The Indiana Court of Appeals has temporarily halted the state attorney general's efforts to seek Planned Parenthood of Indiana records. This restraining order is in effect until the court rules on Planned Parenthood's appeal of the lower court's ruling.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana sued the attorney general in the Marion County Superior Court after receiving requests for more than 80 patient files last spring. The attorney general is seeking the records to determine whether or not Planned Parenthood of Indiana has complied with state law requiring any sexual activity by a patient under the age of 14 to be reported as child abuse to the state Child Welfare Agency. Because there is no evidence of non-compliance, attorneys for Planned Parenthood have said the attorney general's office is conducting a "fishing expedition" in the absence of victims or reported crimes.
Supporters of the records request, as well as Marion County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Johnson, believe the possibility of misconduct on the part of Planned Parenthood warrants the unprecedented seizure of medical files for all patients under the age of 14. The lower court refused to block the attorney general while Planned Parenthood's case proceeded, and Planned Parenthood has appealed that refusal. This ruling means that the attorney general cannot seize records while Planned Parenthood's appeal is heard. "We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized the extraordinary value of medical privacy by protecting the doctor-patient relationship at the heart of health care with this decision," said Betty Cockrum, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. "We will continue to use all legal remedies to turn this interim stay into a permanent end to this fishing expedition, and to defend the privacy of all Hoosiers.
"The public can count on Planned Parenthood to take very seriously the law regarding reporting abuse and neglect," Cockrum added. "Our staff is well-trained to identify cases of abuse and we work diligently with local law enforcement and Child Protective Services to protect young women and men in need."
Planned Parenthood supporters across the nation have been watching this case, and advocates for reproductive rights have been mobilizing political support in an attempt to prevent future privacy invasions. "Our patients place immense trust in Planned Parenthood as their provider of vital health care services," Cockrum said.
The battle between Planned Parenthood and Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is garnering national attention as a medical privacy issue. A national PBS program is interested in medical privacy from a teen's perspective and will be sending a TV producer to Indiana in the next few weeks. Filmmakers will speak to parents and teens as part of a documentary regarding medical privacy.
The PBS film will explore what it would be like for teens and parents if their records were disclosed, how it might affect their desire to get medical attention and other medical privacy topics. Interviewees will not be asked to speak to the specifics of Planned Parenthood's case against the state attorney general. The producer has promised to protect the privacy of any person interviewed as well as his or her identity. Unless interviewees wish to make public statements, the program will not make them identifiable to their teachers, peers or others in their community.
Since 1932, Planned Parenthood of Indiana has provided education and medical services, including pap tests for cervical cancer, breast exams and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. In 2004, Planned Parenthood of Indiana served a total of more than 130,000 clients. Its 39 health centers served more than 108,000 patients who made more than 320,000 total medical visits. In addition, more than 22,000 clients were served through educational programs.