Another Judge Rules Against Bush Admin. in Abortion Records Case

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Another Judge Rules Against Bush Admin. in Abortion Records Case

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 7, 2004

San Francisco, CA ( — A second judge has ruled against the Justice Department’s effort to obtain patient records from those abortion advocates who have sued to overturn the ban on partial-birth abortions, signed into law last year by President Bush.

The government is hoping to obtain the records to aid in its defense of the law by showing that partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary to protect a woman’s health.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton became the second judge to deny the request when she ruled on Friday that "women would not want to share" their personal information.

The Justice Department has said it would accept redacted records striking such personal information as names, contact information and social security numbers.

Justice Department spokeswoman Monica Goodling said the Bush administration was disappointed in the ruling. "We took every care to protect patient privacy," she said.

Hamilton’s ruling is at odds with U.S. District Judge Richard Conway Casey, who has said he tentatively agrees with the Bush administration and may be inclined to let the law take effect unless the hospitals in that case produce the abortion records in a timely manner.

Both Hamilton, Casey and a federal judge in Nebraska will hold hearings on March 29 on three separate lawsuits abortion practitioners filed against the pro-life law.

The federal government had sought abortion records from a group of Planned Parenthood abortion businesses in six locations, including affiliates in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Washington, Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

Previously, the Bush administration had subpoenaed patient records from seven abortion practitioners and at least five hospitals.

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.

Hamilton indicated the information was irrelevant to the case and said that the privacy of the women who had partial-birth abortions would be violated, even if personal information was kept confidential or stricken.

However, Hamilton’s ruling only affects San Francisco General Hospital, which also refused to turn over its records, and Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, a California affiliate. Therefore, Justice Department attorneys could sue each individual Planned Parenthood abortion facility to obtain the records.

Earlier, a Chicago judge quashed the subpoena preventing Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago from having to divulge the abortion information.

U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras 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.