New York woman's intimate personal details made public in New Mexico abortion clinic probe

Associated Press reports:

A woman from New York came to New Mexico to terminate her pregnancy at one of the nation’s four late-term abortion clinics after she found out the fetus she had been carrying for more than eight months had severe brain abnormalities. There were complications during the abortion and the 26-year-old woman was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured uterus.

Nearly two years later, the intimate details of her medical treatment, her mental state, her religion and family status have become public as part of a state medical board probe that was initiated not by the patient, but by anti-abortion activists with Operation Rescue who aggressively monitor and file complaints based on 911 calls made from abortion clinics.

Read more on New York Daily News.

Is this what happens because 911 calls are often accessible under open records law? I’ve discussed that issue before on this blog, but this case is a horrifying example of the failure to protect medical privacy. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the woman’s choice, would you want your medical treatment, mental state, religion and family status made public because someone can get your 911 call.

I wish Congress would enact legislation to protect the medical confidentiality of 911 calls. There does need to be some press exemption so that the media can evaluate response times, issues of racism, etc., in evaluating and reporting on EMS services, but even records that are subject to FOI should be redacted to protect the identity of the caller in almost all cases.

Note that in this case, the real exposure of the patient’s information came out in the medical board review of a complaint filed by anti-abortionists. That, too, needs more protection. As someone who has been involved in a medical board review of a physician’s conduct, I know that patients were afraid to testify for fear that their details would become public. We need more protection there, too.

Additional details on the case and an update that the doctor was exonerated can be found on Fox11.

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