Citing the risk of harassment and assaults, a panel of a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled July 11 that the names and professional license numbers of abortion providers and their staffs are shielded from public release and will not be divulged.
(Crocco v. Pennsylvania Department of Health)
The decision upheld a ruling of the state Office of Open Records, which blocked the Pro-Life Action League from obtaining the licensing information from the state Department of Health under the Right to Know Law.
The Open Records Office was correct, wrote Judge Robert Simpson, in finding the requested information should be protected from pubic release under a personal security exception of the public information law.
Documented instances of harassment including threats, physical attacks, and firebombing of abortion facilities support the ruling, Judge Simpson said. In the past, the personal security exception has only rarely been applied to justify redaction of licensing information, and only in the context of prison settings. However, “given the allegations of significant harm to individuals who provide services to abortion providers in some capacity, application of the security exception is warranted.”
But the ruling stressed that shielding of licensing information is intended to be “rare and limited to the unusual circumstances” of this case.