By Mark Richardson, Texas News Service
HOUSTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas maintains that state health officials are deliberately withholding abortion statistics from 2014, the first year new, restrictive regulations were in effect.
The ACLU says for the past two decades, the Department of State Health Services has released that data in March, but alleges this year, the agency is hiding the information.
ACLU attorney Trisha Trigilio says the state has ignored requests from the media, academic institutions and the ACLU under the Texas Public Information Act.
“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,” she states. “That’s actually false. The statistics were complete in March.”
Trigilio did not say how the ACLU obtained that information. She says the 2014 abortion statistics are important because they reflect the first full year that House Bill 2’s abortion regulations were in effect.
State officials released a statement last week saying the data set is not available, and if it were complete, they would release it.
In a letter to Commissioner John Hellerstedt last week, the ACLU accused the agency of purposely concealing the data, which would show how many women had abortions in Texas in 2014, as well as the procedures and facilities that were used.
Trigilio says the agency has 10 days after a request to either release the information or provide a written explanation of why it 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,” she states. “So, it’s not really clear to me why the state health agency would be withholding public health data.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of HB 2 under a suit filed against the state by abortion providers. A decision is expected by the end of June.