Appeals Court Judges Block Access to Partial-Birth Abortion Records

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 23, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Appeals Court Judges Block Access to Partial-Birth Abortion Records

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 23, 2004

New York, NY ( — A federal appeals court on Thursday temporarily blocked the enforcement of a federal judge’s order that a New York hospital should turn over records of women who have had partial-birth abortions to the Justice Department.

The Bush administration is hoping to use the redacted records to show that the abortion procedure is used predominantly on healthy women and babies.

However, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, despite saying it didn’t have enough information for a ruling, decided there was "sufficient merit" the Presbyterian Hospital’s arguments that turning over the records violates patient privacy.

The appeals court set oral arguments in the matter for May 11.

The decision delays the outcome of the New York trial, one of three that are weighing lawsuits filed by abortion advocates seeking to overturn the ban.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Casey found New York’s Presbyterian hospital in contempt of court for refusing to turn over patient records to the Justice Department.

But the appeals court’s decision on Thursday said the privacy rights of patients and the promise of confidentiality made by the hospital may be compromised if it didn’t overturn Casey’s order.

"I just don’t understand what the records will prove in this case,” said Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in an AP report.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said the Justice Department has a wealth of other information and people available to provide the same information without obtaining the partial-birth abortion records.

"It became increasingly evident as this trial went on that significant concerns that were relevant to this case were in those hospital records," Casey said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Without the records, Casey has "great fears about justice being achieved here."

Casey said there was no violation of patient privacy in turning over the abortion records because personal information would be redacted.

Casey fined the hospital $500, but Presbyterian appealed the decision.

James Frank, an attorney for the hospital, told the Associated Press he was pleased with the initial decision.

In addition to New York, cases are being tried in San Francisco and Nebraska.

The San Francisco trial has concluded and federal judge Phyllis Hamilton says her decision will cover only Planned Parenthood and a San Francisco hospital — rather than issuing a nationwide decision.