Operation Rescue: The City of St. Louis, Missouri, has refused to release 911 records related to incidents at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in compliance with the state’s Sunshine Laws even though it has previously complied with similar open records requests. The St. Louis Planned Parenthood is the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri.
Operation Rescue received reports that two medical emergencies occurred at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood on August 21 and September 10, 2013. As a matter of routine, an Operation Rescue staff member, Deborah Myers, made an open records request for 911 records related to the August 21st incident.
In a letter dated September 20, 2013, Patricia L. Wendling, an assistant city attorney, denied the open record request citing HIPAA laws that protect patient privacy. Wendling noted that records that were responsive to Operation Rescue’s request “could not be de-identified.” [Read the letter]
However, Operation Rescue has previously received 911 records from the City of St. Louis related to previous medical emergencies at Planned Parenthood, most recently in December, 2012.
“Wendling’s argument that the otherwise-public records are protected by HIPAA is spurious at best. HIPAA hasn’t changed since last December, so if it was legal to release the records to us then, it should be legal to release them now,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “It really looks like St. Louis is trying to cover up for Planned Parenthood through an abuse of their authority.”
A similar open records request for 911 records placed in January by a St. Louis resident Patricia Cornell was also denied. That request asked for records related to five incidents involving ambulances at Planned Parenthood on February 11, 2011; November 21, December 1, December 26, 2012; and January 19, 2013.
The December 26, 2012, incident is of particular note. Operation Rescue requested and received 911 records related to the December 26, 2012, incident that were denied to Cornell using the excuses of HIPAA and the inability to “de-identify” the records. That incident involved a woman that had fainted and was “not alert” by the time Planned Parenthood called 911. The patient’s identity was not revealed in the released records.
Mary Maschmeier of Defenders of the Unborn has told Operation Rescue that her organization has documented 19 medical emergencies at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood abortion clinic between 2009 and early 2013. Since then, Operation Rescue has documented three additional incidents, bringing the total of known medical emergencies at this single Planned Parenthood abortion clinic to 22.
Maschmeier noted that complaints were filed with the Medical Board and other agencies after each incident, by no action has ever been taken.
“There is something very wrong at the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis and people have a right to know that for their own protection. Denying access to these traditionally public records literally puts women’s lives at risk,” said Newman. “With the medical board looking the other way, 911 records may be the only way to uncover the facts, bring abortion abusers to justice, and stop the carnage at this particularly dangerous abortion mill.”
While Operation Rescue expects patient identifying information to be expunged, the rest of the 911 information serves the public interest because it documents the dangers that exist at a particular abortion facility.
Operation Rescue has received abortion-related 911 records from dozens of cities, which acknowledge that HIPAA cannot be legally applied. While most cities redact some information, others redact no information at all.
“Based on information we have obtained through open record requests, we have lodged complaints with medical boards and health departments, whose investigations have subsequently resulted in the discovery of serious violations. Covering up for abortion abuses only further increases the risk that a woman will be seriously injured or killed at shoddy abortion mills that flout the law and the standard of care. For that reason, we continue to demand the release of public records for 911 incidents at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood.”
Please contact St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay and ask that he order the release 911 records originating from Planned Parenthood in compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Law and for the public good. (We will accept redaction of patient identifying information only.)