Missouri GOP Threatens Jail If Planned Parenthood Fails to Turn Over Patient Records

It never fails to amaze that Republicans in the employ of the religious right cannot resist wasting taxpayer money in the pursuit of the anti-women’s activists favorite target; Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive health. It has been over 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled that women are not religious slaves and can make the personal choice to terminate a pregnancy without being prosecuted by Republican bible-thumpers.

Now because Missouri Republicans are prohibited from punishing women who have opted to decide when they give birth, they are actively pursuing a couple of Planned Parenthood officials and threatening to punish them with jail. The Missouri state legislature has issued subpoenas and “demands for the confidential patient information and signed consent forms of every woman who opted for an abortion in Missouri over the past six years.

In fact, the very real religious Republican threat is holding two Planned Parenthood officials in contempt for not turning over the federally-protected patient information. Their intent is to send them to jail if they dare to adhere to federal and state “patient confidentiality and privacy laws.”

This all started last November as a result of fabricated videos released in the summer that Missouri officials have already investigated and found to be completely bogus. In fact, Missouri was one of the six religious Republican states to investigate Planned Parenthood only to discover that the organization did nothing wrong.

Still, Missouri religious Republicans are following the lead of Congressional religious Republicans in admitting in one breath that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong, but looking desperately for someone to punish by demanding personal information. It is a uniquely American religious thing that no-one talks about; punishing American citizens for failing to comply with a religious edict in a secular nation. And to facilitate their lust to inflict punishment on someone from Planned Parenthood, they are demanding not only all patient medical records, they are demanding that the organization’s president testify before a House committee. It is another Republican investigation into Planned Parenthood that anti-women’s rights activists claim illegally “profited from selling dead baby parts to be used in fetal tissue research;” despite Missouri’s top lawmaker already investigating and clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

The official report from the Missouri attorney general’s office said, “As a result of our investigation, the Office of the Missouri Attorney General has found no evidence that Planned Parenthood has engaged in any unlawful disposal of fetal organs and tissue.” Then why are Missouri Republicans demanding six years’ worth of confidential patient records when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood?

The answer should be glaringly apparent; to violate women’s medical privacy, boost the already spiking violence against women’s health clinics, and “expose tens-of-thousands of women to harassment and intimidation by anti-choice religious extremists.” As noted by women’s advocacy group NARAL,  as they have in the past “these anti-choice Republicans want to provide the extremists with a (literal) road map to virtually every woman in the state who’s exercised her constitutionally protected right to choose over the past six years.”

The Planned Parenthood officials can hardly comply with the demand for medical records and signed consent forms without violating federal HIPPAA and Missouri HIPPAA medical privacy laws; a violation that can earn jail time for each instance of revealing a patient’s confidential medical records, and Missouri Republicans know it is a violation. The state privacy law was passed about 10 years ago.

It appears that one way or the other, religious Republicans are Hell-bent on sending someone from Planned Parenthood to jail; either for not complying with a Senate subpoena or for complying with the Senate’s subpoena that will violate federal and state patient confidentially laws. The thousands of Missouri women whose records will be revealed will be punished by religious extremists; something the religious Republicans are well aware.

Several Republican states have already investigated Planned Parenthood over the heavily-edited “sting” videos and they have all found no evidence of wrongdoing. But what is going on in Missouri is the first known instance of a Republican state legislature threatening to send a Planned Parenthood official to jail even though the state already deemed that Planned Parenthood was not in violation of anything other than existing to provide women with reproductive healthcare.

Missouri Republican Senator Kurt Schaefer who has led a ferocious attempt to defund Planned Parenthood said that the religious resolution is about “keeping the integrity of the process.” He said the Senate needs to know what kind of confidential patient information Planned Parenthood is refusing to expose and that if it is not exposed someone from Planned Parenthood is getting punished and going to jail.

What the religious resolution really “shows is the length that Republicans in Missouri will go to punish women for seeking health care” according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards. Ms. Richards continued that, “People in Missouri and across the country won’t go back to being treated like criminals, and health care providers should not be punished for protecting their patients’ confidentiality and defending the ability of individuals to make their own health care decisions.”

Religious Republicans disagree with everything Cecile Richards said and despite the Constitution, Supreme Court decision, federal and state HIPPAA privacy laws, and Missouri’s own investigations, somebody affiliated with Planned Parenthood has to go to jail. And, thousands of Missouri women are going to be exposed to harassment and intimidation by religious extremists just to satisfy Republicans who have to inflict punishment on women for daring to make their own constitutionally-protected reproductive health decisions.