NBC News: What digital information could prosecutors use in abortion-related cases?
June 30, 2022
Hospitals and other health care facilities track significant information on their patients. While there are federal regulations in place concerning how they store that data, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it’s unclear how much that will prevent health care workers from turning over abortion information to law enforcement in a post-Roe world, said Sara Geoghegan, a law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“It is tricky because people think HIPAA protects much more than it does. Ultimately I don’t think we have a safeguard right now if law enforcement has a warrant for clinic data,” Geoghegan said.
That means it could be possible for prosecutors to seize a doctor or nurse’s notes about what a specific patient said about their pregnancy status. But it doesn’t appear likely that law enforcement could conduct broad sweeps for all records in a hospital where a patient mentioned an abortion.
“One of the standards for a criminal warrant is you need to have reasonable suspicion, and it can’t be too broad. But honestly I don’t know how that would play out,” she said.
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