Bush Administration Seeks Partial-Birth Abortion Records to Defend Ban

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Bush Administration Seeks Partial-Birth Abortion Records to Defend Ban

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 11, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Bush administration is actively seeking patient records on partial-birth abortions in order to defend the federal ban on the abortion procedure. Abortion advocates have filed three lawsuits seeking to overturn the legislation and courts have set a late March trial date to start the proceedings.

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed patient records from seven abortion practitioners and at least five hospitals — including Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and the University of Michigan medical center. The hospitals say the patient information should be kept confidential.

A Chicago judge quashed the subpoena preventing Northwestern from having to divulge the information. Attorney General John Ashcroft hoped to obtain the records of some 40 women who had partial-birth abortions at the hospital in the last two years.

The Bush administration is not seeking to identify patients, but is looking to verify what pro-life groups and some abortion advocates have admitted — that most partial-birth abortions occur on healthy women and healthy babies.

That didn’t persuade U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras. He wrote a 16-page opinion citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Illinois’ medical privacy law as reasons why the information couldn’t be divulged.

"By demanding the rationale behind the abortions he performed, the subpoena would thereby require Northwestern to disclose medical history information of Dr. Hammond’s patients," Kocoras wrote in his February 5th opinion denying the subpoena.

According to Chicago Business, Cassing Hammond, who practices at Northwestern but is not on staff, received a subpoena from the Justice Department prior to the hospital being served. Hammond performed the partial-birth abortions and is one of the parties in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

A University of Michigan medical center staff member is also a party in the pro-abortion suit.

UM OBGYN Department Chairman Dr. Timothy Johnson joined the abortion practitioners in opposing the law, which argues the ban is unconstitutional because it does not include a health exception.

Pro-life groups say such exceptions are unnecessary because there is never any instance in which a partial-birth abortion would be necessary to protect a mother’s health. Also, health exceptions render all partial-birth abortions legal because the exception can be defined by an abortion practitioner.

Johnson told the Ann Arbor News that he doesn’t recall any partial-birth abortions being performed at the Michigan facility.

According to the newspaper, the Justice Department issued the subpoena in an attempt to established that Johnson is not a legitimate party to the lawsuit because he doesn’t perform the abortion procedure himself.

Unlike Northwestern, UM has not opposed the motion for the records.

However, the Michigan hospital will review the medical records it has and remove any information that would reveal the identity of women who had partial-birth abortions, if it finds any, before sending the documents to the Justice Department.

According to the publication Modern Healthcare, the Bush administration is also seeking patient records from Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital — both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

The court case is scheduled for a hearing on March 29 in the federal New York Southern District Court.