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Planned Parenthood, Others Told to Turn Over Records to Aid Probe

July 03, 2002|From Associated Press

DES MOINES — A judge has ordered Planned Parenthood and five hospitals to turn over hundreds of pregnancy tests to help police find the mother of a newborn whose body was dumped, then shredded at a recycling center.

Buena Vista County Atty. Phil Havens has argued the tests are not medical records because they can be administered by laypeople.

But the American Civil Liberties Union called last week's District Court ruling an "extreme invasion of privacy." Planned Parenthood officials appealed Monday to the Iowa Supreme Court, saying their files are protected by federal law.

"Basically what these guys are asking for is to walk into our clinic and have carte blanche access to our records. That's so appalling to me," said Sandra Suarez, an attorney for Planned Parenthood.

District Judge Frank Nelson subpoenaed pregnancy test records conducted by the hospitals and Planned Parenthood from August 2001 to May.

The boy's body was found at the recycling center May 30. Investigators have interviewed new mothers, doctors, school officials and human service workers but say they have no suspects and few clues.

Sheriff Chuck Eddy declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to Havens, who did not return a phone call to his office.

"It's not just about pregnancy services but also about the privacy rights that all of us have in our medical records," said Randall Wilson, legal director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union. "If the people who are using those clinics believe they are getting medical care, then they have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Planned Parenthood officials estimated they gave out nearly 1,000 pregnancy tests from August to May. But pregnancy tests are also widely available at drugstores and, so far, there is no indication the baby's mother visited either the clinic or any of the five hospitals.

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