The Biden administration Wednesday announced a new proposed rule that would increase privacy protections surrounding reproductive health records.
If passed, this rule would prevent the disclosure of health information in order to investigate, sue, or prosecute individuals seeking abortions out of state. It would also serve to protect healthcare providers who perform abortions or other reproductive health services. This rule is one of several discussed at the third meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Health Access earlier this week. Other actions include safeguarding electronic health information and protecting student health privacy on campuses.
Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at the Task Force, described the current situation as:
We are looking at a situation in our country where healthcare providers — most of whom have had a calling to do the good and important work of taking care of other people — are in fear of losing their licenses and, worse, even being prosecuted and criminalized for the work that they do that is about providing healthcare for people in our country… This indeed is a healthcare crisis in America. And we have to acknowledge and understand it to be just that.
The rule comes as an executive response to a recent crackdown on abortion access across the nation. Most recently, a federal court in Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill mifepristone last week. On Wednesday, a federal appellate court in Texas ruled that mifepristone is to remain available on a limited basis while the legal battle continues.
The Texas ruling is one of many to arise after the 2021 court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade. After the Dobbs ruling, many states have increased abortion restrictions. As a result, individuals from these restrictive states are often forced to seek reproductive health care elsewhere and are fearful of prosecution upon their return. The proposed rule aims to prevent legal action taken against individuals and providers seeking legal abortions across state lines.