CHICAGO, August 9, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - A pro-life legal group is threatening to take court action after employees at a Chicago medical examiner’s office refused to provide the autopsy report of a woman who died in an apparent botched abortion at a local Planned Parenthood last month.
Further details on the death of Tonya Reaves, a 24-year-old who died after an abortion at Planned Parenthood’s Loop Health Center in Chicago, have remained hidden after employees at the Chicago Office of the Medical Examiner failed to comply with the Life Legal Defense Foundation‘s request for Reaves’ autopsy report.
The controversial manner of Reaves’ death on July 20 triggered calls for abortion provider regulation in Illinois, one of a handful of states that allow abortion providers to function with little or no oversight. A local report noted that Reaves was bleeding for five and a half hours at the facility on 18 S. Michigan Ave. before she was taken to the hospital, where she died. An ultrasound revealed the source of the bleed as a perforated uterus. Planned Parenthood responded with a statement that the group was “shocked and saddened upon learning of a tragic development at a nearby hospital.”
Attorney Allison K. Aranda, senior staff counsel for the Life Legal Defense Foundation, stated that a formal public records request for Reaves’ autopsy report was made in writing on July 23 by a staff member of Operation Rescue, who received a denial of her request via telephone. The caller, from the medical examiner’s office, informed Operation Rescue that their request was denied, because they did not have family authorization or a subpoena.
Advocates note that Illinois law states that all records in the custody or possession of a public body are presumed to be open to inspection or copying, and does not exempt autopsy reports from compliance. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Guide for Law Enforcement published July 12, 2012, by the Attorney General’s Office specifically states that autopsy reports are public records and should be released. A 2010 Illinois Public Access Counselor review also stated clearly that autopsy reports in the files of the medical examiner are within the provenance of FOIA.
“The medical examiner’s office has no basis to deny my client’s request for the autopsy report involving the deceased Tonya Reaves,” said Aranda, who called for immediate compliance from the medical examiner. Aranda promised legal action if the request remains unmet.
She also noted that the medical examiner is already in violation of Illinois law by virtue of refusing the request without sufficient documented evidence of an applicable exemption.