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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Americans are buying up rubber ducks ahead of Memorial Day, Nebraskans who want residential solar have a new lifeline, seven community colleges are working to provide students with a better experience, and Mississippi's "Big Muddy" gets restoration help.

Concern Lingers Over Privacy Rule Opposition Regarding Abortion Care

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023   

Civil rights advocates in North Dakota hope the federal government keeps pursuing plans to expand privacy protections for patients seeking out-of-state reproductive care.

Their pleas come amid a controversy over GOP-led opposition in some states. Specifically, Republican attorneys general from 19 states, including North Dakota, want the Health and Human Services Department to stop its pursuit of updating a HIPAA privacy rule. It would shield abortion care records of patients from states now banning the procedure who travel to states considered "safe havens."

Cody Schuler, advocacy manager for the ACLU of North Dakota, said officials should not be pushing to maintain access to such information.

"People have a right to access abortion and gender-affirming care in states where it's legal, even if it's not legal in their state," Schuler asserted. "We need clear legal protections to prevent hostile states from interfering with necessary health care nationwide."

Schuler feels Republican attorneys general want to keep the door open to pursue investigations for such situations. But in a letter issued last month, the GOP officeholders contended there is a false narrative they want to treat pregnant women as criminals, and add the proposed rule interferes with their ability to enforce their own laws.

Meanwhile, Schuler noted it is helpful when places like Minnesota offer protections for out-of-state residents seeking abortions or gender-affirming care. Since the landmark Roe-versus-Wade law was overturned, advocates are highly motivated to enshrine any protections they can out of concern the balance of power could one day shift in "safe haven" states.

"At any point in time, a new attorney general could take office in any of these states," Schuler pointed out. "Legislatures could swing, governors' offices could swing. "

And reproductive rights voices said having a patchwork of different laws is creating confusion and inequalities for patients while prompting physicians to leave states with abortion bans. As for the HIPAA rule, a final decision is expected to be published later this year. It's unclear if opponents will file a lawsuit.


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