More hospitals have filed petitions to quash subpoenas by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for patient records on so-called partial-birth abortions, arguing that federal and state privacy laws bar them from providing the information. Meanwhile, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will hear oral arguments March 23 in the federal government's expedited appeal of a judge's decision earlier this month to quash a similar subpoena for records at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. In all, Ashcroft subpoenaed seven hospitals in November 2003 for records on certain late-term abortions, known as partial-birth abortions, performed at the facilities by seven physicians. The physicians have challenged a federal ban on such abortions, arguing that the procedure is sometimes medically necessary. Ashcroft said he needs hospital records of the physicians' procedures to investigate their assertions.
Hahnemann University Hospital, New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Columbia Presbyterian and Weill Cornell medical centers, and University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers have followed Northwestern in challenging the subpoenas. The remaining two organizations -- St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-University Hospital, Newark -- have told Ashcroft such procedures aren't performed there. -- by Mark Taylor