Federal Judge Denies Justice Department Petition for Medical Records From San Francisco Hospital, Planned Parenthood Clinics
San Francisco General Hospital and Planned Parenthood Golden Gate clinics do not have to provide the U.S. Department of Justice access to the medical records of women who have undergone abortions at the facilities, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled Friday, citing patient privacy rights, the Los Angeles Times reports (Buchanan, Los Angeles Times, 3/6). Attorney General John Ashcroft and DOJ lawyers have said that the records are necessary to determine the validity of doctors' claims that the so-called "partial-birth" abortion procedures are sometimes medically necessary. The subpoenas were issued in connection with a case filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and joined by the San Francisco Department of Public Health that challenges a law banning partial-birth abortions that President Bush signed into law in November. Federal judges in California, Nebraska and New York have issued restraining orders that bar enforcement of the law, and all three judges have scheduled trials, to begin March 29, on whether the law violates standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court because it does not include an exception to protect a woman's health (California Healthline, 2/27). "The women whose records are at issue are entitled to not have the government looking at them, regardless of whether their names are redacted," Hamilton ruled. Her ruling applies only to medical records from San Francisco General and Planned Parenthood Golden Gate clinics. Hamilton said that DOJ could ask federal judges in Los Angeles, San Diego, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., to enforce subpoenas DOJ issued against Planned Parenthood clinics in those cities but added that she "probably wouldn't allow the evidence at the trial" of the case brought by PPFA, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/6). DOJ spokesperson Monica Goodling declined to comment on whether the department would appeal the ruling, according to the Washington Post (Eggen, Washington Post, 3/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.