May 7, 2024

Anti-abortion group sues Indiana Department of Health for access to terminated pregnancy reports

Article origination IPB News
With fewer patients receiving abortions following the near-total abortion ban, the Indiana Department of Health raised concerns last year that releasing the full individual reports could violate patient confidentiality — especially with increased reporting requirements added in 2022. - Eric Weddle / WFYI

With fewer patients receiving abortions following the near-total abortion ban, the Indiana Department of Health raised concerns last year that releasing the full individual reports could violate patient confidentiality — especially with increased reporting requirements added in 2022.

Eric Weddle / WFYI

The Indiana Department of Health stopped sharing individual terminated pregnancy reports, or TPRs, in December due to patient privacy concerns.

The reports are completed by medical providers following an abortion in the state of Indiana and include data about the patient and the procedure. An anti-abortion group is suing the agency and said the decision violates Indiana’s public records law.

The anti-abortion group, Voices for Life, filed to regain access to the TPRs. It said it needs access to the forms to hold people accountable to Indiana law.

The group said it has requested and reviewed the forms since November 2022. The lawsuit said the IDOH “routinely supplied TPRs on request” with “potential patient identifying information” redacted.

With fewer patients receiving abortions following the near-total abortion ban, the Indiana Department of Health raised concerns last year that releasing the full individual reports could violate patient confidentiality — especially with increased reporting requirements added in 2022.

The state’s public access counselor agreed in an informal opinion. The Access to Public Records Act has an exception for medical records, which is not defined within the act.

The public access counselor’s opinion said IDOH should treat the form “with the same confidentiality considerations as any other patient medical record” because the context in which it was created is an “immediate consequence of a medical service.”

Last month, Attorney General Todd Rokita accused IDOH and the public access counselor of “collusion” to make enforcement of the law more difficult moving forward. He released an advisory opinion that said the decision to not disclose the individual reports – despite patient privacy concerns – complicates enforcement of Indiana law.

READ MORE: Despite privacy concerns, attorney general says IDOH should disclose terminated pregnancy reports
 

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The public access counselor’s opinion pointed to the state medical licensing board’s recent decision – even disclosing partial or seemingly “non-identifiable” information could lead to a patient being identified and the provider facing legal consequences.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard received a letter of reprimand and a fine in 2023 over a patient privacy complaint Rokita filed to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. It was related abortion care she provided shortly after Ohio’s six-week ban took effect. Bernard told an Indianapolis Star reporter about providing care to a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim. The Medical Licensing Board decided that was enough information to violate federal and state confidentiality laws.

Neither Rokita’s advisory opinion nor the public access counselor’s opinion are legally binding.

According to the lawsuit, Voices for Life renewed its public records request with IDOH and requested the public access counselor “reconsider and revise” his opinion. The IDOH denied the public records request on the grounds that TPRs are patient records and the public access counselor “refused” the group’s request.

In a statement, Voices for Life said they are pursuing legal action to ensure the group can “fulfill its mission” and ensure “transparency in state government.”
 


 

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

Copyright 2024 IPB News. 

 

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