Justice Department Stops Pursuit of Some Partial-Birth Abortion Records

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

Justice Department Stops Pursuit of Some Partial-Birth Abortion Records

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 9, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The Justice Department mailed letters on Monday to six Planned Parenthood abortion facilities letting them know it would no longer pursue abortion records from them. The decision follows a ruling by a federal judge in California who sided with the abortion businesses’ argument that turning over the records would violate the privacy rights of those women who had the abortions.

The letters indicated that the government would not pursue its attempt to require the Planned Parenthood affiliates to turn over the records and would not seek depositions from its representatives concerning the records.

In a statement provided to LifeNews.com, Justice Department spokeswoman Monica Goodling said the Justice Department, "believes that these records, which would not contain any information that could identify specific patients, are central to Planned Parenthood’s claim that partial birth abortion is medically necessary."

Led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the federal government is looking to show judges that partial-birth abortions are never necessary to protect the health of a pregnant woman and, therefore, a health exception in the bill President Bush signed is unnecessary.

The letters, however, are not enough to stop Planned Parenthood from continuing to defend its records.

Planned Parenthood attorney Douglas Ghertner told the Associated Press he believes the Justice Department didn’t completely close the door on pursuing the records.

On behalf of the abortion business, he filed a motion Monday U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas for a protective order against any subpoenas for the records or depositions related to them.

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

Goodling disagreed with Hamilton’s decision saying, "in defending the law prohibiting partial birth abortion, the Department took every care to ensure that sensitive patient information remains private."

Goodling said the government told the abortion businesses "to delete any and all information such as names, addresses or other personal data from the records before providing them."
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.

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

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.