Privacy and confidentiality

Protection of privacy and confidentiality are of particular importance in the context of sexual and reproductive health care, especially in the provision of abortion services. ‘Privacy' is sometimes considered an alternative expression to ‘confidentiality’ but legally there is a distinction.

Privacy has a broader conceptual framework that encompasses decisional, physical, and informational privacy. In the health care context, decisional privacy affirms the human right to make health care choices, without the intervention of others or the state, and supports autonomy. Physical privacy affirms the right to allow or deny providers the right to examine or treat, but even if permission is given, it still requires careful protection from unnecessary or embarrassing bodily contact or exposure. Informational privacy underpins the issues of confidentiality.

Confidentiality refers to the duty of providers and others who receive private medical or health information on patients to keep secret or private the information they gain.

The collection below offers support for privacy and confidentiality in abortion law and policy. For specific information and sources on adolescent privacy and confidentiality, see Adolescent Rights.

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