Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Sophia Ballog, Will Laws Requiring CA Doctors to Report Abuse Put Out-of-State Abortion Patients at Risk? , SF Chronicle
The story of an Ohio 10-year-old who traveled to Indiana for an abortion after she was raped sparked a national media frenzy earlier this month.
It also raised questions about what legal obligations doctors have to report instances of minors receiving abortions and whether that could alert authorities in their home state that they had the procedure.***
Several bills to prohibit California agencies from sharing information about abortions with law enforcement in other states are currently moving through the legislative process. AB1242 would bar police from providing information about abortions to people or agencies from out of state. Another bill, AB2091, would prohibit health providers from releasing a patient’s medical information in response to a subpoena based on another state’s abortion ban.
Earlier this year, California enacted a law shielding people who get abortions or help others obtain abortions, such as doctors who perform the procedure, from civil liability.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies and departments from sharing medical records related to reproductive health care with an agency in another state. Through the order, he also announced he will decline non-fugitive extradition requests for abortion-related charges.
At the same time, some lawmakers in conservative states are trying to pass laws that would restrict their residents from traveling out of state for an abortion. Newsom has said he believes Texas’ abortion ban, which allows private citizens to sue people who help women obtain abortions, could be used to sue people in California who help women from Texas get abortions or people who help them travel to the state.***
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said she doesn’t think laws that aim to regulate travel to other states for an abortion will hold up under legal scrutiny, though she acknowledged there’s some debate among legal scholars about the issue.
Even so, efforts to ban interstate travel for abortions could still be intimidating for people. Levinson argued in a recent MSNBC op-ed that efforts like the attempts to intimidate the doctor who performed the abortion for the Ohio 10-year-old will have a chilling effect.
Mandated-reporting laws are coming under more intense scrutiny since Roe was overturned because they create data that could be used by entities or law enforcement in states that ban abortion to reveal someone traveled out of state to obtain the procedure, said Tracy Thomas, a constitutional law professor at the University of Akron in Ohio.
”That’s the concern we have with a lot of these reporting laws,” she said. “If you require the report, will that trigger further harm to that person?”
Even if the form for a mandated report of abuse doesn’t include any information about the minor’s abortion, just the fact that a mandated reporter was a doctor at a California clinic that provides abortions could be a sign the minor had the procedure, she said. Efforts to ban residents from traveling to other states to obtain abortions are new and untested, so it’s difficult to say whether or how that information might be used against a minor or their family, but it’s a reasonable question in the wake of Roe being overturned, she said.
”Everybody’s worried about data out there, whether it’s your period app, or whether it’s your GPS following where you’ve been,” she said. “Those are all normal ways that criminal law enforcement uses to figure out what happened, so those become areas of concern.”