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Indiana Physicians Seek to Intervene in Anti-Abortion Lawsuit to Prevent Disclosure of Abortion Patients’ Health Records

06.11.24—(PRESS RELEASE) Today two Indiana physicians who provide abortion services filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by an anti-abortion organization that seeks to expose the health records of patients who obtained abortion care in the state between August 2023 – March 2024.

The anti-abortion lawsuit seeks to compel the Indiana Department of Health to turn over all Terminated Pregnancy Report (TPRs) submitted during this period.  These reports – which physicians are required to submit for every abortion they provide in Indiana – include 31 data points, including the patient’s age, county and state of residence, marital status, race and ethnicity, as well as details about the patient’s medical history and the circumstances of their abortion.  Multiple state agencies have concluded that such data could be reverse engineered to identify individual patients.

Since Indiana’s strict abortion ban took effect in August 2023, few pregnant people have been able to obtain abortion care in the state, thus raising the risk that the TPRs could be used to identify patients.  Indeed, only 45 people were able to access legal abortion care in Indiana during the first three months of 2024.  The Department of Health is required to publish quarterly reports containing aggregate data derived from the TPRs.

The two physicians – Dr. Caitlin Bernard and Dr. Caroline Rouse – seek to intervene in the lawsuit to prevent the anti-abortion organization from obtaining their patients’ private medical information.

“People who need an abortion deserve access to confidential medical care without being exposed to harassment and intimidation by anti-abortion extremists,” said Stephanie Toti, Executive Director of the Lawyering Project.  “Our clients are committed to upholding the dignity of their patients and protecting the privacy of their medical records.”

Although the Department of Health has thus far declined the anti-abortion organization’s demands to access the TPRs, the Indiana Attorney General has called for their release, launching a political pressure campaign against the Health Department.

Today’s filing comes after the Medical Licensing Board disciplined Dr. Bernard for disclosing, in 2023, that she provided abortion care to a 10-year-old from Ohio who was unable to obtain care in her home state following enactment of an abortion ban there.  Ohio voters subsequently approved a ballot initiative that enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution.  The minimal information Dr. Bernard shared about her Ohio patient pales in comparison to the extensive information contained in the TPRs.

The two physicians seeking to intervene are represented by the Lawyering Project and Kathrine D. Jack of the Jack Law Office LLC.