- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Frustrated that abortion-rights advocates say they have no statistics to substantiate their claims that few "partial-birth" abortions are performed in Maryland, state Sen. Larry E. Haines wants to require physicians to report abortion data.

Maryland collects data on fetal deaths but does not distinguish between induced abortions and natural mis-carriages, said J.B. Hanson, spokesman for the state's Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

Most states 35, according to the most recent survey by the D.C.-based Alan Guttmacher Institute collect abortion data under a state statute. Maryland, the District and four other states collect some abortion data but on a purely voluntary basis.

"I think it's good information we really need," said Mr. Haines, a Carroll County Republican who has sponsored bills to ban a procedure commonly called partial-birth abortion.

But some abortion-rights advocates say mandatory reporting can deter physicians from performing abortions and women from seeking them.

Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director and vice president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Foundation, said Mr. Haines' bill has that potential.

His proposal would require hospitals or clinics to send a report on each abortion they perform to the state Health Department.

The report would include the county and state where the patient lives as well as the patients' age, race, marital status, reason for abortion and number of prior pregnancies and abortions. In addition to the name of the facility and signature of the physician, the report would include the fetus's age, any complications and the method and date of the abortion.

"There's no question that would be burdensome," Ms. Cavendish said. "Someone would have to interrogate the woman … she shouldn't be made to answer that."

Ms. Cavendish said information about the abortion method may not be useful because procedures don't always neatly fit a category.

She said that 88 percent to 90 percent of abortions are done in the first trimester, and that courts have ruled that abortion-rights opponents' definitions of partial-birth abortions are so broad they could apply to nearly all second-trimester procedures.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld challenges to states' reporting policies in 1974 and 1990.

In its 1990 decision regarding Pennsylvania's abortion-reporting law, the court wrote "collection of information with respect to actual patients is a vital element of medical research, and so it cannot be said that the requirements serve no purpose other than to make abortions more difficult."

Mr. Haines said he believes the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will approve the bill, but he's not certain how it will fare on the Senate floor.

The most complete Maryland data on abortions are for those funded by Medicaid, because providers must file forms with the state for reimbursement.

National efforts to count abortions along with other vital statistics have been incomplete for lack of funding. A National Center for Health Statistics effort to compile abortion data was discontinued in 1993 and, at its peak, collected data from only 15 states.

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