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The new potential law in Kansas would allow state health department free access to patient medical records. Opponents of the law are suggesting that the proposed legislation could endanger the privacy of women who’ve terminated pregnancies. Proponents of the new law said such concerns are unfounded because state law contains protections against information about patients from becoming public.
The new legislation was scheduled to take effect last week. However, a judge blocked the law from being implemented until a lawsuit involving two of the state’s three abortion providers is resolved. Another new state law, also blocked by the judge, requires providers to obtain a special annual license. One regulation says “all records shall be available at the facility for inspection” by the secretary of health and environment or his staff.
Abortion-rights advocates said giving such access allows health department officials to review highly personal information. They also state that they do not trust Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration because he is a strong opponent of abortion. “It’s totally unnecessary,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing two doctors in the federal lawsuit. “It’s totally unjustified and an invasion of patient privacy.”
The new licensing law states that the information in medical records must be kept confidential. Another law would make it a misdemeanor for health department employees to disclose such data publicly. Abortion opponents note that other states have similar provisions in their regulations for abortion providers.
They argue that access to medical records is necessary if the department is to provide proper oversight. Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the group Kansans for Life, said abortion-rights supporters are raising patient privacy as an issue, as they have in the past, because “it’s the only tool they have” in trying to prevent scrutiny of abortion providers.
“When the only tool someone has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” she said. “If health and law enforcement inspectors aren’t allowed access to abortion records, how exactly is legal abortion any different from illegal abortion?”