In response to a court order, New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan became the latest hospital organization ordered to turn over to a federal judge the medical records of certain patients of physicians challenging the federal ban on so-called "partial birth" abortions. Two physicians at New York-Presbyterian, which includes hospitals at Columbia-Presbyterian Center and New York Weill Cornell Center, are among abortion providers suing to block the law. Federal Judge Richard Conway Casey late last week said that personal identifier information about women who received abortions could be removed prior to the hospital turning over the documents. New York-Presbyterian Hospital spokeswoman Myrna Manners told the Daily Dose that the hospital had not yet decided whether to file an appeal to Casey's decision. "We're sorry that the judge reached this decision and we place a very high value on our patients' privacy. We're reviewing our options at this point," she said. The hospital doesn't know how many patients' records the ruling will affect.
Last month, the University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, became the first hospital organization to agree to turn over to a federal judge the medical records of women who had received abortions. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft subpoenaed at least six hospital organizations in November 2003 for the records of patients of the physicians involved in the challenge. All of the organizations, including the Michigan system, challenged the subpoenas or told Ashcroft such abortions weren't performed at their facilities. Ashcroft has said he needs the records to evaluate the physicians' contention that the procedure is sometimes medically necessary. -- by Julie Piotrowski