HHS Office of Civil Rights has proposed changes to HIPAA’s Privacy Rule which would prohibit disclosures to law enforcement related to obtaining or providing abortions.
The current Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose Protected Health Information (PHI) about an individual for law enforcement purposes “pursuant to process and as otherwise required by law”, under certain conditions.
The proposed rule would prohibit covered entities from disclosing to law enforcement PHI related to abortions.
After Dobbs, the Department has heard concerns that civil, criminal, or administrative investigations or proceedings have been instituted or threatened on the basis of reproductive health care that is lawful under the circumstances in which it is provided. The threat that PHI will be obtained and used in such an investigation or proceeding is likely to chill individuals’ willingness to seek lawful treatment or to provide full information to their health care providers when obtaining that treatment.
[T]he Department believes it is necessary to provide heightened protections for another especially sensitive category of health information—PHI sought for the purposes of conducting a criminal, civil, or administrative investigation into or proceeding against any person in connection with seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating reproductive health care that is lawful under the circumstances in which it is provided. These proposed modifications would provide heightened protections for individuals’ health information privacy under the defined circumstances; foster an open and honest exchange of information between the individual and health care provider, who—with that information—could employ evidence-based clinical practice guidelines; and increase access to high-quality, lawful health care.