National Partnership for Women & Families

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Ariz. abortion provider challenges state request for patient records

An Arizona-based abortion provider has asked a judge to block a state investigation that the provider's attorney says is unconstitutional and violates doctor-patient privilege, KJZZ reports (Jenkins, KJZZ, 11/18).

State investigation

In September, the Arizona attorney general issued a civil investigative demand that called for Gabrielle Goodrick, owner of Camelback Family Planning (CFP), to produce information about women who have received abortion care at the clinic and donated fetal tissue (Wingett Sanchez et al., Arizona Republic, 11/18).

The state requested the unredacted patient records under the state's Consumer Fraud Act (KJZZ, 11/18). According to the Arizona Republic, the demand comes after Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a law (SB 1474) prohibiting the sale, donation or receipt of fetal tissue. Under the law, the submission of patient records is not protected by doctor-patient privilege if the records are requested as part of "an investigation of a violation" (Arizona Republic, 11/18).

The state also subpoenaed Goodrick to testify about patients under oath. For instance, the state wants Goodrick to "describe in detail all of [her] practices related to the purchase, collection, storage, pricing, donation and sale of fetal organs or tissue since January 1, 2012."

Goodrick said the state already ordered the clinic to produce "any instance in which any fetal organs or tissue left [her] clinic" in December 2015. According to Goodrick's attorneys, the 2015 request was issued prior to a state rule mandating that clinics disclose how they handle fetal tissue. In response to the 2015 order, Goodrick said she provided records dating back 10 years. She added that other than patients' medical records, she has no additional material to submit to the state.

According to available court records, the state in its latest demand does not allege wrongdoing or make claims against Goodrick or the clinic (Arizona Republic, 11/18).

Clinic's filing

Jean-Jacques Cabou, an attorney for Goodrick, filed a motion on the clinic's behalf that asks for a judge to review the legitimacy of the investigation, calling it unconstitutional and a violation of doctor-patient privilege (KJZZ, 11/18). In the lawsuit, Goodrick also asked the court to invalidate the subpoena that would require her to testify about her patients (Arizona Republic, 11/18).

Cabou said, "The Consumer Fraud Act gives the attorney general's office broad investigatory powers, but only in pursuit of a proper purpose." He added, "A party who is subpoenaed in an investigation that has an improper purpose has a right to resist -- and that's what we've done."

Cabou said, "We're confident that CFP followed all the procedures that it had to follow and frankly we don't know what this is about." He added, "No third party has ever reviewed the propriety of the investigation and that's what we're asking the court to do" (KJZZ, 11/18).

Separately, Goodrick said the clinic has seen "no financial gain" for fetal tissue donation. She noted that all of the patients who have donated tissue gave consent. She said patient charts are not tied to consent forms, adding that "there's nothing at all to be gained" by examining the charts.

Further, Goodrick called the investigation a "far-reaching" effort to publicize the identities of women who have received abortion care. She said, "Patients need to be reassured that when they see a physician and seek health care, that an attorney general does not have the right to access patient records, and that goes against HIPAA, doctor-patient relationships, and unless I'm under a court order, I will not release those records" (Arizona Republic, 11/18).