Pregnancy Justice submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in response to a proposed rule to strengthen reproductive health care privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Drawing on Pregnancy Justice’s work for over 20 years on cases in which the state has intervened in the medical decision making of a pregnant person or the prosecution of them or their family on the basis of perceived risk of fetal harm, the comment recognizes that the proposed rule is an important step in the right direction for safeguarding reproductive health care privacy.

The disclosure of such information by health care providers to state authorities often leads to the criminalization of pregnant and postpartum people and creates distrust between patients and providers.

The comments urge HHS to modify the proposed rule to reduce the risk of criminalization by including clear protections against disclosures related to pregnancy and substance use as well as narrowing the exception for child abuse reports to ensure perinatal patients aren’t criminalized for acts or omission during pregnancy.