Tennessee bill would expose identities of abortion providers and possibly patients

Remember how anti-choice domestic terrorist group Operation Rescue created an online database of abortion providers across the country, leaving a terrifying opening for anti-choice harassment and violence? Well, it looks like legislators in Tennessee are trying to make the process easier for antis by making it a legal requirement:

The latest salvo in the abortion wars comes in the form of a bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would result in the online publication of the names of doctors who perform abortions, and — according to critics of the measure — potentially out individual women who undergo the procedure.

The Life Defense Act of 2012, which is under consideration in the Tennessee House, would direct the state Health Department to post on its website a report on every abortion, to be filled out by the facility where the procedure takes place.

The reports must include the “identification of the physician who performed the abortion and the physician’s office, clinic, hospital or other facility where the abortion was performed,” according to the official summary of the bill.

In addition, the documents would include every patient’s county, age, race, marital status, and number of prior pregnancies, making it pretty easy for folks to figure out patients’ identities, especially in rural areas where not many people live.

I love how bill sponsor GOP Rep. Matthew Hill casually told the Tennessean, “The Department of Health already collects the data, but they don’t publish it. All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.” It’s all we’re asking, guys! No big deal, we just want to publicly shame and scare them out of providing abortions forever.

There is simply no other reason for this bill to exist — when it comes down to it, it’s a form of anti-choice harassment and intimidation in itself. I’m actually surprised it’s even being considered as it’s pretty damn clear it would pose potential endangerment to abortion providers across the state. It’s not a coincidence that those online “Wanted” posters that were all the anti-choice craze in the 90s were during the same time period when several abortion providers were killed.

The bill is scheduled for consideration tomorrow by the House Health and Human Resources committee; contact them by any and all means and let them know how unjust and dangerous this bill is.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted March 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine it would pass in any event, due to HIPAA*.
    Ah, political theater at its dumbest. So.. how about those jobs, legislators?

    *I can’t even make a dental appointment for my boss because of HIPAA. An appointment. All I am doing is selecting a day and time, not asking for any sensitive info (even though I have all of it right in front of me), and nope, “we have to talk to [boss] himself, sorry.” -_-

  2. Posted March 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I work with large-scale (i.e., national and state) data sets occasionally, though I am not an expert. I am certain that as things currently stand the demographic information alone – before you even start talking about sensitive, personal medical information – would either cause data to be suppressed for areas with small populations or those areas would be aggregated into much larger areas. Certain non-medical Census Bureau data isn’t publicly available on cities with populations under 300,000 (of which they are 2 in Tennessee).

    Since this is medical information, I suspect that release of this information would be a violation of HIPAA and the law wouldn’t be allowed to go into effect. My understanding of HIPAA regulations is that public health information, which is what the State Health Department is collecting, requires privacy protection unless:

    - Statistically de-identified (the population is large enough that any one individual could not be identified base on the information given alone or with other reasonably available information) or

    -Actually de-identified (enough information is removed so that the individual could not be identified based on the remaining information alone or with other reasonably available information).

    It is rather galling of the state legislators to think they can even make a claim that abortion somehow exempts women from HIPAA protection.

  3. Posted March 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    This is terrifying. Thank you for sharing.

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