We posted to this space a couple of days ago a story first reported in Crain's business journal of Chicago, that John Ashcroft's Department of Justice had subpoenaed the records of women who had received late-term abortions from Northwestern University hospital and from hospitals in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, and that a federal judge had quashed the subpoenas (see below, "If You're Not Feeling the Chill, You're Wearing Way Too Many Clothes").
The New York Times is out this morning with an update about this. While the good judge in Chicago slapped Ashcroft's hands away from those Northwestern University medical records, a Manhattan judge, Richard Conway Casey, is not only upholding the subpoenas as legal. He's also threatening sanctions against Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical Center and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, all in New York City, if they don't comply and turn over the records of hundreds of women. Judge Casey threatened to "even lift a temporary ban he had imposed on the government's new abortion restrictions, if the records were not turned over."
The temporary ban Judge Casey mentioned is the one he imposed last November to block the newly passed Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (which President Bush was all too happy to sign into law). According to the Times, Casey said last week that he was prepared to lift that injunction and possibly clear the way for the government to enforce the law if the records were not produced.
That's an interesting example of "judicial temperament," no? To first decide that a federal law probably violates the Constitution and then threaten to impose that law anyway, as punishment, if some doctors won't violate patient confidentiality to satisfy the anti-abortion zealot occupying the highest chair in the Department of Justice.
For his part, Ashcroft's Justice Department is saying that in its opinion (and I am not making this up) "individuals no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential."
You know, there's a March for Choice in Washington, D.C., on April 25th, and I've just made up my mind that I'm going. It's time to get back in the street, folks. And if others would like to get onto one of three buses going to the event from Boone, North Carolina, you can e-mail your request for a seat directly to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.