Each year, for the past two decades, the Texas Department of State Health Services has released statistics and information on abortions in the state in March. But now, the Texas American Civil Liberties Union is alleging the department is purposefully dragging its feet to hide the 2014 data.
“Under instructions from general counsel for the chief operating officer, they began responding by saying that the statistics were still being processed and that they weren’t ready,” ACLU attorney Trisha Trigilio told the Texas State News Service. “That’s actually false. The statistics were complete in March.”
Trigilio also noted the state is ignoring requests from the media and from academic institutions requesting information. These numbers are important because they mark the first year since the state’s controversial law HB 2 took effect. The law requires all abortions — surgical or medical — must take place in ambulatory surgical centers. Places like this must basically be mini-hospitals with operating rooms, HVAC systems and other obscure requirements. Another provision in the law requires any doctor performing surgical or medical abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic performing the service.
Both activists and medical professions have argued that HB2 put’s an undue burden on women seeking abortion services. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, as well as others, joined the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to file a “friend of the court” brief telling the Supreme Court that Texas’s provisions are “unnecessary” and “harmful” to women, their health and their safety.
The ACLU accused the department of concealing the data while the Supreme Court is deciding its ruling on the case. In a letter to Commissioner John Hellerstedt, the group calls the department’s actions “a direct violation of the Texas Public Information Act, Texas’s law protecting democratic control of government information.”
Trigilio says the state has 10 days to release the data or respond why they can’t.
“State legislators have been saying, fairly consistently since HB 2 was passed, that the purpose of these abortion laws is to protect health,” Trigilio said. “So, it’s not really clear to me why the state health agency would be withholding public health data.”