Judge Orders University of Michigan Med Ctr To Release Abortion Records
by Steven Ertelt
March 13, 2004
Detroit, MI (LifeNews.com) — The University of Michigan Medical Center must release records of patients who had partial-birth abortions, a judge ruled on Friday. The ruling, following decisions by two judges to squash subpoenas for other records, bolsters the Bush administration’s efforts to defend the partial-birth abortion ban against three separate lawsuits filed by abortion advocates.
The judge also put measures in place that will ensure the privacy of the women who had the abortions will be protected.
One of the protections has the medical center turning over the records not to the Justice Department but to Dr. Timothy Johnson, chair of the OBGYN department and a party to one of the three suits seeking to overturn the ban.
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said Johnson would determine which records deal with partial-birth abortions and should be sent to Bush’s attorneys. Johnson must provide the records by March 25 and then Judge Cohen will send them to U.S. District Judge Richard Casey in New York, who has set a March 29 trial date.
Ed Goldman, deputy general counsel for the Michigan medical center said the ruling falls short of preventing the records release entirely, but he was pleased Judge Cohen took steps to protect patient privacy.
Department of Justice Spokeswoman Monica Goodling reacted to the decision saying Bush officials were pleased the records would eventually be turned over for review.
"While we have a duty to defend the law banning partial birth abortion, we are doing so in a way that protects patient privacy," Goodling said.
The Justice Department has subpoenaed patient records from seven abortion practitioners, six Planned Parenthood facilities and at least five hospitals.
The University of Michigan is one of the hospitals that received the request and it refused to comply saying releasing the information — even with confidential information redacted — is a violation of patient privacy.
Johnson has testified that he doesn’t perform partial-birth abortions, but uses other abortion procedures instead during the same timeframe.
The Justice Department argues this shows a contradiction in the arguments made by abortion advocates, namely that partial-birth must not be medically necessary if Johnson doesn’t use the abortion procedure in the same cases that other abortion practitioners do.