San Francisco General Hospital Will Not Provide Abortion Records to Justice Department
San Francisco General Hospital will not provide records of so-called "partial-birth" abortions performed at the hospital to the U.S. Department of Justice, which subpoenaed the records in preparation for a lawsuit challenging a federal law that would ban such abortions, City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office said on Friday in a letter to the Justice Department, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/14). The lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and joined by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, challenges the bill President Bush signed into law last 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 for abortions needed to protect a woman's health (California Healthline, 1/8). "The city will not disclose the medical records of patients who have received abortions nor will it disclose the names of physicians who have observed or performed abortions," the letter by Deputy City Attorney Kathleen Morris states, adding that such disclosure would result in "the gross violation of our patients' privacy rights and the unjustifiable harassment of our physicians." Justice Department officials said the hospital records would show, among other things, whether the procedures were medically necessary and added that DOJ would not seek any information that would identify a patient. In addition, DOJ has subpoenaed records of malpractice lawsuits against the unit at San Francisco General where abortions are performed; the city attorney's office also said that it would not release those records. DOJ has issued subpoenas for abortion records from hospitals in Michigan, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Federal judges last week upheld the subpoenas in New York but not in Chicago (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/14).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.