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Texas House approves more abortion reporting requirements

Doctors performing abortions on minors would be required to report additional information to the state under a new measure given early approval by the Texas House Thursday.

Rep. Jim Murphy R-Houston, answers questions on House Bill 215, an abortion-related bill, on Aug. 3, 2017.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to note that the Texas House gave final approval to House Bill 215.

Doctors performing abortions on minors would be required to report additional information to the state under a new measure given early approval by the Texas House Thursday.

State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, said expanding the state’s existing reporting requirements for abortions performed on minors was "essentially a public health issue." 

Under Murphy's House Bill 215, doctors would have to document how the minor obtained authorization to get an abortion. If she got a judicial bypass, the report to the state would include whether the doctor or another advocate helped her through the process, and how. If she obtained parental consent, the doctor must report where that happened. And if a doctor performs an emergency abortion on a minor, the report must include whether there was time to obtain parental consent. The bill, which passed on a 92 to 48 vote, would also require doctors who perform third-trimester abortions because of fetal abnormalities to report the identified abnormality to the state. (Update Aug. 4: The House voted 97-46 on Friday to give the bill approval. It now goes to the Senate.)

"What we are trying to do is provide better information, more comprehensive information about when this occurs," Murphy said. "Nothing changes for the patient undergoing the procedure."

Democrats and one Republican, Sarah Davis of West University Place, challenged Murphy, saying the new requirements would threaten the doctor-patient relationship and add unnecessary administrative burdens to abortion clinics.

"I think this is once again overreaching. We keep doing this; we keep inserting more government in our bedrooms, in our bathrooms," said state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. "The people impacted by this are the physicians. We have not heard from the physicians that this is necessary."

Much of the debate focused on testimony submitted to lawmakers by the Texas Medical Association, which said the additional reporting requirements "call for details on deeply personal decisions and on medical care, and reporting that does not contribute to public health."

The letter called the emergency abortion reporting requirement "particularly troublesome," saying that that it appeared to "force the physician, in an emergency situation, to think first about whether there is sufficient time to talk to the patient’s parents prior to performing an abortion" in a situation when "even a short delay could negatively impact patient care." The association, which represents more than 50,000 doctors and medical students in the state, did not take a formal position on the bill.

Murphy said he disagreed and that he was on a "mission to educate" the state medical association about the need for the new requirement.

The Senate has already approved similar legislation related to minors who have abortions, and both chambers have passed separate bills that would require physicians and health care facilities to report more details on abortions complications to the state and would fine those that do not comply. All of the abortion reporting requirements bills are among Gov. Greg Abbott’s abortion-related special session priorities.

Under those measures, doctors would have to submit reports to the state health commission within three days that include detailed information such as 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.

If it receives final approval from the House, HB 215 will head to the Senate. 

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association and Texas Hospital Association have been financial supporters of The Texas TribuneA complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

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