The Biden administration released a raft of proposals related to keeping abortion-related health information private Wednesday morning. Some of the measures are specifically targeted to shield providers from prosecution, so far the primary way red states are seeking to criminalize the procedure.
The headline announcement is that the Health and Human Services Department is issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking to strengthen privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
“This rule would prohibit doctors, other health care providers, and health plans from disclosing individuals’ protected health information, including information related to reproductive health care, under certain circumstances,” per a White House fact sheet. “Specifically, the rule would prevent an individual’s information from being disclosed to investigate, sue, or prosecute an individual, a health care provider, or a loved one simply because that person sought, obtained, provided, or facilitated legal reproductive health care, including abortion.”
Idaho broke new ground in its attempt to criminalize providers last week, when Gov. Brad Little (R) signed a law making it illegal for a minor to cross state lines for an abortion without permission from her parent or guardian. The law would open up both the person helping the minor get the abortion and the doctors — even if they’re out of state — to prosecution.
The Biden administration will also release guidance reminding various entities — schools, doctors — of their obligations in safeguarding patient privacy.
The announcement comes on the heels of President Joe Biden stating that the administration has done largely everything it can do unilaterally.
“Let’s be clear — the only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade,” he said in a statement after Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk stayed the FDA’s approval of abortion drug mifepristone on Friday evening. The Justice Department appealed that decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, and it’s expected to end up at the Supreme Court.