Abortion doctors should have the right to reveal patient’s health information to help them avoid prosecution, North Dakota’s attorney General said Wednesday.
North Dakota’s abortion ban is currently in effect, but is being halted by a lawsuit. It makes it illegal to perform the procedure unless there is rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. To be exempted from a Class C crime, doctors would need to prove these exceptions in court.
Drew Wrigley stated that he could not find any cases that addressed that scenario, and that it would not be in violation of the privacy rule.
Wrigley stated that “It is my belief that both state and federal laws do not prohibit a defendant from disclosing the personal information of a patient in order to assert an affirmative defense,” Wrigley wrote.
Wrigley’s analysis of that particular issue was requested by state Democratic Reps. Zac Ista, of Grand Forks and Karla Rose Hanson of Fargo. They wanted opinions on various aspects of the state’s abortion laws. Wrigley declined other questions because many of the abortion issues are currently being discussed in federal and state courtrooms.
Ista stated that Wrigley’s view “on this question” was appreciated by him, but that he does not believe it will do much to change a law that places doctors in precarious positions.
Ista stated that doctors will still have to worry whether they will face serious criminal charges, if they are required to provide emergency care. “The protected health information aspect of this is only a small portion.”
Ista stated that it adds an extra burden to the patient.
Ista stated that “She’s in a crisis, an emotional moment and one where she’s facing a serious health problem, possibly losing a baby she was excited about.” She will now have to accept the humiliation of having to sign an additional waiver for her confidential health information, as their doctor is concerned about their criminal liability.
After a judge ruled that there is a “substantial possibility” of a constitutional challenge to the state’s ban on abortion, North Dakota’s Supreme Court will be hearing arguments about the matter later in the month. Already, the state’s only abortion clinic, which is located in Fargo has moved to Minnesota.