Hill calls for Holcomb, state to release individual abortion reports

Curtis Hill by Mark Curry

Curtis Hill is pictured. (Credit: Mark Curry)

Jan 22, 2024

Former Attorney General Curtis Hill today criticized Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Health for no longer releasing terminated pregnancy reports through public records requests.

State officials stopped releasing the terminated pregnancy reports submitted to the department after Aug. 1, 2023, according to a department spokesperson. The reports are “withheld pursuant to IC 5–14–3–4(a)(9), which declares medical records confidential,” the spokesperson told State Affairs in an email.

Hill, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, argued in a news release that the department “unilaterally made the decision” to stop releasing the reports after Public Access Counselor Luke Britt issued an informal opinion in December concluding the reports “should be withheld from disclosure in their entirety.”

Hill believes the department is “arrogantly disregarding the law” and its decision “directly contradicts the previous treatment” of the reports.

But others claim the reports — which contain disaggregated data about individual abortions, such as the patient’s age, marital status, race, education and the date and location of the abortion — could be used to determine who recently got an abortion, especially now that fewer abortions are being provided following the passage of Indiana’s near-total abortion ban. Some also fear that providers who perform legal abortions under the state’s strict ban could be targeted.

"The IDOH is a bloated bureaucracy trying to avoid scrutiny for its lack of oversight of abortion providers and procedures,” Hill said in the release. “The idea that data could be ‘reverse engineered’ to identify a patient is no more true now than it was before the passage of SB1 and is simply a cooked-up scheme to hide transparency.”

Hill said in the release that Holcomb has “the ultimate authority to reign in his rogue health department, and I call on him to demand that his agency fall in line with state law and do the work it is statutorily obligated to do.”

A spokesperson for Holcomb did not respond to a request for comment.

Indiana was the first state to pass an abortion ban after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. But two legal challenges to the ban from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana are still underway.

The state is still required to track abortions after its near-total abortion ban went into effect, and the department continues to publish quarterly, aggregated abortion data. Doctors reported 698 abortions during July 2023, but Indiana doctors reported performing fewer than three abortions a week during the initial weeks after the state’s near-total abortion ban took effect.

Contact Jarred Meeks on X @jarredsmeeks or email him at [email protected]

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