Information on obtaining a copy of your medical records from the clinic or hospital that performed your abortion.
Why do women want their medical records?
When working on healing from their abortion, some women decide they would like a copy of their medical records. The reasons are varied. They could be:
- To have a record of this procedure for their personal medical records file
- To give to a doctor, in regards to current or future reproductive health issues, or just for their doctor to have a complete record of their medical history.
- To give themselves a way of processing the experience more (by reading the record)
- To get their sonogram picture, if a sonogram was done as part of the pre-procedure work up.
- To have for legal issues, in case there was malpractice or other issues with their procedure.
- To know more about their abortion procedure and any medical details from that day, and consequently to feel more 'in control' of their abortion experience
Some women had a difficult time with their abortion, and felt 'out of control' of the whole experience, like it was 'happening to someone else', or they had so little power that day.
Women have reported that after accessing and reviewing their records, and having a copy to keep, they felt more in 'control' of the experience, and it helped them on their healing journey.
Should you get a copy of your medical records?
That is totally up to you. Some women feel better and more empowered, by getting a copy of their records. Other women prefer to not see their records. It's not necessary for you to have a copy of your records to heal.
What will happen when I ask for my records?
The first issue will be to find out if the clinic still has copies of your record. Every state and clinic has a different time frame for how long they keep medical records. Some only keep records for two years. If your abortion was 7 or more years ago, you may not be able to get a copy of your records. Check with the clinic that did your procedure, ask them how long they keep their medical records for. Secondly, you have to "officially request" a copy. You can either do that in writing, or you can go in person and sign a release form. If you are doing your request in writing, call the clinic and see if they have a standard form, and ask them to send it to you, or find out what information they need provided in the request letter. (Like your name, your social security number, birthdate, ect)
Unfortunately, some clinics can be a little difficult in providing records. They act suspiciously, and probably assume you want to sue them. They may try to talk you out of getting their records, and they may also try to insist that they can only send your records to your doctor, and that your doctor must request them, ect. This is not true!
The Federal Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Privacy Act of 1974 ensures that you have the right to obtain a copy of your own medical records, upon written request. You do not have to provide a reason for why you want your records. You also do not have to have them sent 'only to a doctor's office'.
The recent HIPAA Privacy Act also states that patients have a right to obtain and view copies of their medical records. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 HIPAA states:
Access To Medical Records. Patients generally should be able to see and obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections if they identify errors and mistakes. Health plans, doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other covered entities generally should provide access these records within 30 days and may charge patients for the cost of copying and sending the records.
Here is a sample letter you may use:
To Records Dept.
(Name of Clinic)
(Address of Clinic)
This is an official request for a complete copy of my medical records from your office, to include any original sonogram pictures and diagnostic x-rays from my treatment regarding pregnancy termination. I am requesting a copy of my records under the HIPAA Privacy Act of 1996, the Federal Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, for my personal medical history use.
My name is: (Enter your name when you were treated)
My treatment and/or procedure date was: (enter date and year or approximate date or year)
Please send the information to:
(Your Name and Current Address Here)
(Your Name and date)
and then send it certified mail with a return reciept. (Will cost you about $3.00 or so).
If you are on the phone, and the clinic proves difficult, just stay calm, and keep repeating "I want a copy of my medical records, and the HIPAA Privacy Act of 1996, the Federal Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Privacy Act of 1974 gives me the right to a copy of my own medical records." If they keep dancing around, ask them
"Are you denying me a copy of my medical records?"
If they say "Yes", then ask for a written letter of denial. Most of the time they release them, but just try to hassle you in to changing your mind first.
Health care providers must allow patients (or their representatives) to access and obtain copies of their own medical records. (if you are in California, you may quote California Health and Safety Code §123100). This includes doctors' offices, hospitals, mental health facilities and clinics. Generally the health facility may charge a "reasonable" fee for copying records. If you received care in a federal medical facility, you have a right to obtain your records under the federal Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC §552a. Web access at www.usdoj.gov/foia/privstat.htm).
Most medical offices ask that you make your request in writing. If the health care provider will not release your records, ask for a written letter of denial. Then contact a patients' rights group, the local medical society, the state medical board or an attorney for further assistance. Generally, a request for disclosure may be denied if the health care provider believes the information will be harmful to the patient. In that case, the health care provider is usually required to disclose the record to a physician of the patient's choice. Denial of health records most often occurs with mental health records.
For more information:
A leader in fighting for patients’ privacy rights is the National Coalition for Patient Rights
405 Waltham St., Suite 218
Lexington, MA 02173
Phone: (781) 861-0635
The Web site of the American Health Information Management Association includes a white paper on medical records privacy and other useful information:
Contact AHIMA at 919 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago IL 60611-1683.
Phone: (800) 335-5535.