Investigators Want Records From Planned Parenthood
July 2, 2002 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Investigators Want Records From Planned Parenthood Where do we draw the line between patient privacy and investigating crimes? A county judge has ruled that the records be turned over to the sheriff. Planned Parenthood is appealing.
posted by justlisa (24 comments total)
It's about time people get above the philosophical debate for a moment and actually look at some of the damage that abortion does to the pregnant women involved.

If abortion is a medical procedure, then why does this form of medical malpractice never receive any kind of publicity except from pro-life groups? Those groups must be making that stuff up, or something.... yeah.

I guess that precious, sacred right to sex without any kind of consequences including that horrible inconvenience known as children (those horrible little monsters!) must be protected at any cost, even if it means ignoring the physical and emotional trauma abortion causes for women.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:45 PM on July 2, 2002

*Restarting the thread on-topic*

Hmm, they're getting the names of all the women in a county who took pregnancy tests?

Hmm, does the right to privacy of all those 1000 women tested outweigh the need to punish the woman who, under some circumstances, left her dead -- or still alive? -- baby at a recycling center?

Gosh I really don't know. Let's discuss it!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:55 PM on July 2, 2002

I'd like to just put in a disclaimer that in part, the somewhat sarcastic tone of my earlier post was in response to a now defunct post by ponchogaddo, not the initial post by justlisa.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:57 PM on July 2, 2002

You can't make a blanket statement of where to draw the line. Both sides have a very valid argument, but with either extreme we end up with laws that hinder real justice.

The best solution I can think of is to examine each case individually to see if the crime warrants sacrificing the privacy of others.
posted by jaden at 11:16 PM on July 2, 2002

Just a quick note, Planned Parenthood is *way* more than a place for women to get abortions.

PP also offers free or low-cost general medical check-ups for men and women, gynocological exams (including cervical cancer screening), STD testing for both men and women, tubal ligation and vasectomies, and even pre-natal care for women who chose to keep their pregnancies. It is an extremely valuable resource for people with poor or no health insurance to control their reproductive health, both single and married.

Anyway, how does abortion enter into this debate? The woman who dumped her newborn obviously didn't get one.
posted by antimony at 11:38 PM on July 2, 2002

I don't see the difference between dropping a baby born an hour earlier into a dumpster and aborting that same baby in the 9th month of pregnancy. I guess thats how abortion entered into the debate, although the privacy issue is worth discussing too.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:41 PM on July 2, 2002

Thing is, if a woman ended up killing her baby (or leaving it to die) soon after it was born, what are the chances that she had actually gone to Planned Parenthood in the first place? This seems a stupid investigatory technique. It's not like Planned Parenthood is exactly quiet on ways to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and financial support for so doing.

So how are they going to check the list of 1000 women? If they show up at the woman's house, and there's no baby or visible pregnancy, is she obligated to prove she had a legal abortion and not an illegal infanticide? Even worse, what about the women who have had miscarriages or stillbirths? If one has lost a baby one wanted, and police come around investigating whether you had killed it, I would think it would be quite distressing. At the very least.
posted by meep at 11:44 PM on July 2, 2002

How do they know she even went anywhere and took a pregnancy test at all? It's not like you can't get perfectly good ones at just about any grocery stores these days.
posted by Orb at 12:58 AM on July 3, 2002

Here's an idea. They've got the dead baby, so they've got DNA samples. As far as I can understand, that means they can be used to establish parenthood. Now go ahead and ask all citizens of the county to submit DNA samples. It's just about as random as asking a PP clinic for their 1,000 *pregnancy test* records for a given month. That is, unless the article is omitting other facts that link the baby to the clinic.
posted by magullo at 2:48 AM on July 3, 2002

First, well said, meep. Second, those records contain private information regarding possible drug use history, maybe an AIDS diagnoses, etc, that the authorities might use against a person. Not legally, of course, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Maybe PP could compile a list of names and addresses, but those records shouldn't be released.
posted by Miss Beth at 3:52 AM on July 3, 2002

Seems to me like some conservative Barney Fife county lawdrone, either through stupidity ("Planned Parenthood is run by godless Commies, so they must be involved somehow") or malice ("I finally have a chance to cause trouble for those leftist womyn-lovers!"), sees the road leading to PP and the opportunity for a witch hunt.

The last four posts have pointed out really good reasons as to why this is a technically poor investigation - Occam's razor indicates political (or personal) motivations.
posted by Vetinari at 5:28 AM on July 3, 2002

Here's another thought, maybe the mother doesn't live or seek medical care in the county where the investigation is going on. The article didn't say if the body was found left on the doorstep or amidst the recyclables (which I assume it was). If the body was dumped in a bin with other recyclables and collected, who knows exactly where it came from. Obviously, the company knows its routes and some of them may take their trucks into a different county.

As for PP, I hope they are not forced to release medical records or even names of their patients. When I was in college and had little money, I used their services for several years to acquire my birth control, annual exams, etc. If this investigative technique was being used in my area; you better believe I wouldn't want my information released to the police.
posted by onhazier at 6:19 AM on July 3, 2002

More informative link here.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:08 AM on July 3, 2002

insomnyuk: I do not think you are holding to a libertarian POV re: personal freedom.
posted by thirteen at 8:05 AM on July 3, 2002

aborting that same baby in the 9th month of pregnancy

9th-month abortions are unpleasant to contemplate, true. They'd be more unpleasant to contemplate if they ever actually happened. From, "When abortions are done": During first trimester: about 91%. During second trimester: about 9%. Planned Parenthood Connecticut cites CDC data, saying "Only 1.4 percent occur after 20 weeks." (The average human pregnancy is 40 weeks long.) From the same page, same CDC publication: "The very youngest women, those under age 15, are more likely than others to obtain abortions at 21 or more weeks gestation." From the Pennsylvania ACLU: "In 1996 ... one abortion (or 3/1000 of 1%) occurred in the third trimester." An iVillage article states, "Forty states and the District of Columbia prohibit abortions after the fetus becomes viable (able to live outside the mother on its own); this is generally after the 27th week of pregnancy. "

Not that this post or this news story has anything at all to do with abortion anyway. Moving right along.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2002

Why don't they go to every drug-store looking for receipts of people who bought pregnancy tests?

Or, go to every library and see if anyone checked out a book about babies?

Or go door to door asking if anyone's seen a pregnant woman lately?

And then, after accumulating such lists, hunt down EACH and EVERY one of these women, break down their door, and demand to see the baby.

Or, why don't they just implant a chip into every one of us so that they can monitor our body's status at every moment... Oh wait, they're already doing that.
posted by eas98 at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2002

This is bloody spooky, and I can't imagine that the county could win at the state supreme court level, simply because as the article linked by RJ mentioned, there is no evidence to suggest that the mother used the services of PP or any of the area hospitals.

I agree that a dragnet asking for everyone of biological breeding age to give DNA samples to the government is about as logical as this is. This is absurd.

Jackbooted thugs, we're surrounded by jackbooted thugs.
posted by dejah420 at 9:31 AM on July 3, 2002

to me, it seems like abortion would be a medical procedure that would be covered under HIPPA, where the patient can choose who can view their information.
posted by mkelley at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2002

insomnyuk: I do not think you are holding to a libertarian POV re: personal freedom.

Not necessarily, since libertarian is a very broad term. There is much debate about abortion, while most randian, objectivists libs think its ok, whereas someone like me (a Christian who holds to libertarian principles) does not look at abortion as a right, but a different form of murder, based on these premises:

1. It is wrong to kill an innocent human being
2. A fetus is an innocent human being
3. It is wrong to kill a fetus.

I think while the left and right have nominally taken sides on this issue, abortion is one issue which ultimately transcends this division (take for example Elizabeth Genovese, a feminist opposed to abortion).
posted by insomnyuk at 7:12 PM on July 3, 2002

I remember being really impressed by this thread on medical confidentiality and its discontents, because of the number of doctors who commented. This decision just goes a distasteful step further.

(Didn't Planned Parenthood get rebuffed when they offered the US government information on their procedures to deal with contaminated post during the anthrax scare? There's a kind of irony there, but it's not a pleasant one.)

As for you, insomnyuk: nice fucking derail.
posted by riviera at 7:24 PM on July 3, 2002

Thanks, I just love it when I get a compliment from you, riviera!
posted by insomnyuk at 7:46 PM on July 3, 2002

I sure hope insomnyuk's wife isn't on the Pill, lest his high morals be compromised by its abortificaent properties.

Oh -- except he's convienently dodging that contradiction by arbitrarily defining the start of human life as "fetal." Guess it's not the unique DNA that makes the lifeform human: it's whether it's got cute eyebumps. Prior to the eyebumps, it's just a blotch of non-human cells!

posted by five fresh fish at 8:14 PM on July 3, 2002

Yeah, well I think it is.

"I sure hope insomnyuk's wife isn't on the Pill, lest his high morals be compromised by its abortificaent properties."

*Cough* User Profile *Cough*

FFF: I also think destruction of the embryo is wrong. I'm not like those animal rights lovers who only seem to ever bring up the cute animals being abused.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:40 PM on July 3, 2002

How about destruction of the zygote, then?

And if it's wrong to destroy zygotes or embryos, then how do you deal with spontaneous abortion? How do you deal with spontaneous abortion brought on by consumption of abortificaent tea? By consumption of a cup of coffee?

There are no lines. One either chooses an arbitrary line that ensures the safety of the unique DNA at the cost of forcing women to bear children they do not want (or forcing them to seek illegal methods that are inevitably more hazardous to their health); or an arbitrary line that allows women to control their hosting of the unique DNA, at the cost of having some women choose to destroy it.

It is worth noting that access to abortion has become easier, actual abortion rates have declined.

Er, I think this is all way off-topic by now...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 AM on July 4, 2002

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