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Rick Perry and his War on Women goon squad already have disgusted even the women of their own party with their creepy and intrusive sonogram law, generally recognized as the most oppressive anti-choice statute currently being enforced anywhere in the country. They backed up that roaring victory with the defunding of family planning services for hundreds of thousands of low-income women, merely because their lifesaving cancer screenings and desperately needed birth control pills were provided by The Great Satan, AKA Planned Parenthood.

And now they look to be coming after what tattered shreds of dignity and medical privacy that women in Texas have left.

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Health facilities in Texas, including those that provide abortion care, are regulated and licensed by the Department of State Health Services. They make and enforce the rules, and if a facility wants to keep its license, it follows them.

This week licensed abortion facilities and other “interested parties” across Texas received notice from DSHS that the rules are about to change—specifically those controlling the information that clinics must report to the state about women who have abortions. A PDF of the letter is posted at the link above, but here's the text.

March 26, 2012

TO:   All Interested Parties

FROM:   Renee Clack, Health Care Quality Section Director, Division for Regulatory Services
SUBJECT:  25 TAC, Chapter 139: Abortion Facility Reporting and Licensing Rules

The Department of State Health Services will hold a stakeholder meeting on Thursday, April 5, 2012, from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm to discuss updated reporting requirements for all abortions performed in an abortion facility. Reporting requirements for physicians relating to abortion complications have also been updated to include a complication reporting form submission requirement.

The meeting will be held at the following location:
J.J. Pickle Research Campus
Lil’ Texas Auditorium
10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758

Please contact Amy Harper, Regulatory Licensing Unit Manager at (512) 834-6730 if you have any questions regarding the upcoming meeting.

It's just an update, right?  And aren't updates a good thing?

In this case, no. No, no, and hell no. And here's why.

The letter clearly states that the subject of the meeting is discussion of requirements that already have been updated—including an unprecedented “complication reporting form submission requirement.” However, queries to DSHS about these new requirements have been met with vagueness and outright evasion: why, people are just going to get together and offer their input, nothing has been decided, and even DSHS itself has no idea what any new requirements might really look like.

After years spent deciphering StateSpeak into some intelligible form of human communication, I can detect the odor of mendacity when smoke is blown in my face. Further, I suspect that the truth the state is hiding is that it now means to implement by regulation what it has failed for the past several years to accomplish through legislation—the complete destruction of privacy for women who need abortion care, and for the dwindling ranks of physicians who still dare to provide it for them.

Abortion statistics as they have been reported in Texas for more than 20 years now contain only minimal information. They are submitted under a code number for each facility, and include no identifiable information even about physicians, let alone about patients--in fact, the rules expressly forbid it.

But in the last several legislative sessions, anti-choice operatives in both houses have pushed hard for reporting that would demand excruciatingly detailed and highly personal information about both doctors and the women who are their patients—both before and after the abortion. Those bills have failed to become law for various reasons having nothing to do with their content.

Several members of both the Texas House and Senate have put their names to these bills over the years, but their source and intent is always the same. In the most recent session, Rep. Bill Zedler volunteered to carry the water for HB 1602, which declared the intention of “protecting the life and health of a pregnant woman seeking an elective abortion and, to the extent constitutionally permissible, the life of the woman's unborn child.”

Since the anti-choice brigades have made so many attempts to impose this mandate on Texas women and doctors----and since its requirements dovetail so perfectly with the language of the DSHS letter--I see no reason to doubt that this bill and its virtually identical predecessors will form the template for the state's reporting “updates.”

Here is a small sample of the kinds of information they'd like to harvest.

(A) the woman's:
                               (i)  age;
                               (ii)  race or ethnicity;
                               (iii)  marital status; and
                               (iv)  municipality, county, state, and nation of residence;
(B)  the woman's highest level of education,
:::
(C)  the age of the father of the unborn child at the time of the abortion;
(D)  the method or methods of contraception used at the time the unborn child was conceived,
:::
(E)  a space for the woman to indicate the specific reason the abortion is to be performed
:::
(F)  the number of the woman's previous live births;
(G)  the number of induced abortions the woman has previously undergone;
(H)  the number of miscarriages the woman has previously experienced;
(I)  the source of the woman's referral to the physician for the abortion
:::
(I)  the method of pregnancy verification
:::
(J)  the total fee collected from the patient by the physician for performing the abortion, selected from the following list:
(i)  private insurance;
(ii)  a public health plan;
(iii)  personal payment by cash; or
(iv)  personal payment by check or credit card;
:::
G)  the number of fetuses aborted;
(H)  the number of weeks of gestation at which the abortion was performed, based on the best medical judgment of the attending physician performing the procedure, and the weight of the fetus or fetuses, if determinable
:::
(L)  the type of anesthetic, if any, used on the woman during the abortion;
(M)  the type of anesthetic, if any, used on the unborn child or children during the abortion;
(N)  the method used to dispose of fetal tissue and remains
A woman couldn't be blamed for saying “to hell with this” and refusing to fill out the reporting form, but whoever wrote the bill Zedler claimed to author had that one covered.
(d)  A woman is required to complete the information required by Subsection (b)(1) unless the abortion is necessary to:
(1)  prevent the woman's death or to avoid harm to the woman
So grab a pen, little missy, and use black ink, because this is an official state reporting form that goes on your permanent record, you know? And we'll make sure you get a copy to take home for your memory book.
A physician or the physician's agent shall provide to each woman required to complete a form under this section a copy of the completed form before the woman leaves the facility where the abortion was performed.
You can paste it in right next to a copy of the sonogram you had to make a 198 mile round trip to get at least 24 hours before you were even allowed to have an abortion at all.

And once you get back home, please follow your aftercare instructions to the letter, because you wouldn't want to have a complication. No, you sure wouldn't want to do that, because then your personal disclosures to the state would have to start all over again. That's what those complication reporting forms are for.

(b)  The form must include the following information to be completed by the physician providing the treatment:
(1)  the date of the abortion that caused or may have caused the complication;
(2)  the type of abortion that caused or may have caused the complication
:::
(7)  a description of the complication or complications,
:::
(8)  the number of weeks of gestation at which the abortion was performed, based on the best medical judgment of the attending physician at the time of the treatment for the complication;
(9)  the number of the woman's previous live births;
(10)  the number of previous induced abortions the woman has undergone;
(11)  the number of miscarriages the woman has previously experienced;
12)  whether the treatment for the complication was paid for by:
(A)  private insurance;
(B)  a public health plan;
(C)  personal payment by cash; or
(D)  personal payment by check or credit card;
(13)  the total fee collected by the physician for treatment of the complication;
And there's plenty more where that came from. Not to worry, though. The state only wants to ensure your welfare. And they'll never tell anyone: Shhh!
(b)  A department employee may disclose information described by Subsection (a):
(1)  for statistical purposes, but only if a person or facility is not identified;
(2)  to a medical professional, a state agency, or a county or district court for purposes of enforcing this chapter
:::
(3)  to a state licensing board for purposes of enforcing state licensing laws.
See there? Nothing to worry about. And that's such a relief, because there's no way the doctor's not going to turn in that report on you in the first place. Aside from the hefty fines imposed for failure to submit a report, most doctors like to avoid criminal prosecution if they can.
Sec. 171.027.  OFFENSE; CRIMINAL PENALTY.  (a)  A physician commits an offense if the physician:
(1)  fails to submit a report required by this subchapter;
(2)  intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly submits false information in a report required by this subchapter
Not only clinic directors and physicians will be showing up for the April 5 meeting in Austin. Other “interested parties” will include the usual War on Women shock troops found wherever women in Texas have a right left to lose – and I expect them to outnumber the defenders by at least 10 to 1, merely because they always do.

This gathering is billed as a “stakeholder's meeting,” and that's a good name for it, because the stakes are high.

Do I know that back-door implementation of a scary official intrusion into the details of a woman's private life is on the agenda? No, I don't, because the state is refusing to say. But they aren't denying it, either.

What I do know is that all these years on the front lines of the War on Women in Texas has taught me to keep my nose to the wind. And I can smell it.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to moiv on Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 07:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans, Sluts, Pro Choice, and Abortion.

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