Skip to content

Hirono, Bennet Lead Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Strengthen HIPAA to Protect Patients Seeking Reproductive Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Secure Access for Essential Reproductive (SAFER) Health Act, legislation that would expand patient privacy protections by strengthening the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to prohibit medical providers from disclosing personal health information related to abortion or pregnancy loss without patient consent. The SAFER Health Act, which has been cosponsored by 9 senators, would help address new risks to patient privacy as a result of the Supreme Court’s devastating Dobbs decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion.

“MAGA Republicans in states with abortion bans have made it very clear they want to prosecute women for seeking reproductive health care. One way they plan to do that is by weaponizing patients’ reproductive health information,” said Senator Hirono. “That is why I am proud to introduce the SAFER Health Act—legislation that would strengthen and expand HIPAA to protect women and ensure doctors cannot share personal reproductive health information to a court proceeding without patient consent. If you get an abortion or experience pregnancy loss, you deserve to know that your medical records will remain private, unless you say otherwise—I think that is something we all can agree on. I will continue working to secure access to safe reproductive health care and fighting for women’s rights to control their own bodies.”

“No one should have to worry about being investigated or prosecuted for receiving or providing reproductive health care,” said Senator Bennet. “This legislation will protect the privacy of patients who have had abortions, regardless of where they live or receive care.” 

While HIPAA limits what personal health information can be shared, the current privacy rule allows reproductive health information to be used for legal investigations and court cases without a patient’s consent. The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has created new risks that patients’ reproductive health information could be used to prosecute people seeking reproductive health care.

Specifically, the SAFER Health Act would:

  1. Prohibit HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates from disclosing personal health information related to pregnancy termination or loss in proceedings without a valid authorization from the patient;
  2. Apply to federal, State, local, or Tribal proceedings, including civil, criminal, administrative, or legislative proceedings;
  3. Direct HHS to revise HIPAA and health information technology regulations necessary to enforce the Act; and
  4. Require HHS to conduct a national campaign to educate covered entities and their business associates about the revisions.

In addition to Senators Hirono and Bennet, the bill was cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

The SAFER Health Act has also been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America; NARAL Pro-Choice America; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Physicians for Reproductive Health; Doctors for America; National Partnership for Women and Families; Stanford Health Care; Stanford Medicine Children’s Health; and URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.

A one pager about the bill is available here. The full text of the bill is available here.

A long-time champion for abortion access, Senator Hirono is committed to protecting the fundamental right to abortion care for all. In August, she introduced the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act to protect doctors against Republicans’ non-stop attacks and ensure they can safely provide abortion care in states where it is still legal. She also led a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to make medication abortion more easily accessible. In July, Senator Hirono introduced the Right to Contraception Act, as well as the Expanding Access to Family Planning Actto protect access to critical reproductive health care services, like birth control, and cancer screenings. She also introduced the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, which clarifies that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for abortion services, and would empower impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict a woman’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.