By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Alaska signs Republican letter opposing federal rule to protect medical records


Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor joined 18 other Republican attorneys general last month in a letter calling on the federal government to preserve state governments’ access to private medical records.

That access could be used to restrict access to abortion and gender transition care.

The attorneys general are opposing a proposed federal rule that would “prevent private medical records from being used against people for merely seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating lawful reproductive health care.”

Idaho, which has criminalized abortion, passed a law this year that prohibits adults from helping minors obtain an abortion in another state. Other states that have criminalized abortion are considering similar acts, and the proposed federal rule would hamper the ability of those states to enforce their laws.

“The letter speaks for itself,” Taylor said by email. “While this rule would have no effect on Alaska because abortions are legal, the rule seeks to thwart other states that have made a different policy decision on abortions post the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. This letter is about preserving states’ rights in the face of federal overreach and that is why Alaska joined.”

The right to abortion access in Alaska is protected by Alaska Supreme Court precedent, and justices here have repeatedly determined that the state’s right to privacy applies to abortion access.

Some Alaskans seek specialty abortion care in Washington state, but that state was not a signatory to the letter, and Washington state lawmakers there have passed a medical shield law intended to specifically protect residents of other states who seek abortion care there.

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, which supports abortion access in Alaska and nearby states, said it was nevertheless appalled by the attorney general’s decision to sign the letter, in part because it violates the spirit of the Alaska Constitution’s right to privacy.

“It’s sickening and unacceptable,” said Rose O’Hara-Jolley, Alaska state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

It isn’t a states’ rights issue, said Mack Smith, communications manager for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest and Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “Really, what it comes down to is controlling people’s options. And I think that we can all be honest at this point that these politicians and these lawmakers aren’t going to be happy until abortion is not an option for anyone in any state,” Smith said.

Asked whether Alaska plans to pursue information on abortion procedures in other states and whether Alaska would provide that information to other states, Taylor said, “The answer is an emphatic, ‘No.’”

Even if that’s the case, O’Hara-Jolley said, the letter is still dangerous because it spreads fear and could result in misinformation.

“When people see this headline that their medical information could be shared, it has the potential, the real-world consequences, where now people may not be open and honest with their doctors,” they said.

“If it starts with abortion, and people are afraid to talk to their doctor about that, where does it go next? Are they coming for birth control records? When a state is allowed to open up medical records like that, it should be extremely alarming to everyone.”

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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