Tag Archives: women’s health

HHS seeks to protect patient privacy as states outlaw abortion

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra (Photo courtesy of HHS)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday outlined plans to try to protect patients’ civil rights and privacy as states move to outlaw abortion, including reaffirming limits on medical professionals’ sharing of information with law enforcement officials.

HHS also offered tips for protecting health information shared with third-party apps. In these efforts, HHS highlighted the role of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule in protecting patients while also effectively showing some limits to federal protection. 

The HIPAA rules, for example, generally do not protect the privacy or security of information when it is accessed through or stored on personal cell phones or tablets, with some exceptions for ones developed by organizations covered by federal privacy law, HHS said. Information collected may be sold to data brokers, often selling it for marketing or other purposes.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new guidance addressing how federal law and regulations protect individuals’ private medical information (known as protected health information or PHI) relating to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care. In it, HHS said that law enforcement officials seeking access to medical records must have court orders or otherwise have met privacy mandates.

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SCOTUS strikes down Roe as expected; half of states likely to ban abortion

Photo by Elvert Barnes via Flickr.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) handed down its expected decision in the highly anticipated Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case Friday morning, finding no constitutional basis for abortion.

The court, voting 6-3, now leaves the issue to state governments. Missouri was the first state to execute its trigger ban, prohibiting all abortion in the state.

The decision to overturn the right to abortion upends a precedent established in 1973 and re-affirmed in 1992, as Amy Howe reported for SCOTUS blog. “In one of the most anticipated rulings in decades, the court overturned Roe, which first declared a constitutional right to abortion in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which re-affirmed that right in 1992.”

Journalists should note that Howe reported the vote as 5-4, writing this: “The vote to overturn Roe was 5-4.  Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Alito’s opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion. He agreed with the majority that the Mississippi abortion restriction at issue in the case should be upheld, but in a separate opinion, he argued that the court should not have overturned Roe.”

At The New York Times, Adam Liptak wrote that the decision will transform American life, reshape the nation’s politics and lead to all but total bans on the procedure in about half of the states. “The ruling will test the legitimacy of the court and vindicate a decades-long Republican project of installing conservative justices prepared to reject the precedent, which had been repeatedly reaffirmed by earlier courts,” he added. Also, the decision will be one of the legacies of former President Donald J. Trump, who named three justices who were in the majority, he noted.

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Fellows on Women’s Health named for 2019

Seven journalists have been selected for the Association of Health Care Journalists’ inaugural Fellowship on Women’s Health, to be held in Washington, D.C., in early November.

The fellowship program was created in collaboration with the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health to increase understanding of – and the ability to report more clearly on – health issues often unique to women.

The fellowship is aimed at boosting the ability of consumer and trade journalists to report more accurately, seek out more in-depth stories and to make better use of often-underutilized resources in their efforts to inform the public. The inaugural class of fellows were selected from dozens of qualified applicants:

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Health reporters can cover safety claims in abortion fight

The dramatic filibuster of Texas Senate Bill 5 has refocused the nation’s attention on abortion.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her staunchly planted pink sneakers – along with help from a raucous crowd of spectators – delayed a vote on SB5 until three minutes past midnight on Wednesday, blocking its passage. It may be a short-lived victory for the Democrats, however.

Gov. Rick Perry quickly called another special session, starting today, to take up the bill again.

The bill and supporting documents – including the list of witnesses that testified for and against the legislation (AKA potential sources) – can be found here.

According to a report by the nonprofit Texas Tribune, there are two flashpoints in the proposed law.

The first is that it would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation.  That provision is similar to a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June. The rationale for the legislation, which has been disputed by some doctors, is that fetuses older than 20 weeks can feel pain.

The second is this:

On and after September 1, 2014, the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers.

Those minimum standards, which are set by the Texas Department of State Health Services, can be found here. Continue reading

Boston program specializes in treating homeless #ahcj13

Larry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program, addresses visiting AHCJ members.

Photo by Desiree RobinsonLarry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program, addresses visiting AHCJ members.

“I’ve been locked up in mental institutions and prison. If it hadn’t been for the team here, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. When I’m feeling depressed, I pick up the phone and I call my psychiatrist and talk.”

These are the heartfelt sentiments of Larry Adams, patient and chairman of the consumer advisory board of the Boston Healthcare for Homeless Program (BHCHP). First of its kind in the nation, BHCHP serves 12,000 patients through over 60,000 visits a year in more than 80 locations. For more than 25 years their mission has been to provide or assure access to the highest quality health care for all homeless men, women, transgender and children in the greater Boston area.

As part of one of the field trips offered at Health Journalism 2013, journalists toured the bright and warm facility where health care teams mobilize to serve the most underserved of Boston’s residents. Continue reading