Attorney General Mayes Joins Coalition of 24 States in Support of Stronger Federal Protections for Reproductive Health Data Privacy

PHOENIX—Attorney General Kris Mayes last week joined a coalition of 24 states in a comment letter supporting stronger protections for patients’ reproductive health information. The Biden Administration is considering adding amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, the federal law that governs the disclosure of protected health information (PHI).
"In a post-Roe world, strong protections for patients' health information are critical to ensuring private medical data is not misused or weaponized by anti-abortion extremists," said Attorney General Mayes. "I strongly support the proposed amendments to strengthen HIPAA privacy protections and urge the Biden administration to implement them quickly."
If implemented, the changes would make it illegal to share a patient’s PHI if the PHI is being sought for certain criminal, civil, and administrative investigations and proceedings against a patient in connection with a legal abortion or other reproductive care. This is especially important as the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade spurred many anti-abortion states to enforce draconian restrictions that could lead to criminal or civil penalties for anyone seeking, providing, or assisting with reproductive care.

The coalition welcomed the federal government’s proposed HIPAA amendments and adding that the additional guardrails would help safeguard reproductive health data from being wrongfully accessed and exploited to harm pregnant people or healthcare providers.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, and created a climate of uncertainty and fear among reproductive health care seekers and providers throughout the country. Fifteen states currently have laws in effect prohibiting abortion under all or most circumstances. Everyone involved in assisting, providing, and obtaining such care in those states may be at risk of investigation, civil liability, and criminal prosecution. 
In the letter, the coalition of attorneys general welcomed the proposed HIPAA amendments, which aim to protect against such misuse and weaponization of people’s data.
The amendments would prohibit the use or disclosure of PHI for an investigation into a patient in connection with seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating reproductive healthcare if:

  • The patient seeking reproductive healthcare is in a state where such care is lawful; or
  • The patient is seeking reproductive healthcare that is protected under federal law (for example, by the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act), regardless of the state.

The coalition argues that these provisions are essential to begin creating a more unified privacy landscape for access to reproductive care, and urged the Biden Administration to adopt the provisions speedily. The attorneys general also called for the creation of a nationally available, online platform that provides accurate and clear information on reproductive care and privacy rights, and a public awareness campaign to promote the website.
In filing the letter, Attorneys General Mayes joined the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C.