Ohio top court mulls Planned Parenthood files

Court Watch Posted on

Ohio Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday that an abortion clinic's medical records on other patients are relevant to a lawsuit brought by parents of a 14-year-old girl who had an abortion without their consent.

Lawyers for the girl's family argued that the information they seek is necessary to prove that Planned Parenthood of Cincinnati had a pattern of violating Ohio's parental consent law and failing to report abuse. The unusual case pits a single plaintiff against the privacy interests of a decade's worth of patients.

Planned Parenthood attorney Daniel Buckley says the clinic has a legal obligation to protect the privacy of its clients' records.

Charles Miller, an attorney for the parents, told the justices the plaintiffs seek only three facts about other minors treated at the clinic: the girl's age, whether she had a sexually transmitted disease, and whether she entered the clinic pregnant. He said about 200 cases a year would be involved.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer questioned how any of those three details would advance the family's case for damages.

"Where's the linkage?" he asked.

The court did not indicate when it would rule.

The case involves a girl who was 14 at the time of her abortion in 2004, when the state's parental consent law had not been completely settled by the courts. She had been impregnated by her 21-year-old youth soccer coach, John Haller.

The family's lawsuit accuses the Planned Parenthood clinic of failing to get parental consent, report suspected abuse or to inform the girl of risks and alternatives. It seeks unspecified damages.

Court records say the girl gave Haller's cell phone number as her father's, and clinic officials thought they had reached the father when they called inquiring about parental consent. Haller was later convicted on seven counts of sexual battery.

An appeals court ruled last year that records on other patients weren't necessary for the family's lawsuit.

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