The anti-choice movement has a long history of attempting to collect personal information of people who work at healthcare facilities that provide abortion care, as well as information on patients. Their tactics include scraping identifying information from state licensure records obtained through right-to-know laws.
Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project just helped thwart an effort to do this in Pennsylvania.
Last summer Jean Crocco, a staff person with the Pro-Life Action League, tried to force the Pennsylvania Department of Health to give her identifying information from abortion providers’ clinic licensure records about their owners, directors, doctors, nurses, and administrators.
The Department of Health partially complied with Crocco’s right-to-know request by providing redacted copies of the records. In response, Crocco and the Pro-Life Action League appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
Earlier this summer, the Women’s Law Project represented a group of abortion providers as “direct interest participants,” and filed a brief and ten declarations laying out the factual basis for our argument that disclosing abortion providers’ names and contact information was tantamount to placing a target on their backs.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruled in Jean Crocco v. Department of Health, denying their request to force the Department of Health to provide the redacted information.
Appeals Officer Magdelene Zeppos issued a ruling which holds that “the names and medical license numbers of medical providers, as well as the names of others affiliated with the abortion facilities, are exempt from disclosure under Section 708(b)(1)(ii) of the Right to Know Law because disclosure of this information is reasonably likely to result in a risk of physical harm to these individuals.”
The ruling discusses the providers’ declarations, which were extremely powerful and detailed a lengthy and chilling history of threats, intimidation, and outright violence against abortion providers.
Anti-abortion harassment and violence has become more intense under the Trump Administration, according to the National Abortion Federation. In 2017, abortion providers reported 62 death threats or threats of harm, a number that has nearly doubled since 2016.
Crocco has the right to appeal to Commonwealth Court within 30 days of this ruling. Stay tuned.
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