Biden admin issues rule protecting abortion privacy

Pro abortion rights activists hold placards during the annual anti-abortion demonstration in New York City, on March 23, 2024 (Kena Betancur)
Pro abortion rights activists hold placards during the annual anti-abortion demonstration in New York City, on March 23, 2024 (Kena Betancur)

President Joe Biden's administration announced a new rule Monday to protect the privacy of women who go out of their home state to have legal abortions, amid fears they could be prosecuted upon their return.

The move comes as reproductive rights take center stage in the November presidential election, following a pivotal court decision that abolished or severely curtailed legal abortion in 21 states.

"No one should have to live in fear that their conversations with their doctor or that their medical claims data might be used to target or track them," Melanie Fontes Rainer of the Office for Civil Rights told reporters.

The rule prohibits the disclosure of private health information sought to investigate individuals who seek or obtain reproductive health services that are lawful. It also applies to healthcare providers.

Rainer urged women to come forward and file a complaint if they believed their privacy rights had been violated.

The Health and Human Services agency received almost 30,000 public comments before finalizing its new rule, which strengthens the Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

In 2022, conservative judges appointed by former President Donald Trump helped strike down a half-century of legal precedent that upheld the constitutional right to abortion, sparking widespread outrage.

Women in Republican-controlled states have since faced problems accessing reproductive care, including for non-viable pregnancies and even IVF treatment.

Abortion rights have become a cornerstone of President Biden's re-election campaign, and the issue helped Democrats outperform expectations in the 2022 midterm vote.

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