ANNAPOLIS - Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill that would track demographic and medical information for abortion patients in the state.
Advocates of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Barry Glassman, R-Harford County, say the information would provide a more complete picture of pregnancies in the state and could benefit officials looking to help women who have a higher risk of unwanted pregnancy.
But opponents say the measure could discourage women from having the procedure, regardless of efforts in the bill to protect a patient's identity.
The legislation would require hospitals and clinics to keep records of an abortion patient's age, race, marital status, nationality and state of residence.
And in cases where a medical complication arises from the abortion, more records would have to be taken, including a patient's prior pregnancies and abortions.
The records would not include a patient's name, nor would they be made publicly available.
Records would be kept by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which would submit annual statistical reports to the governor and General Assembly.
Maryland is one of four states that don't collect abortion data, Glassman told a Senate panel.
"Why wouldn't we want to collect data to see if we're actually making any progress?" he said. "It's a difficult issue for some, but there's really no valid reason why we shouldn't."
Robyn Elliott, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said there's no need to collect information that won't actually help women.
Despite claims from Maryland Right to Life advocates that the data could help identify women at risk of unwanted pregnancies, Elliott cited testimony from both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Maryland's health secretary, who say there is no benefit to the health or welfare of women by collecting the data.
Without any real benefit to women's safety or health, the legislation is "a patent attempt to chill access to services," according to Laure Ruth, legal director of the Women's Law Center of Maryland.
Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, also questioned the motives of the bill's supporters.
"For some people it's politically charged, and for others it's a personal medical procedure," Kelley said.