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Fact Sheet Health Data Sharing and PrivacyLegislation and Legal ChallengesHealth and Health Care

The Limits of HIPAA in Keeping Reproductive Health Records Private

August 2, 2022

Overview

In its recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, the United States Supreme Court held there is no constitutional right to abortion. The dissenters in Dobbs warned of far-reaching state restrictions that may include blocking pregnant individuals from traveling to another state to terminate a pregnancy; prohibiting pregnant individuals from obtaining abortion pills out-of-state; and even criminalizing the provision of information to those seeking out-of-state abortions. With these broad ramifications in mind, the threat of law enforcement gaining access to health records is a growing concern. In this fact sheet, we provide additional guidance on how HIPAA applies to abortion records. We caution that HIPAA includes several provisions permitting disclosure of an individual’s abortion records to law enforcement when specific conditions are met.