB 471.