Abortion data bill raises concerns among providers and privacy advocates

Abortion providers and some privacy advocates are protesting Republicans' proposal to collect abortion statistics, arguing that the bill in its current form could put patients' identities at risk.

New Hampshire is one of four states that does not collect and report abortion statistics. In practice, local providers already voluntarily share some aggregate abortion data, including total number of procedures, with national abortion research groups.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly tried to require abortion providers to share certain data. For advocates, bringing New Hampshire closer to the vast majority of other states would ensure policymakers have the tools they need to craft legislation.

“More data is better than less data,” Jason Hennessey of New Hampshire Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights, said during a public hearing Wednesday.

The latest effort, Senate Bill 461, passed the New Hampshire Senate on a party-line vote last month. It would require providers to report the date and location of every abortion performed to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Providers would also be required to report the method used, including whether a medication was prescribed, as well as the patient's state of residence and the gestational age of the fetus.

During a hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee, Hennessey urged lawmakers to expand the data collected to include all post-abortion complications and to amend the bill to include possible fines for any providers who do the Failure to comply with requirements.

But Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat from Nashua, told House Democrats that the proposal as drafted was too broad — and did not specifically prevent abortion providers from disclosing the names of patients who have abortions.

“This bill now leaves the door open to tell our state government exactly who is getting an abortion in New Hampshire,” she said.

Rosenwald said she is not opposed to the state collecting abortion-related data as long as it protects the privacy of patients and providers.

The bill also raised concerns from a former Republican lawmaker known for supporting privacy rights while in office, Neal Kurk of Weare. He noted that disclosing the exact location where an abortion was performed or ordered, such as a local doctor's office, could risk identifying the patient.

“In a small town, it can be very obvious to people who this woman was,” Kurk said.

Under the current version of the bill, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services would be required to release annual abortion data. However, the bill does not say whether the information would be published aggregated or broken down by facility.

Patricia Tilley, who heads the state's public health division, told lawmakers that implementing a data collection system would force the state to purchase secure software and hire additional staff to manage the process. Tilley said she was unable to specify the cost but said it could be “in the order of” $1 million.

Abortion providers say they already voluntarily share aggregated data with research groups, including the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights and conducts sexual health research. An estimated 2,400 abortions took place in New Hampshire in 2023, according to Guttmacher.

“We certainly understand the concept of this bill,” Kayla Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told lawmakers Wednesday. “But with Roe v. Wade has failed and reproductive health care in this country is in utter chaos, the New Hampshire Legislature should take every precaution to protect abortion providers and patients.”

Montgomery said Planned Parenthood of Northern New England already shares data with the state of Maine, which uses a secure portal for providers to upload certain abortion metrics.

However, other abortion providers opposed the bill because they do not believe it has a significant public health benefit.

Dr. Ilana Cass, a gynecologic oncologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, warned lawmakers that releasing detailed information about who performs abortions in the state would put medical staff at risk of violence and harassment.

“I think this puts patients at risk, and I think it ultimately puts the people of the Granite State at risk,” Cass said. “It’s a slippery slope.”

Anna Harden

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