U.S. Government Proposes New Rules to Protect Privacy of Women Seeking Reproductive Healthcare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing amendments to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to limit healthcare providers from disclosing medical information related to abortion and pregnancy at the request or demand of law enforcement agencies. The proposed amendments would prohibit the use or disclosure of medical information by healthcare providers in each of the following cases:

  • Civil, criminal, or administrative investigations or proceedings conducted by governmental authorities, against a person, which relate to lawfully provided reproductive healthcare services. The prohibition also applies when the investigation is conducted by a state against a person who lawfully received (or provided) the healthcare service in another state.
  • Such investigations in circumstances where medical services are protected under federal legislation, regardless of the state where the investigation is conducted or where the healthcare service is provided.
  • Identifying a person in relation to the initiation of an investigation or proceedings on these issues.

A healthcare provider that has been requested to disclose medical information regarding reproductive healthcare services may do so only after receiving a written declaration from the requester which confirms that the information is not intended for one of the prohibited uses specified in the new regulations.

The proposed regulations are open to public comments until mid-June. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes the proposed regulations as one of the steps taken by the federal government to protect women’s access to abortion, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision from June 2022 that struck down women’s constitutional right to abortion. After the Supreme Court’s decision, several states in the U.S. passed laws criminalizing abortion, and the proposed regulations aim to protect the privacy of women who seek reproductive healthcare.

Click here to read the proposed amendment to the regulations.

Click here to read the press release of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.