Texas Democrats Call on State Health Officials to Release Data on Pregnancy-Related Deaths

Mike Brooks
Activists protest the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade in downtown Dallas on June 24, 2022.
Democratic state representatives and the Texas Democratic Party have called on the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to release a report containing data about pregnancy-related deaths.

The push for the report's release came after the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this month that state health officials had missed a deadline and would delay publishing maternal health data until next summer, after the next legislative session.

The data would mark the first updated count of pregnancy-related deaths in almost a decade, the Chronicle noted.

On Monday, state Rep. Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, and 29 other state representatives sent a letter to the DSHS requesting that the department “promptly publish” the 2022 Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Biennial Report.

“Withholding the Report’s findings (until after the adjournment of the 88th Texas Legislative Session) will significantly hinder the Legislature’s ability to assess and implement critical policy aimed at reducing and preventing future pregnancy-related deaths and maternal morbidities,” the letter reads.

In effect, state lawmakers wouldn't be able to use the data for policymaking purposes until the 2025 legislative session.

By email, Thierry told the Observer that the report "is more important now than ever as it may ultimately be life-altering or life-saving for women in our state."
Pointing to Texas' recently implemented abortion ban, Thierry explained that "the need for equitable access to high-quality maternal healthcare has substantially increased."

"Also, pregnant mothers and future pregnant women in our state deserve and need peace of mind," she added. "No woman should have to stress and worry whether she is at an increased risk of a pregnancy-related death when giving birth in Texas."

Also on Monday, the Texas Democratic Party published a press release backing the letter’s request for the “overdue data” to be made public.

In that statement, Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa accused Republican state leaders of “a fatal injustice against our state,” adding that they “now wish to cover up the evidence.”

“We know why Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and their Republican cronies are withholding this crucial data from Texans,” Hinojosa said. “When this data is finally released, it will show all Texans conclusive evidence of what we have cried out for decades: that restricting abortion care has horrific and fatal consequences for women.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that designated abortion as a constitutional right. Now, abortion is banned in Texas.

"We know why Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and their Republican cronies are withholding this crucial data from Texans." – Gilberto Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party

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Reproductive rights groups have said the ban puts people at greater risk of health complications or even death. They also say the ban will prompt many to seek abortions out of the state or in informal settings.

Contacted by the Observer, Gov. Greg Abbott’s press office didn’t reply to a request for comment by publication time.

Earlier this month, the polling firm Perry Undem released a survey of 2,000 Texas voters that found around 60% thought the procedure should be “available in all or most cases.”

Only around 11% supported a total ban on abortion, according to that poll.

Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger in the upcoming election, has blasted the governor over the state’s abortion ban.

At a press conference in Houston late last month, O’Rourke said reproductive healthcare was “under attack in this state more than it is anywhere else in this country, probably anywhere else in the developed world.”

He added, “There’s one person who is responsible for that, and that is Gov. Greg Abbott.”