Ashcroft Answers Nadler's Demand to Withdraw Subpoena of Women's Medical Records

Apr 26, 2004

Washington, DC -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today expressed satisfaction that the Department of Justice backed down from its outrageous decision to subpoena abortion records from New York-Presbyterian Hospital, but demanded that the Department withdraw all of the subpoenas it issued for medical records from hospitals in New York, California, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Nadler, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, was outraged when the Department of Justice issued subpoenas to acquire the medical records of every woman who obtained abortion services at several hospitals within the last two years, including four hospitals in New York City.

In response to the subpoenas, last month Nadler announced that he will introduce the Patients' Privacy Protection Act, legislation clarifying that federal law protects the doctor-patient privilege.

"Has the Department of Justice finally realized that preying on the right to confidentiality between women and their doctors is a violation of federal law?" asked Nadler. "I urge the Attorney General to pull the additional subpoenas he issued to obtain women's private medical records from several more hospitals throughout the nation."

After the subpoena was issued, Nadler, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, and other members of Congress demanded in a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft that the Department of Justice withdraw the subpoena for patient medical records of women who have had abortions as well as abandon the position that federal law does not protect the right of Americans to have a confidential patient-doctor relationship under federal law.

"This dangerous fishing expedition on behalf of the Department of Justice is an abuse of federal power and an intrusion into women's privacy," said Nadler. "Nobody -- not even John Ashcroft -- has the right to look through women's private medical records. It is my hope that the Attorney General discontinues his overzealous fascination with women's private lives."