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    Privacy of Abortion Clinic Records - CASE STUDY


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    Post by Admin on Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:38 pm

    Privacy of Abortion Clinic Records

    In May, 2002, workers in a county garbage sorting center in Storm Lake, a small town in Iowa made a gruesome discovery: the body of a newborn boy, which had been dismembered by the sorting machines. The body was so damaged that identification of the body was impossible.

    Police officials reasoned that the child had been abandoned in a dumpster at birth, probably by the mother. Unable to determine the baby’s identity, the police decided to see if there were any women who had been pregnant and now were not pregnant but did not have a baby. The first step in this process was to identify all the women who have been pregnant at the appropriate time in this same town of 10,000 residents. Police subpoenaed the records of Planned Parenthood to obtain the names of women who had received positive results on pregnancy tests in the previous nine months.

    Planned Parenthood refused to comply with the subpoena, arguing that a woman’s decision about her pregnancy is among the most private of matters. Those who came to Planned Parenthood to determine whether they were pregnant ought to not be subjected, nine months later, to police officers knocking on their doors and asking details about the outcome of their pregnancy. They also point out that there is no guarantee that the woman even got a pregnancy test or that she was a local resident, so the search of the records could turn out to be futile.

    Question: Should Planned Parenthood be forced to turn over to the police the records of women who tested positive for pregnancy? Why or why not? What are the competing considerations in this case? To what extent do women seeking a pregnancy test have a right to privacy in such a situation? To what extent do criminal investigators have a right to access otherwise-confidential information? Why doe one outweigh the other?


    Source: Hannah Wolfson, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2002, Part 1, Page 1.

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