Department of Justice Drops Subpoena for Women’s Medical Records

The Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped its subpoena against Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics across the country. The subpoena demanded the confidential medical records of women who had undergone certain abortion procedures.

Last week, US District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton rejected US Attorney General John Ashcroft’s demand for the records of 2,700 Planned Parenthood patients, and “strongly encouraged the government” to withdraw the subpoenas it had issued to Planned Parenthood for related medical records, according to the New York Times. The subpoena of hospital records in six states continues, however, and the DOJ stated in a letter to Planned Parenthood clinic affiliates that they “won’t move at this time” to challenge the ruling, but might “renew [their] requests if necessary,” according to kaisernetwork.org.

Ashcroft requested the records in conjunction with legal challenges to the abortion procedures ban signed into law by President Bush last fall. Several women’s health clinics and hospital administrators immediately filed lawsuits on the grounds that the ban is unconstitutional because it does not include a health exception for the woman and violates medical privacy laws.

Women’s rights, health advocates and members of Congress have condemned the DOJ’s demand for patient medical records. “These subpoenas were the just latest example of this Administration’s willingness to go to any length to restrict a woman’s right to choose,” said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from New York and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “I am glad that the Department has decided to back off its subpoena for now, but it should never have attempted such a violation of women’s medical records and lives in the first place.”

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New York Times 3/10/04; Feminist News Wire 2/13/04; kaisernetwork.org 3/10/04; Rep. Slaughter 3/9/04; Planned Parenthood 3/5/04

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