One regulation says "all records shall be available at the facility for inspection" by the secretary of health and environment or his staff. Abortion-rights advocates said giving such access allows health department officials to review highly personal information, and they don't trust Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's administration because he is a strong opponent of abortion.Oh really?
"It's totally unjustified and an invasion of patient privacy," said Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing two doctors in the federal lawsuit.
The new licensing law declares information in medical records must be kept confidential, and another statute makes it a misdemeanor for health department employees to disclose such data publicly. Department spokeswoman Miranda Myrick noted that federal law also applies.
She added, "When surveyors are inspecting facilities, the medical records do not leave the facilities."
Abortion opponents say access to medical records is necessary if the department is to provide proper oversight.
"That struck me as a pretty standard provision, that regulatory agencies would have access to records," said Kansas House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who opposes abortion.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said the privacy issue is "the only tool" abortion-rights supporters have in trying to prevent scrutiny of providers.
"If health and law enforcement inspectors aren't allowed access to abortion records, how exactly is legal abortion any different from illegal abortion?" she said.
You may or may not recall that earlier this year former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline faced an ethics hearing. Kline outright said:
[H]e and his subordinates had the right to deceive other state agencies and didn’t have a duty to immediately correct flawed information provided to a trial judge as they started investigating abortion providers.Kline actually has two ethics hearings to face and the next one is scheduled for July 19th.
So, you see, there is great concern regarding Kansas's ability to keep patient information private.
In Kansas, when it comes to oversight of clinics and doctors and hospitals, there are two separate offices that handle it. The Health Dept. oversees hospitals and surgical centers--of which Planned Parenthood is considered. The state Board of Healing Arts, however, oversees the other two clinics (Aid for Women and Center for Women's Health). The Board is also what licenses doctors.
Well, Gov. Sam Brownback just appointed Rick Macias, an attorney who has been affiliated with Operation Rescue to head the Board.
The Board of Healing Arts has been under fire in recent years for moving slowly to deal with bad doctors. At one point, the board ranked 41st nationally in its discipline of doctors.Operation Rescue's president, Troy Newman, said:
A 2006 audit found that the agency was slow to discipline doctors and didn’t investigate many complaints.
The problem came to a head in 2007 when federal authorities accused a Wichita-area doctor of illegally distributing medications. Fifty-six of his patients died of overdoses. Victims and their families had complained to the state board for years about the doctor, but nothing was done until federal charges were filed.
Burkhart [Julie, president Trust Women] questioned whether Macias could regulate doctors when he defended abortion opponents who protested at clinics.
“We are especially concerned about Mr. Macias’ apparent conflict of interest in regulating health care providers when he has been so involved with those charged with blocking and disrupting clinic access and violating the privacy of patients,” she said.
“Elections have consequences. Deal with it. Now, Sam Brownback gets a chance to appoint who he wants to lead these organizations and staff these committees."Fan-fucking-tastic, eh?