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Biden Administration Moves To Protect Privacy Of Abortion Seekers

Source: Cardinal & Pine

The Biden administration announced new regulations this April to strengthen privacy protections for abortion patients and health care providers. 

The rule amends the landmark patient privacy law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), to ensure that protected health information (PHI) pertaining to legal reproductive health care cannot be disclosed to “investigate or impose liability.”

That means that if a patient or health care provider engaged in abortion care or other reproductive health treatments that were legal at the time of service, then their PHI cannot be shared with state officials or prosecutors.

This is a particularly important protection for women who need to travel out of state for an abortion. For example, if a Florida woman who is eight weeks pregnant comes to North Carolina for an abortion this month, her PHI cannot be shared with Florida officials.

The rule further requires health care providers to get signed documents from law enforcement officials ensuring that any requested records related to reproductive health care will not be used to pursue legal action related to that care.

“With reproductive health under attack by some lawmakers, these protections are more important than ever,” U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said. 

Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS which proposed the rule, noted how the fall of Roe v. Wade has threatened patient privacy, security, and ability to get health care.

“Patients and providers are scared, and it impedes their ability to get and to provide accurate information and access safe and legal health care,” she said in a statement.

President Biden unscored the importance of the new rule.

“No one should have their medical records used against them, their doctor, or their loved one just because they sought or received lawful reproductive health care,” he said in a statement. “By safeguarding patient information, the new rule will help health care providers give complete and accurate information to patients and improve the quality of health care.”

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