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Texas House Approves Bill Requiring More Reporting On Abortion Complications

Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, debates an amendment to House Bill 13 on July 27, 2017, as Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, looks on. The bill would refine reporting requirements for abortion providers.

The Texas House has given early approval to a bill requiring physicians and health care facilities to report more details on abortions complications to the state — and fine those that do not comply.

In abortion cases where complications arise, reporting to the state is already required. Under state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione’s House Bill 13, those requirements would get more strict: Physicians would have to submit reports to the state health commission within three days that include detailed information like the patient’s year of birth, race, marital status, state and county of residence, and the date of her last menstrual cycle. Physicians and facilities that fail to comply with the reporting requirements would face a $500 fine for each day in violation.

"What I’m trying to do with this law is validate and verify data," said Capriglione, R-Southlake.

Democrats fought the measure, which reproductive rights groups say would violate the privacy rights of doctors and patients, and is an attempt to intimidate abortion providers. It was approved on a 97-46 vote. 

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, unsuccessfully attempted to extend the time period for reporting complications. She said if the bill was "truly about" collecting accurate data, that should've been an acceptable change.

Howard said the bill would add a regulatory burden on doctors who preform abortions for “no other reason than harassment.”

“It will do nothing to improve the health and wellbeing of women,” she said. "Why did we single out one particular medical procedure and make it 72 hours when all the others are six months?"

The bill’s supporters argued that abortions are different from other medical procedures, and that’s why they require additional regulation.

“A successful abortion kills someone. So if an abortion procedure is done properly, a heart stops,” said state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. “That’s why this procedure is worthy of additional oversight.”

Capriglione did allow one amendment from Democratic state Rep. TomasUrestiof San Antonio: It changed the deadline for reporting from 72 hours after complications occur to the third business day after.

The legislation is among Gov. Greg Abbott’s three abortion-related special session priorities. After a final vote in the House, the bill will head to the Senate, where a similar measure passed Monday.

Andy Duehren contributed reporting to this story, which was provided by the Texas Tribune.

Morgan Smith reports on politics and education for the Tribune, which she joined in November 2009. She writes about the effects of the state budget, school finance reform, accountability and testing in Texas public schools. Her political coverage has included congressional and legislative races, as well as Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign, which she followed to Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2013, she received a National Education Writers Association award for "Death of a District," a series on school closures. After earning a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College, she moved to Austin in 2008 to enter law school at the University of Texas. A San Antonio native, her work has also appeared in Slate, where she spent a year as an editorial intern in Washington D.C.