Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court Decides on Two Abortion Cases

In the first of two abortion cases heard by the Ohio Supreme Court, parents of a 14-year-old girl filed suit against Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, asserting that the clinic failed to properly obtain consent for the procedure and to report suspected sexual abuse. As a part of the suit, the parents demanded access to the medical records and abuse reports of minors who had an abortion at the clinic in the last decade. The court ruled in favor of patient privacy and ordered the records of minors not related to the case to remain secure.

Though this is certainly a case that pertains to abortion, this ruling is clearly based on doctor-patient confidentiality. The parents have the legal right to review their own daughter’s records, but they have no right to review medical documents of other young girls, especially with a matter as personal as abortion. Thankfully, the court’s ruling asserts that the right to privacy shouldn’t be limited to people 18 and older.

The Ohio Supreme Court also ruled on a case involving RU-486, also known as the abortion pill. Their decision upheld state legislation that restricts the use of RU-486 to the FDA-approved label. This law deviates from standard medical practice in that 40-60% of prescriptions are for evidence-based (or off-label) use that reflects more recent studies than those used by the FDA. In the case of the abortion pill, this means that providers are prohibited from providing the medication up to nine weeks of pregnancy or in smaller doses, even though numerous studies have shown this treatments to be safe and effective. Many of these evidence-based uses present significant benefits to patients.

Planned Parenthood rightly argued that this restriction will inhibit women’s reproductive rights. Physicians, not politicians, should be making treatment decisions. There is no justification for treating the abortion pill any differently from other legal medications, other than to place a needless hurdle in front of women and their health care providers.

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