A national study found that:
The rate of pregnancy-related deaths among Texas women has nearly doubled in recent years, a national study found this month, while a separate state-commissioned study found that black women are especially vulnerable.The information is being kept secret by Texas Department of State Health Services.
It's part of a broader trend, the slow erosion of the state's open records law and withering access to information about how state government does business.Following the publication of a study this month done by the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on national trends, the Texas state health department released its report on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force. The Dallas Morning News requested data related to those deaths through the Texas Public Information Act and was denied.
Such data, a so-called summary death index, once contained the names, locations and cause of death of every mortality reported to the department's Vital Statistics division. It was once readily available to the public.But without the information, there is no way to tell if the deaths are related to health care access or a lack of health insurance, said Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB-GYN with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas at Austin, which examines the effects of abortion and health care legislation in Texas.
For instance, in 2010, the state's death data was used to show how many Texas suicides involved military veterans.
But the department denied The News' request for the maternity-death information, citing a 2011 opinion by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott that made secret the cause of death, dates of birth and last known address of the deceased. Though such records are readily available in many states, Abbott ruled that the information should be kept secret to prevent fraud.
"We have a public health issue, bordering on crisis," he said, arguing that case studies of each death should be conducted to determine whether the rise in maternal deaths correlates with cuts to women's health programs or a lack of access to health insurance.