A recent letter, sent under the signature of 19 Republican state attorneys general, demands that the Biden administration allow states with abortion bans to obtain the private medical records of patients seeking legal health care in other states.
In sending this letter, they have made their priorities clear: These attorneys general will use their resources to intimidate women across state lines and weaponize patients’ private health care information against them because they sought legal, and often life-saving, medical care.
I will not allow that to happen in Illinois. As attorney general, defending access to reproductive care and protecting patient privacy are among my top priorities.
We know that patients are traveling to our state for care, and Illinois providers and support networks have stepped up to serve this influx of patients from other states. Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of Illinois has seen a 54% increase in abortion patients, and nearly 25% of their patients traveled from another state, compared with 7% before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. My role as attorney general is to use the tools I have to protect medical providers and support networks and their patients who seek lawful health care in Illinois.
That’s why my office drove discussions and drafted key policies related to post-Dobbs legislation. These efforts contributed to the enactment of the Illinois Patient and Provider Protection Act, which shields patients and providers from being criminally or civilly punished for accessing and providing health care that is lawful in Illinois and reinforces protections around patients traveling from out of state into Illinois.
We also drafted legislation to clarify that the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act applies to crisis pregnancy centers. Among our concerns about these centers’ practices is the fact that these centers do not always adhere to HIPAA when handling patient information. I appreciate Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s support of the legislation and look forward to it being signed into law.
Working with 23 of my fellow attorneys general, we took action to support the Biden administration’s proposed rule changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. If implemented, the administration’s amendments would make it illegal to share a patient’s medical information if it is being sought for criminal or civil investigations in connection with the patient seeking a legal abortion or other reproductive care.
Immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, my office issued a Know Your Reproductive Rights Guide to the public, which confirms that access to abortion is protected and unchanged in Illinois. Additionally, my office sent a letter to law enforcement agencies across the state, reminding them that abortion rights remain protected in Illinois and published a consumer alert with tips on how individuals can safeguard their sensitive personal information and digital footprint when seeking reproductive care.
We know these attempts to pry into patient privacy likely won’t stop at abortion. Access to essential health care like contraceptives, HIV treatment and gender-affirming care may also be at stake. The letter from the 19 Republican attorneys general cites state bans on gender-affirming care as among the reasons the signatories do not want patients’ records to be private. These are attacks on very personal decisions about when and how to build your family and how to live authentically as your true self.
My office will continue to provide guidance, issue alerts, enact legislation and take legal actions that protect health care information. And above all, I will not cease to protect abortion rights and access to safe and legal reproductive health care that can save lives. Illinois must remain an oasis for women seeking reproductive health care across the nation.