The University of Michigan Health System yesterday refused to
turn over any of obstetrician Timothy Johnson’s abortion
records subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice, saying none
involved the Dilation and Extraction procedure called a
partial-birth abortion by its opponents.

On March 12, Johnson was ordered by Judge Avery Cohen of the
U.S. District Court in Detroit to look through UMHS documents and
surrender to him by yesterday any that were pertinent to the
abortion procedures. Cohen would have sent the documents to Judge
Richard Casey of the U.S. District Court in New York, who would
have determined whether they were relevant to Johnson’s case
against the Justice Department.

Casey is scheduled to hear legal arguments in Johnson’s
lawsuit on Monday. Due to the actions of UMHS, Johnson’s
records will not be available to Justice Department attorneys for
the hearing.

Johnson, along with seven other obstetricians and the National
Abortion Federation, is challenging the constitutionality of the
2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. Opponents of the law argue that it
makes no exception for cases in which a mother’s health or
fertility may be endangered by a pregnancy. Currently, the
legislation only allows exceptions when a pregnancy threatens a
mother’s life.

Anticipating this line of argumentation, the Justice Department
subpoenaed Johnson’s abortion records and those of other
plaintiffs last month. The government said these documents were
needed to establish Johnson’s competence and whether he had
performed D&E.

The actions of UMHS are consistent with Johnson’s earlier
denial that he had performed such procedures within the past three
years. But a UMHS statement released yesterday stated that prior to
Cohen’s March 12 ruling, Johnson was unsure whether he had
performed D&E.

According to the statement, Johnson determined with certainty
after reviewing UMHS records that he had “neither performed
nor supervised” any cases in which a fetus is destroyed after
partial delivery.

UMHS spokeswoman Kallie Michels said there is no way for the
Justice Department to independently determine whether UMHS had any
relevant documents. “As far as UMHS is concerned,” she
said, “it’s all over from our end.”

UMHS lost its battle to block the subpoena when Cohen issued his
ruling March 12. At the time, UMHS claimed a victory because Cohen
allowed Johnson to conceal patient information in any records he
would eventually turn over. Citing state and federal law, UMHS had
argued that the subpoena was invalid because it violated legal
guarantees of patient privacy.

The Justice Department also expressed satisfaction with
Cohen’s ruling and said it did not need patient information
to argue its case.

Last Tuesday, Jack Bernard, Assistant General Counsel for the
University, said the University would dispute all subpoenas that it
did not deem legal. But UMHS stated yesterday that it believes
it’s in full compliance with the subpoena as defined by
Cohen.

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