The fallout from the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade has been significant as more people and states wonder what it will mean for them. The alarm is so widespread that it need not be repeated here, but there is one story that scared me deeply as a woman and a member of a health care organization.
Several reports said that HIPAA laws would not go far enough to protect women’s privacy.
Now, let’s be clear: here in New Jersey and some other neighboring states, a woman has almost every protection she could want. If she decides she needs to have an abortion, she can choose where and how to have an abortion, and with some restrictions, she can also choose when to have an abortion.
Anyone in New Jersey can obtain over-the-counter abortion medication at any licensed pharmacy or by mail order. It is recommended that all women consult a doctor first, but it is not mandatory.
For subsequent medical abortion, New Jersey does not require parental or spousal permission, waiting periods, ultrasounds, videos, lectures, or other delaying tactics.
Some abortion providers will handle pregnancies up to 14 weeks, some will go up to 20 weeks, and only a few will handle subsequent abortions. Two decades ago, New Jersey passed a law banning what were then called partial-birth abortions, those that occur after the fetus was likely able to survive outside the womb. But this law was later declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.
Recently, the New Jersey legislature began taking steps to strengthen our current liberal abortion laws and to include measures to accommodate women from elsewhere who seek abortions here. There was never much of a threat to residents of our state, but there were concerns for those who traveled to New Jersey and then found themselves in legal trouble back home.
States like Texas encourage people to report friends, relatives and neighbors who want abortions. If convicted, each squealer can get up to $10,000 per instance for reporting not only a woman who requested an abortion, but also the provider who gave it to her, the nurse who witnessed the procedure, her partner who held her hand and the taxi driver. who took her to the clinic.
Now that these states are even trying to ban abortion pills, some may try to obtain clinical or pharmaceutical information to use as evidence against them. HIPAA laws only go so far. Not as much as subpoenas.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say two friends came from Texas to New Jersey for abortions and one went to a local hospital while the other bought plan B from a pharmacy. If someone in Texas reported them and prosecutors decided to investigate, they could subpoena hospital medical records and pharmacy business records to find out exactly what procedure a woman had undergone and what merchandise the another woman had purchased. Then drag them home to be sued and paid.
Scary, isn’t it?
The possibility scared New Jersey lawmakers so much that Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) and Congresswoman Lisa Swain (D-Bergen) quickly drafted legislation to protect women from other states who seek reproductive services here. . One prohibits the extradition of these women; another protects their medical records and contains several provisions clarifying access to abortion for women who do not reside in New Jersey.
Without even being posted in advance, both bills passed through two committees with few negative votes and were passed by the full Legislative Assembly with healthy majorities.
So whether the women live here or just visit here, their secrets are safe with us.
An old assemblya of Jersey City, Joan Quigley is President and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.
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