Friday, February 27, 2004
Abortion Records on Demand
Under fire from abortion-rights groups, Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted Thursday that doctor-patient privacy is not threatened by a government attempt to subpoena medical records in a lawsuit over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
At stake are records documenting certain late-term abortions performed by doctors who have joined in a legal challenge of the disputed ban. President Bush signed the act into law last year.
Critics of the subpoenas accuse the Justice Department of trying to intimidate doctors and patients involved in the contested type of abortion. [...]
[...] But the chairman of an allied organization, Wendy Chavkin of Physicians for Reproductive Health Choice, said the subpoenas were cause for grave concern.
"Not only is this Justice Department and this attorney general profoundly anti-abortion, but they have a questionable commitment to civil liberties," Chavkin said.
She said the subpoenas seemed to be a tactic of intimidation comparable to a subpoena issued recently in a federal grand jury probe ordering Drake University to turn over names of certain anti-war activists.
Women's rights and health advocates and members of Congress have condemned the DOJ demand for patient medical records. "It is clear from both federal and state laws that strong privacy restrictions are in place to prevent the kind of intrusive breach of medical privacy that these actions represent," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), according to the NY Times. "Americans will be shocked to find out that the Bush administration has taken the position that there is no right to medical privacy"
Whatever one’s view of the constitutionality of the underlying statute, this dangerous fishing expedition is simply an unwarranted abuse of federal power and an abusive intrusion into women’s privacy. The broader contention, that no right to medical privacy exists under federal law, threatens every American seeking medical care for any reason; it is a position that our government should never assert. We hope that, on further consideration, the Department of Justice will withdraw the subpoenas and abandon the position that our system of laws affords no privacy protection for the doctor - patient relationship.
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) , Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), James Moran (D-VA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Marty Meehan (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Denise Majette (D-GA), Brian Baird (D-WA), Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH), and Tim Bishop (D-NY)Nadler Letter to Ashcroft Calls for Withdrawal of Subpoenas for Women's Medical Records, Press Release for the Eighth Congressional District of New YorkFebruary 13, 2004
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