Illinois action blog

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kansas Supreme Court Considers Fight Over Accesss to Medical Records

Today, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments on a grand jury’s request for medical records from the Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita, Kansas.

The move is part of a growing trend by anti-choice activists to gain access to private medical records. In January, a court in Ohio shot down a request for records on all abortions performed on minors by a Planned Parenthood clinic. This was an important decision by the courts to protect patient privacy. However last month the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to reconsider the case. Read more about that case here.

Now the group Kansans for Life is going after abortion provider Dr. George Tiller by using an outdated 1887 law that allows citizens to convene a grand jury if 2% of the population signs a petition. After submitting 7,857 signatures in September, the grand jury issued a subpoena for records of more than 2,000 women who have come to the clinic 22 or more weeks pregnant.

The problem is that even with patients’ names and addresses removed, there is still a real chance that women listed who have received abortions at the clinic could be identified.

It’s easy to imagine how acquaintances or simply strangers with access to Google could put two and two together and figure out who these women are. That’s why the government has comprehensive legislation protecting medical records and why Planned Parenthood works so hard to protect the privacy of our patients.

I think most people would agree that the ability to attain confidential health care is a fundamental right and personal medical records should not be used as a means for advancing a political agenda.

Emily Bazelon at Slate.com has a sharp analysis of the case:

Abortion opponents understand the sensitivity of medical privacy. Which is why they’ve repeatedly tried to subpoena the records of patients who visit abortion providers. In their hands, the power to request documents in the course of a lawsuit or a potential prosecution is a tool: It’s a way of challenging doctors who perform late-term abortions and, perhaps, of scaring patients away from clinics.



At the same time, a Newsweek article published this week by Adam Hamilton illustrates how far these abortion opponents are from the mainstream, even in their own state. Hamilton describes an evangelical megachurch pastor in Kansas who says his job is to “support people no matter what decision they make.” Hamilton describes him as part of a growing trend of moderate evangelicals who reject the radical rhetoric and techniques of groups like Kansans for Life, and instead hope to work together with pro-choice advocates to find common ground.


Technorati tags: Patient Privacy, Medical Records, abortion, Planned Parenthood Action Illinois

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