Justice Department Continues Fight to Obtain Partial-Birth Abortion Docs
by Steven Ertelt
March 24, 2004
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — Though it won the right to documents from a New York City hospital discussing the situations in which women had partial-birth abortions, the Justice Department is pressing its case for similar records from a hospital in Chicago.
The Bush administration is pursuing the documents in order to bolster its case that such abortions are never medically necessary and virtually always performed on healthy mothers and healthy babies.
Previously, a federal judge refused the Justice Department’s request for records from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras cited the HIPPA act and Illinois’ medical privacy law as reasons why the information couldn’t be divulged.
The Bush administration appealed the decision and the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments yesterday in the case.
Northwestern attorney George Galland told the appeals court he worried the identities of women who had abortions could not be kept confidential, even though the Bush administration has agreed to accept records with identifying information redacted.
But Shannen Coffin, a deputy assistant attorney general, said there would be no way to identify a particular woman if all of the information that would identify her is blacked out, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"We’re very sensitive to that," he said. "We have taken every measure possible to protect the anonymity of the women concerned here."
Judges in Michigan and New York have upheld the subpoenas and ordered the records released.
The Justice Department hopes to obtain 45 patient records to use when the trial over a lawsuit against the partial-birth abortion ban begins on Monday in New York. Two other trials in Omaha and San Francisco are also slated to begin next week.
Cassing Hammond, who performed abortions at Northwestern and is a party to the lawsuits, claims the abortions are needed for health reasons.
Pro-life groups, and the Bush administration, point to Martin Haskell, the Ohio abortion practitioner who invented the procedure, who has stated more than 80 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performs are done on health mothers and babies.
The appeals court gave no indication as to when it will decide the appeal. Regardless of the outcome, the decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, which would deny the Justice Department the records until after the trials begin.