Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today, as part of a coalition of 24 attorneys general, advocated for stronger federal protections for patients’ reproductive health information.
The Biden administration is considering amending the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, the federal law that governs the disclosure of protected health information (PHI). If implemented, the changes would make it illegal to share a patient’s PHI if it is being sought for certain criminal, civil and administrative investigations against a patient in connection with seeking a legal abortion or other reproductive care.
The changes are especially important as the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade spurred many anti-abortion states to enforce draconian restrictions that could lead to criminal or civil penalties for anyone seeking, providing or assisting with reproductive care. Raoul and the coalition of attorneys general today issued a comment letter welcoming the federal government’s proposed HIPAA amendments, which the group said would help safeguard reproductive health data from being exploited to harm pregnant people or health care providers.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade created a climate of uncertainty and fear among those seeking and providing reproductive care throughout the country,” Raoul said. “Patients seeking care should not have to face the possibility of their private health care information being weaponized against them. I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general in support of stronger federal protections, and I will continue to fight for access to reproductive health care both in Illinois and across the country.”
Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade one year ago in June 2022, 15 states currently have implemented laws prohibiting abortion under all or most circumstances. Anyone involved in assisting, providing and obtaining such care in those states may be at risk of investigation, civil liability and criminal prosecution.
In the letter today, Raoul and the coalition of attorneys general argue that the proposed HIPAA amendments are urgently needed to protect against the misuse and weaponization of people’s private health data. The amendments would prohibit the use or disclosure of PHI for an investigation into a patient in connection with seeking, obtaining, providing or facilitating reproductive health care if:
The coalition argues that these provisions are essential to begin creating a more unified privacy landscape for access to reproductive care, and urged the Biden administration to adopt the provisions quickly. The attorneys general also called for the creation of a nationally-available, online platform that provides accurate and clear information about reproductive care and privacy rights and a public awareness campaign to promote the website.
Attorney General Raoul was joined in filing today’s letter by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.