Texas health officials won’t be releasing the findings of their latest study on statewide maternal death rates until next summer, a major delay from the original September 1 release date.
Per the Houston Chronicle, Dr. John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of Texas’ Department of State Health Services (DSHS), explained the missed deadline in a hearing with the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee earlier this month.
Hellerstedt told the committee that the DSHS didn’t have enough staff and funding to complete the study, which focuses on death rates in 2019, on time. He also said that the study’s methodology needed to be adjusted to make it easier to compare the results to those of maternal mortality studies in other states.
“The information we provide is not easily understood, and not easily and readily comparable to what goes on in other states,” the official said. “And the fact it isn’t easily understood or easily comparable in my mind leaves room for a great deal of misunderstanding about what the data really means.”
Texas hasn’t updated its maternal death count since 2013, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The delay means Texas lawmakers won’t have access to the most recent data on pregnancy-related deaths in the state when addressing the effects of Texas’ sweeping six-week abortion ban in the upcoming legislative session. It also means voters won’t have access to that information ahead of the midterm election in November, when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who backs the state’s six-week abortion ban, is up for reelection, running against Democrat and former congressman Beto O’Rourke.
But even without the precise figures, the dangerous consequences of the ban have already emerged: There are troubling reports of Texas women being denied care for pregnancy complications by health providers who fear they may be violating the ban, which only allows exceptions for poorly-defined “medical emergencies.”