Planned Parenthood is denouncing prosecutors in Kansas and Indiana for trying to seize patient medical records from clinics, calling the actions a coordinated attempt to intimidate health care providers and patients.
"What we are witnessing today is an alarming and escalating attack on medical privacy across the country," said Karen Pearl, interim president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Politicians with rigid anti-choice agendas are trying to rip apart the covenant that we have as providers with our patients."
Pearl said the latest efforts are part of a trend by politically-motivated, anti-abortion prosecutors who want to scare women away from seeking care that is protected by the Constitution.
The actions in Kansas and Indiana follow an unsuccessful attempt last year by then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena abortion records from several Planned Parenthood affiliates as part of the government's defense of a new law barring certain late-term abortions.
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an ardent abortion opponent, has denied any political motivation. He is demanding two abortion clinics turn over the medical files of about 90 women and girls, saying he needs the material for an investigation into child rape and potentially illegal late-term abortions.
The clinics are fighting Kline's request on privacy grounds and have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to block the subpoenas or restrict their scope.
The records sought the patients' "sexual history, birth control practices, prior medical and personal history, notes from the physical examinations, and a number of other things that the clinics contend are protected by the patient-physician privilege," Kansas Supreme Court spokesman Ron Keiffover told CBS Radio News.
The clinics are offering to provide records with some key information, including names, edited out.
"These women's rights will be sacrificed if this fishing expedition is not halted or narrowed," the clinics said in court papers.
In Indiana, Planned Parenthood sued the state last week 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 records do not cover patients seeking abortions, but other services.
The lawsuit filed in Indianapolis seeks temporary and permanent injunctions barring Attorney General Steve Carter and his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit from searching the private records of clients at 40 Planned Parenthood clinics across the state. Like Kline, Carter says he is investigating reports of sexual abuse against minors.
A spokeswoman for Carter did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Kline, who is attending a conference in Washington this week, planned an afternoon press conference to respond to Planned Parenthood's remarks.
Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said he respects Kline's responsibility to investigate crimes but claimed the clinics already comply with Kansas law, regularly cooperate with law enforcement and report any instances of suspected child abuse.
"We only insist that the attorney general use the least intrusive means possible to conduct his inquisition," Brownlie said at the conference. "It's simply wrong to expect any doctor to turn over medical records of dozens of patients based on the hunch — or I suspect in this case the hope — of the attorney general that he might find evidence of crimes."
Clinics operated by Planned Parenthood offer services that include pregnancy tests, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and abortions.