Des Moines, Iowa – An open records request for public documents has been denied by the Iowa Medical Board, which tipped off Planned Parenthood of the Heartland that the request for public records had been made. Planned Parenthood then filed a suit against a medical watchdog group to block the release of the documents.
Operation Rescue was contacted by the Citizen's Information Center located in Boston, Massachusetts, a group that conducts research on the medical industry through public records. They sent OR a copy of a law suit filed against the CIC by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on August 9, 2010, in Polk County, Iowa, asking the court to enjoin the release of public records to the CIC. As of this writing, no court hearing date has been set and no injunction has been issued.
Along with the petition, the CIC sent Operation Rescue a series of emails that clearly show that their public records request was forwarded to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland by an Iowa Board of Medicine staff member.
Operation Rescue has released a copy of the suit filed by Planned Parenthood against the CIC as well as a series of e-mail communications that were provided to the CIC by Amy Van Maanen, Director of Licensure & Administration at the Iowa Board of Medicine. (Links below)
On August 9, 2010, attorney for Planned Parenthood Mike Falkstrom sent an e-mail to Kent Nebel, Director of Legal Affairs for the Iowa Medical Board. Falkstrom stated:
We're filing to enjoin the release of records today. I apologize for the delay, there were scheduling issues with taking affidavits and I was unable to get them until last week. I appreciate your patience.
"That e-mail implies a working relationship and prior communication between Mr. Nebel and the Planned Parenthood attorney concerning the open records request. Why would the IBM work with Planned Parenthood to obstruct a citizen from accessing public records? What is the IBM helping Planned Parenthood to hide?" asked Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
The file in question is the medical license application for Planned Parenthood abortionist Susan Haskell, an osteopath who is involved in the controversial remote-controlled dispensing of abortion drugs known as telemed abortions.
Operation Rescue confirmed with the IBM that medical license applications are in fact public records.
"We have obtained medical license applications from a number of states on our own and the usual procedure is for the medical boards to redact any personal information, such as home addresses and phone numbers. We have never seen a case where access to a medical license application was denied," said Newman.
In a conversation with Operation Rescue on Friday, Kent Nebel indicated that he was required by law to inform Haskell that an open records request had been made for her license application in order to give her the opportunity to obtain an injunction. He cited Iowa Code Section 22.8.
OR was told that this code requires the IBM to give notice to the physicians when public records requests are made, however 'notice' requirement in 22.8.1 is clearly a requirement to notify the records requester that the custodian of records has filed for injunctive relief.
"It is a misreading of the statute to say that the subject of the records must be notified," said Newman.
As for any potential "harm" claim that may come from the release of public records, any private information can be easily redacted, as is the practice in nearly every other state. Medical license applications are public record for reasons of accountability. Under Iowa law, "inconvenience or embarrassment" are not legitimate reasons to deny public records requests or to get an injunction.
"If Haskell doesn't want her applications inspected by the public, which has a legal right to do so, maybe she shouldn't working in the medical field where she knows certain information will be considered open record," said Newman.
"We believe that Mr. Nebel acted improperly by forwarding the CIC open record request to Planned Parenthood and denying the CIC the records that were legally requested. This incident diminishes our confidence that the Board is capable of acting properly on complaints before them involving Planned Parenthood's dangerous telemed abortion pill distribution scheme."
As for the petition itself, Planned Parenthood makes numerous of unfounded assumptions about the CIC that Operation Rescue is told are completely false and border on paranoid hysteria.
"Planned Parenthood has no idea who this private watchdog group is, so they jumped to the unfounded assumption that it is a 'anti-abortion' group bent on engaging in illegal activity. They really have no idea why the CIC even wants the records, so they manufactured some fictional conspiracy. They worry the CIC may use the information to 'slander' Haskell, yet they are doing worse to the CIC by attacking their reputation in this outlandish and completely baseless petition. It is the very definition of hypocrisy," said Newman.
Operation Rescue plans to release additional documents at a later date that we believe shows a protective and apparently improper relationship between the Iowa Attorney General's office and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
"There is evidence that the Iowa Attorney General may be involved in collusion and even corruption to protect Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from accountability to the laws of the State of Iowa," said Newman. "We plan to release that additional documentation soon and allow the public to decide."