Why is John Ashcroft demanding the confidential medical records of hundreds of women? Abortion rights advocates say the attorney general, a staunch opponent of abortion who sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban it when he was a U.S. senator, is trying to intimidate women. Ashcroft says he's subpoenaing the records because doctors have sued him over the "partial-birth abortion" law Bush signed last year -- and to know if abortion procedures were "medically necessary," the Justice Department has to root through the files, Ashcroft says.
ABC News reports on the latest round of subpoeanas, these for records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., western Pennsylvania and the Kansas/mid-Missouri region. In recent weeks , the Justice Department also subpoenaed medical records from five hospitals in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, stemming from a similar lawsuit against the Justice Department filed by a group of doctors.
Needless to say, women's groups are outraged. "Ashcroft's actions are a sweeping invasion into medical privacy," Elizabeth Toledo, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told ABC. "He has been overzealous in his desire to attack access to legal abortions in this country."