"Pro-Life" Stand From Texas Republicans Tanks Bill to Study Rising Maternal Mortality Rates

click to enlarge Rep. Giovanni Capriglione - FACEBOOK VIA GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE
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Rep. Giovanni Capriglione
A woman is 14 times more likely to die from complications related to a pregnancy than an abortion. The numbers are starkest in Texas, where the rate of women dying from pregnancy complications rose to around 190 deaths a year in 2012. No women died from abortion complications in the same timeframe.

But don't tell that to Texas House Republicans.

Last Thursday, conservatives spent the afternoon debating a bill that would make sure health providers are punished if they don't report complications related to abortion. Filed by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a Southlake Republican, it appears HB 2962's authors don't believe that abortion procedures can really be that safe and hope this bill will prove so.

The bill would “provide a more accurate picture of abortion complications in Texas," according to Capriglione. That's because, in his words, "The data we’re getting is not right."

Capriglione's bill is largely redundant, as state abortion providers are already required to report any kind of complications to the Department of State Health Services within 30 days. The only difference is that with Capriglione's bill, doctors would have to include additional personal information about the patient, like the date of her last menstrual cycle and her marital status, in their report. That, and — thanks to a last-minute amendment pitched by Rep. Matt Schaefer — doctors would have to report the incident within 72 hours.

Pro-choice opponents of the bill say it's just another tool used to mislead women and the public into believing legal abortions are less safe than they really are. According to a statewide coalition of reproductive rights groups called Trust Respect Access, the bill serves only to "stigmatize abortion and abortion providers and to shame women seeking abortion."

At the Thursday reading, Rep. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, asked Schaefer why he was focusing on regulating one of the "safest" medical procedures.

His reply: “Abortion is not safe for the baby."

Thursday's vote took up several hours of the lower chamber's last day to tentatively approve legislation. The session ran out of time before the few bills meant to improve maternal health were heard. One of them, House Bill 2403, would have investigated why African American women in Texas are dying at three times the rate of any other women during or shortly after childbirth. Its author, Houston Democrat Rep. Shawn Thierry, said that Republicans' refusal to hear her legislation made "black women a casualty of a political civil war."

"It's a sad day in Texas that while African American mothers are dying, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to play politics," she said in a press statement.

Texas conservatives' past focus on undermining abortion access may have laid the groundwork for the state's maternal mortality numbers. After state Republicans slashed family planning funding by 66 percent in 2011, in part an attempt to block Planned Parenthood from federal dollars, pregnancy-related deaths doubled. And the state's replacement for reproductive health care, Healthy Texas Woman, has struggled to successfully fill Planned Parenthood's void.

With just two weeks left in session, Capriglione's anti-abortion bill now heads to the Senate floor.
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