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Planned Parenthood continues fighting Bailey's requests for transgender patient records

The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region & Southwest Missouri clinic on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in the Central West End.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region & Southwest Missouri clinic on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in the Central West End.

Planned Parenthood officials in Missouri say they will not give Attorney General Andrew Bailey the records of its young transgender patients.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri filed a brief on Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court opposing the state’s motion to obtain medical records from Planned Parenthood’s transgender patients.

Bailey “doubled down asking for private patient records, in violation of HIPAA, even going so far as asking for any documents mentioning social media,” said Margot Riphagen, the organization's vice president of external affairs, during a downtown rally. “It's just broad, politically motivated overreach. So we are pushing back against that on behalf of not only our patients, but all Missourians.”

The health care organization’s filing comes after lawyers from the attorney general’s office asked St. Louis Circuit Court to amend a previous ruling that barred the office from obtaining some protected health information from Planned Parenthood’s clinics.

In the April 23 filing, Bailey and other lawyers argued judges are allowed to authorize the disclosure of confidential medical records through a court order and implored Stelzer to amend his decision.

Planned Parenthood, in Friday’s brief, argued that the law allows disclosure of health documents only in limited circumstances and that the court should deny the state’s request to allow the release of records.

Bailey earlier this year requested information about the care Planned Parenthood gave to transgender minors as part of the state’s investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center’s treatment of trans people under 18.

The attorney general launched the investigation into the Washington University Clinic last year after a whistleblower, Jamie Reed, alleged providers were reckless in providing gender-affirming treatments to young patients.

Planned Parenthood sued the attorney general’s office and noted in its lawsuit that it would not produce the documents, since the organization’s clinics were not connected to the Washington University clinic.

Stelzer ruled in April that the attorney general was allowed access to some — but not all — patient records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patients’ health information, wrote Stelzer, and thus patients’ medical records were off the table.

“The court agrees the [investigation and state laws] grant the defendant broad investigative powers, but [do] not grant the defendant the authority to access federally protected documents,” Stelzer wrote in the April 11 decision.

“My team will get to the bottom of how this clandestine network of clinics has subjected children to puberty blockers and irreversible surgery,” Bailey wrote in a statement after the April 11 ruling. “No stone will be left unturned in these investigations.”

Petyr Cruikshanks, a trans patient who attended Friday morning’s rally, said Bailey and other politicians were attacking patient rights to score political clout.

“You know, the attorney general doesn't need to know about my ovary issues or my thyroid or my muscular issues,” he said. “Our medical care shouldn't be political. If our doctors agree that it is something that is needed for our health, we should be able to get it.”

A spokeswoman for Bailey said in all cases regarding transgender patients the office has kept patient information under seal to protect patients' privacy.

“Attorney General Bailey is committed to getting to the bottom of what happened here while still protecting patient privacy,” she said.

Planned Parenthood officials on Friday said they would continue opposing the attorney general’s efforts.

“We are against turning over any patient records,” Riphagen said. “So our intent is to continue this fight to make sure that we don't turn over any patient records at all.”

Riphagen said the organization would fight against releasing documents even if the patient records were stripped of personal information.

“This is a sham investigation,” she said. “And we know that it is politically motivated.”

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.