INDIANAPOLIS – Planned Parenthood (search) sued the state of Indiana to stop the seizure of its clients' medical records, saying investigators were on a "fishing expedition," possibly to identify the partners of sexually active 12- and 13-year-olds.
The lawsuit filed in Indianapolis seeks temporary and permanent injunctions barring Attorney General Steve Carter and his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (search) from searching the private records of clients at 40 Planned Parenthood clinics across the state.
Already, the unit has seized records of eight clients from clinics in Bloomington, Franklin and Lafayette, according to Betty Cockrum (search), chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
Allen K. Pope, the director of unit, is seeking the records of 73 other clients at 19 clinics, the lawsuit said. Carter and Pope are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
"This is a clear-cut case of abuse of power. Instead of protecting medical privacy rights, the attorney general is selling them out to his fishing expedition," Cockrum said.
A telephone message left with a spokeswoman for Carter was not immediately returned.
Cockrum and her attorney, Ken Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, said they did not know why the attorney general's office wanted the medical records.
However, Falk noted that Indiana law defines sexual activity with someone 13 or under as molestation, including cases in which the partner also is a minor. State law also requires anyone suspecting abuse to report it to child welfare authorities.
"Our staff is trained to comply with the law," Cockrum said during a news conference at her agency's headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.
Emily Stewart, a policy analyst for the Health Privacy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said she had never before come across a case in which a state had used its Medicaid fraud control unit to seize private medical records. States have operated the units since the 1970s.
Stewart noted that Kansas' attorney general has sought records from abortion clinics as part of an investigation into child rapes and late-term abortions, and the U.S. Justice Department has sought records from abortion providers in its bid to prove partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary.
"It's part of this broader trend of trying to access this type of information," she said.