LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel answered "no" Wednesday in a response to two state senators’ request for an opinion on whether the names of abortion providers in state Health Department data are a matter of public record.
Sens. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, and Jason Rapert, R-Conway, sought an attorney general’s opinion on whether two statutes requiring information on abortion providers to be provided to the Health Department create exceptions to disclosure under the state Freedom of Information Act.
"In my opinion, both statutes are sufficiently clear to qualify as exceptions to the FOIA, which means that the Legislature has prohibited the department ‘from publicly disclosing the names of abortion providers as identified in reports to the department,’" McDaniel said in a response prepared by assistant Attorney General Ryan Owsley.
Arkansas Code Annotated 20-16-906 (b) requires the Health Department to make all information collected regarding abortions performed in the state available to the public in printed form and online, but says that "in no case shall the privacy of a patient or doctor be compromised."
ACA 20-16-1108 requires the department to prepare a report reflecting certain statistical information about abortions in Arkansas, but says "none of the information included in the public reports could reasonably lead to the identification of any individual providing or provided information" on abortion procedures under other statutes.
McDaniel noted that because a section of the latter statue relates only to a "public report" of data, one might question whether the underlying data used to generate the report is subject to disclosure under the FOI law. But he said that in his opinion, the underlying data also is exempt.
Rapert, who sponsored legislation that became a state law banning abortions after 12 weeks, and Stubblefield did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.