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Testimony of Kathleen Morrell, MD, MPH

Physicians for Reproductive Health


Department of Consumer Affairs Hearing re: LL17 and Pregnancy Service
Centers
January 12, 2015
I am a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and have been
living and practicing in New York City for nine years. I trained at Albert
Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and completed fellowship
training and a Masters in Public Health at Columbia University. I am the
Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow at Physicians for Reproductive
Health, a doctor-led national advocacy organization that uses evidencebased medicine to promote sound reproductive health policies.
The rules proposed by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)
will help protect my patients from being misled by limited-service
pregnancy centers (LSPCs). Many of my colleagues and I have had
experiences with patients who were given misinformation by LSPCs and
deceived about the care they could receive there. One colleague had a
patient named Susan1 who went to an LSPC in New York City early in her
second trimester, thinking that she could obtain an abortion there. The
staff told Susan that she needed an ultrasound before the procedure,
never disclosing to her that they were not an abortion clinic. Then another
week passed and they told her she needed another ultrasound. They
attributed the delays and multiple tests to uncertainty about how
advanced her pregnancy was. After many weeks, Susan finally made her
way to my colleague, but by then she was well beyond the legal
gestational limit for an abortion. Susan was devastated and furious. The
LSPC had taken advantage of her at her most vulnerable time and now
she was robbed of the ability to make a decision about her situation.
While these new rules will help protect patients like Susan who are
deceived into thinking they are receiving real medical care, there is
another provision of Local Law 17 (LL17) that the DCA has an opportunity
to clarify. Women may turn over confidential information when they visit
an LSPC because they mistakenly believe that they are in a medical
facility that will keep their information safe. The DCA has a duty and an
obligation to ensure that womens personal health information is
protected. This is particularly important for assuring pregnant womens
personal safety. Research has shown that a pregnant woman has a 35
percent greater risk of being a victim of violence than a non-pregnant
woman.2 As a physician, I comply carefully with the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) and I am hyper-vigilant about
protecting my pregnant patients right to confidential care. As stated in
LL17, we must create protections for the private health information
provided by women who might seek services at an LSPC.
1

Patients name has been changed.


National Association of City and County Health Officials. Intimate Partner
Violence among Pregnant and Parenting Women: Local Health Department
Strategies for Assessment, Intervention, and Prevention.
http://www.naccho.org/topics/hpdp/mch/upload/ipv-issue-brief-6-11-08.pdf, June
2008. Accessed January 9, 2015.
2

I dont know how many patients Ive seen who were deceived and
confused before coming to memost dont talk about it out of shame or
embarrassment. I do know that no woman deserves to be misled, as
Susan was, or risk violence because an LSPC has revealed private health
information to her partner or parents. Women in New York City must know
the moment they call or visit what to expect from an LSPC, not after they
find their physical and

emotional health at risk. No one should be allowed to lie to women about the medical
care they will receive.
I want to thank the DCA for proposing rules that require pregnancy service
centers to disclose, clearly and with appropriate signage, whether or not a licensed
medical provider is on staff, and urge the development of additional rules protecting
the confidential health information of consumers that may visit an LSPC.