HHS Issues Guidance to Protect Patient Privacy

In response to the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights has issued new guidance regarding privacy protections for patients seeking reproductive health care, as well as their providers.

The guidance is not a result of new regulations but clarifies existing privacy protections. The guidance:

  • addresses how federal law and regulations protect individuals’ protected health information relating to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care – making it clear that providers are not required to disclose private medical information to third parties; and
  • addresses the extent to which private medical information is protected on personal cell phones and tablets and provides tips for protecting individuals’ privacy when using period trackers and other health information apps.

The guidance explains that disclosures for purposes not related to health care, such as disclosures to law enforcement officials, are permitted only in narrow circumstances tailored to protect the individual’s privacy and support their access to health care, including abortion care. Helpful examples are provided. The guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule and Disclosures of Information Relating to Reproductive Health Care may be found at:


OCR has also issued guidance for individuals about protecting the privacy and security of their health information when using their personal cell phone or tablet. The guidance explains that, in most cases, the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules do not protect the privacy or security of individuals’ health information when they access or store the information on personal cell phones or tablets. Advice is provided for keeping health and location information private. The guidance on Protecting the Privacy and Security of your Health Information When Using Your Personal Cell Phone or Tablet may be found at:


For more HHS information on reproductive rights, visit: