Forty years after Roe v. Wade, Americans remain sharply divided on the topic of abortion and women are still fighting for their reproductive rights. The Democratic Party opposes all efforts to undermine legal abortion access, while many Republican-led state legislatures have recently adopted and/or proposed the most extreme abortion restrictions in history.
On June 30, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a new state budget that includes several anti-abortion measures, including required trans-abdominal ultrasounds, no access to public hospitals should abortion complications occur, loss of public funding to rape crisis clinics that provide counseling about abortion to sexual assault victims, and essentially cuts $1.4 million in federal family planning funding to Planned Parenthood.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has called a second special session of the legislature in hopes of passing a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, place new requirements on the use of abortion-inducing pills, and require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as surgical centers.
While the two parties will never agree ideologically on the extent of abortion access, there is one thing they should agree on: access to accurate, current information on abortion procedures in each state.
This ought to include the age and number of women undergoing a procedure, by what method, and during what stage of pregnancy. Before lawmakers advocate for extreme abortion restrictions, or lack thereof, they should advocate for reliable, comprehensive data that is promptly made available.
Not only would this inform the voting public, it would inform the lawmakers fighting for and against such restrictions.
I'm sure many would be surprised to know that this type of reporting is not currently mandated nationwide. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while most states do mandate data gathering, some do not.
Additionally, some states that do mandate data gathering still do not share that information with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including California. When abortion information is reported to the CDC by participating states, it is often delayed. The most recent report by the CDC presents data from 2009, and most states still have not reported 2011's information.
Several states have begun to require timely reporting on abortion statistics, but it is time for the national government to take up the issue.
As long as states have the power to regulate abortion rights and federal dollars for family planning, they should be required to uphold certain reporting ideals and share such data.
Reporting is far from the most important issue in the debate on abortion, but without accurate, current reporting, the most important issues cannot be decided on in an informed manner.
So lawmakers, I urge you this: Before placing extreme restrictions on abortion access, place reasonable regulations on abortion reporting.
Cox, a Salida resident, is a graduate student in public health at the University of San Francisco. She studied neuroscience and political science as an undergraduate at UCLA. She currently works as a private caregiver.