New NC abortion requirement raises privacy concerns

Posted December 30, 2015
Updated December 31, 2015

— A state law that takes effect Friday is raising privacy concerns.

The law, which appears to be unique nationwide, requires doctors who perform abortions more than 16 weeks after conception to submit ultrasounds taken before the procedure to the state Department of Health and Human Services for review, regardless of whether the woman consents.

North Carolina law bans abortions after 20 weeks, and doctors are already required to take an ultrasound to verify the age of the fetus before any procedure.

Anti-abortion advocate Tami Fitzgerald said she believes many doctors perform illegal abortions later than 20 weeks, and the new reporting requirements will help state regulators catch them.

"The state is guaranteeing that the abortion industry is abiding by that law, that babies past 20 weeks have the right to live unless there's a medical emergency," said Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition. "Any time a child is murdered past 20 weeks, this law will make sure that the abortion industry is held accountable."

Melissa Reed, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said doctors aren't required to send any other medical images to the state. Also, regulators already have access to patient files and ultrasounds during yearly inspections, and abortion providers report statistical data.

"They already have access. There is no reason for us to have to send them to the state for stockpiling and storage," she said.

Reed said the real goal of the law is to make doctors less willing to provide abortions due to fears of being second-guessed by regulators.

"This is really a violation of women's privacy and their ability to make deeply personal decisions without interference from politicians," she said.

The law does include protections to shield the identities of patients involved in the ultrasounds, and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act includes an exception for state health departments to collect statistical data.

The new state law also requires any doctor who performs a late-term abortion due to a medical emergency to report it to DHHS, along with a detailed explanation of the emergency.

"This is not a normal issue," Fitzgerald said. "This is not a pregnancy. We're talking about abortion."

DHHS officials didn't respond to requests for comment on Wednesday, so it's not clear who will be reading the ultrasounds or how and how long the agency will store them.

"It is very concerning knowing that this agency does have a poor track record of protecting privacy and not knowing how the records are going to be utilized or stored," Reed said, adding that she hopes Gov. Pat McCrory would issue an executive order delaying implementation of the law until such questions are resolved.


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  • Dylan Collins Jan 20, 2016
    user avatar

    If only all these people who care so much about "saving" innocent babies and want to become a part of a woman's right to choose actually cared about these children once they are born. Most of the leaders of the anti abortion clan are old white dudes and their brainwashed wives, which is really weird. Then they want these mostly single mother women to raise these babies they've "saved" with no help and get angry at people who need help. I've never heard a good answer about this thar made any sense. We need good sex education and access to health care and contraception. We need to stop acting like sex doesn't exist in this country because a bunch of old prude white dudes say it's gross and impure. It's natural. Get over it. Repressing everything doesn't work and never will.

  • William James Jan 4, 2016
    user avatar

    TSA, CIA, SS, Target, Amazon, and dozens of other companies have spent trillions on data security and still been breached/hacked, yet poorly funded DHHS is going to guarantee the security of a woman's medical information! Even if DHHS is able to keep the data self contained, it would only take one anti-abortion state employee with access to leak the patients names. And, I would expect these women to rightfully win a law suit.

  • Fanny Chmelar Jan 4, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    A doctor would have to ask themselves, "okay, now, if I'm a little off in my figuring out how far along this pregnancy is, I could end up in jail and my medical career ended."

    This encourages a doctor to not perform an abortion, and if they do decide that their medical opinion on the length of the pregnancy is sound, they're making the choice to face legal scrutiny. Intimidating doctors into not performing abortions. A.k.a "bullying".

  • Brenda Matthews Jan 3, 2016
    user avatar

    If a doctor is doing what they are supposed to be doing, how is sending an ultrasound going to "bully" them? It takes what, about five minutes to do?

  • Greg Klayton Jan 2, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    That's original. Never heard that one before (sarcasm).

  • Susan Olvera Jan 1, 2016
    user avatar

    I am and have always been opposed to elective abortion. However, I do feel this is a violation of a woman's privacy. Medical decisions should be between a patient and her doctor. This is a slippery slope.

  • Stacie Hagwood Jan 1, 2016
    user avatar

    How does this law fit in with Republican's desire for "smaller government?"

  • Greg Klayton Dec 31, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    "Ensure that women have access to the care they need to prevent an un-wanted pregnancy."

    What care would that be? Counseling on how to use birth control is all that is needed. Also, it's unfair to put all the responsibility for birth control on women. Men need to be held equally responsible. How about a man getting a vasectomy?

  • Greg Klayton Dec 31, 2015
    user avatar

    "New NC abortion requirement raises privacy concerns"

    Why? It says in the article,

    "The law does include protections to shield the identities of patients involved in the ultrasounds, and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act includes an exception for state health departments to collect statistical data."

    Patient's identity is kept secret.

  • Timothy Watson Dec 31, 2015
    user avatar

    William, as far as the second amendment, (owning a gun/firearm) this amendment was put in the constitution to give slave owners the right to hunt down and kill runaway slaves. Research it. If you are using it for the hunting of wild game, then I don`t have a problem. But now it appears people are using guns to kill innocent people just cause.