An anti-abortion group's campaign to obtain Arkansas records on induced terminations of pregnancies is troubling hospitals in the state.
Last month, the Westark Christian Action Council in Fort Smith, Ark., challenged the state's denial of its Freedom of Information Act request. On Aug. 18, the Sebastian County Circuit Court told the state Department of Health to turn over its records. The department appealed the ruling Aug. 26. A hearing before the Arkansas Supreme Court hasn't been scheduled.
Healthcare providers must report induced terminations of pregnancies under the state's Vital Statistics Act.
The anti-abortion group said it wants the reports so it can identify physicians and facilities providing abortions in Sebastian, Crawford and Washington counties. Seven acute-care hospitals operate there. The group intends to make the information available only when requested but later might choose to distribute it more widely, said Dale Morfey, chairman of the Westark council.
Hospitals fear that they and their physicians could become targets of anti-abortion activists even if they don't provide voluntary abortions, said James Teeter, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association. When labor is induced because a fetus has died in the womb, the procedure is reported as an induced termination of pregnancy.
The state argues that the reports are exempt from disclosure. Forms also might count as medical records, said George Harper, the health department general counsel. Although forms don't name patients, they could be identified in areas with small populations, he said.