Biden administration plans to protect abortion records through HIPAA

The White House proposed a new federal rule on Wednesday to cap how law enforcement and state officials collect medical records if they investigate women who flee their home states to seek abortions elsewhere.

The proposal, inspired by several setbacks to abortion access across the country, is thus a Friday’s ruling by a federal judge It threatens to take the most commonly used abortion pill, mifepristone, off the market.

A proposed White House rule would prohibit health organizations from sharing personal medical records with officials for investigations related to reproductive care in states where a woman had a legal abortion. While medical records are protected by federal privacy laws, health providers and insurers may be compelled to turn over medical records with a court order.

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Doctors across the country have expressed concerns about the protection of that medical information from law enforcement officials, said Melanie Fontes Reiner, director of the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services, which proposed the rule change.

“We have had many conversations with providers, major medical associations and patient advocates about what they are seeing on the ground and how keeping medical records private can be helpful to the federal government,” she said in a statement.

Since the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion last year, some women living in Southern and Midwestern states, which have largely outlawed abortion, are now traveling to other states to legally obtain abortions. Travels for hours.

Vice President Kamala Harris plans to discuss the proposed rule in a meeting Wednesday with President Joe Biden’s cabinet that will include Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, according to two senior White House officials. Anonymity to preview the meeting. The public can view the proposed rule for the next 60 days.

The cabinet will also strategize response to a statewide ban on abortion and Texas Judge Matthew Kaczmarik’s order to take the abortion pill mifepristone off the market, which threatens to end abortion access nationwide by Friday if another court intervenes. does not The Justice Department appealed the decision on Monday.

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For months, the White House has struggled to combat abortion restrictions, with Republican-led states overturning a constitutional right to the medical procedure last June by the US Supreme Court.

Many abortion clinics, some offering medication-only abortions, have moved to Democratic-leaning states, leaving millions of women across the country with some form of access. Now, the Biden administration is staring at a challenge to abortion access that could change the way women get abortions across the country.

Kacsmaryk’s decision would void the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs widely used as the most effective and safe way to perform a medication abortion. There is no precedent for a single judge to overrule the FDA’s medical decisions, and pharmaceutical executives said Monday they fear the ruling could jeopardize the approval of vaccines and other drugs.

A competing ruling issued the same day by a federal judge in Spokane, Washington, directed federal officials not to hinder access to the drug in at least 17 states where Democrats sued to preserve the drug’s availability. Did. The issue is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

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