NEWS: Online privacy in a post-Roe world

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Repro Health Watch


EXPLAINER: Online Privacy in a Post-Roe World

AP News, August 11, 2022

The case of a Nebraska woman charged with helping her teenage daughter end her pregnancy after investigators obtained Facebook messages between the two has raised fresh concerns about data privacy in the post-Roe world. Since before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Big Tech companies that collect personal details of their users have faced new calls to limit that tracking and surveillance amid fears that law enforcement or vigilantes could use those data troves against people seeking abortions or those who try to help them. Meta, which owns Facebook, said Tuesday it received warrants requesting messages in the Nebraska case from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court decision overriding Roe came down. The warrants, the company added, “did not mention abortion at all,” and court documents at the time showed that police were investigating the “alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant.” However, in early June, the mother and daughter were only charged with a single felony for removing, concealing or abandoning a body, and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting. It wasn’t until about a month later, after investigators reviewed the private Facebook messages, that prosecutors added the felony abortion-related charges against the mother. History has repeatedly demonstrated that whenever people’s personal data is tracked and stored, there’s always a risk that it could be misused or abused. With the Supreme Court’s overruling of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, collected location data, text messages, search histories, emails and seemingly innocuous period and ovulation-tracking apps could be used to prosecute people who seek an abortion – or medical care for a miscarriage – as well as those who assist them. “In the digital age, this decision opens the door to law enforcement and private bounty hunters seeking vast amounts of private data from ordinary Americans,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based digital rights nonprofit.

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A Challenge for Antiabortion States: Doctors Reluctant to Work There

The Washington Post, August 6, 2022

In a few years, Olgert Bardhi’s skills will be in high demand. A first-year resident in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, he’ll be a full-fledged physician by 2025 in a nation facing a shortage of primary care doctors. The trouble for Texas: Because of the state’s strict antiabortion laws, Bardhi’s not sure he will remain there. Although he doesn’t provide abortion care right now, laws limiting the procedure have created confusion and uncertainty over what treatments are legal for miscarriage and keep him from even advising pregnant patients on the option of abortion, he said. Aiding and abetting an abortion in Texas also exposes doctors to civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution […] Bardhi’s uncertainty reflects a broader hesitancy among some doctors and medical students who are reconsidering career prospects in red states where laws governing abortion have changed rapidly since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, according to interviews with health-care professionals and reproductive health advocates. One large medical recruiting firm said it recently had 20 obstetrician-gynecologists turn down positions in red states because of abortion laws. The reluctance extends beyond those interested in providing abortion care, as laws meant to protect a fetus could open doctors up to new liabilities or limit their ability to practice. It remains unclear how thoroughly career decisions being made amid the upheaval and confusion since the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will translate to a lasting geographic shift. But amid a national shortage of reproductive health practitioners, the early evidence indicates that red states have, at minimum, put themselves at a disadvantage in the competition for crucial front-line providers, experts said. One large health-care staffing firm, AMN Healthcare, said clients in states with abortion bans are having greater trouble filling vacancies because some prospective OB/GYN candidates won’t even consider opportunities in states with new or pending abortion bans.

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Indiana Becomes First State to Pass Abortion Ban After Roe v. Wade Reversal

The 19th, August 5, 2022

With the passage of a near-total abortion ban Friday night, Indiana became the first state to pass an abortion restriction after Roe v. Wade, which protected the federal right to abortion, was overturned. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 1, which is set to go into effect September 15, shortly after it passed the Senate. Indiana will join nine other states that have abortion bans starting at conception, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The law has narrow exceptions, including ones for rape and incest that were barely kept intact as the House and Senate bargained over amendments. The legislation makes exceptions for fatal fetal anomalies and when the life of the pregnant person is in danger. For now, abortion is legal up to 22 weeks in Indiana. The House voted 62-38 to pass an amended version of the bill Friday, with nine Republicans voting against the bill. The Senate passed it 28-19 Friday evening, with 10 days remaining in a special session that was convened, in part, to pass abortion restrictions after Roe‘s reversal. The bill split Republican lawmakers as it went through various amendments. Some wanted more restrictive legislation while others felt the ban went too far in preventing access to abortion. Before the full House vote on Friday, Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara, a sponsor of the bill, called on her colleagues to vote yes: “We’ve heard from all sides – a lot of what ifs, many sides, opinions, views and beliefs. But ultimately, this bill provides protections for the unborn. It provides support to Hoosier families, especially moms and babies.” Over the course of two weeks of the special session, nearly 200 members of the public testified in front of both House and Senate members. Legislators heard from students, religious leaders, medical professionals, advocates, parents and legal experts – the majority of whom did not favor the bill, though opinions were divided on whether the bill went far enough or not far enough. The high-profile story of a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio, where abortion is banned after six weeks, and traveled to Indiana to terminate the subsequent pregnancy loomed large over the proceedings with legislators repeatedly referring to her story.

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Sen. Warren Launches Probe Into Abortion Bans’ Impact on Women’s Healthcare

UPI, August 11, 2022

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has opened an investigation into the effects state-level abortion bans are having on women’s access to healthcare in response to reports that the restrictions are negatively affecting women who are seeking medical attention for various reasons. The Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Senate finance subcommittee on healthcare said in a statement announcing the launch of the investigation on Wednesday that she has sent letters to five leading medical organizations asking them for information on how the state-imposed restrictions on abortion care are affecting patients and medical professionals. The five organizations are the American Medical Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Nurses United, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Hospital Association. The investigation was launched amid reports that women have been either denied medical attention or are having their health negatively impacted by abortion bans enforced in Republican-led states after the conservative-leaning Supreme Court late June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized access to abortion nationwide. Among the reports cited by Warren include one concerning a Wisconsin woman who bled for more than 10 days due to an incomplete miscarriage. The report from The Washington Post states emergency room staff didn’t want to remove fetal tissue from the unnamed woman out of fear that providing such care would violate new state-level abortion ban laws. Another report cited by Warren concerns a Texas woman who was denied medical care after her water broke in the 18th week of her pregnancy. The NPR story about Elizabeth Weller states her health was put at risk as she could not receive an abortion in the state because the fetus still had a heartbeat despite the chances of the fetus’ survival being almost zero. […] “These initial reports are a harbinger of the threats faced by millions of women under state-imposed abortion bans and by their providers who took an oath to ‘do no harm,'” Warren wrote in her letters to the medical organizations. “And as more states restrict abortion access, they will only multiply.”

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A Record Number of Abortion Measures Are on the Ballot in 2022

Vox, August 8, 2022

Abortion rights are literally on the ballot in both red and blue states this year following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In early August, Kansas rejected a measure that would have clarified that its state constitution does not establish a right to an abortion; Kentucky is set to weigh a similar measure in November. Voters in California and Vermont will consider ballot measures that would enshrine the right to abortion in their state constitutions (and voters in Michigan are likely to as well). Meanwhile, Montana is considering whether to provide personhood protections to infants born alive after attempted abortions. It’s the highest number of abortion-related ballot measures that have been considered in a single year to date. There have been 47 abortion-related ballot measures since 1970. Here’s a rundown of what states are considering. States voting to codify abortion rights. Vermont and California, both heavily Democratic states that have sought to become abortion safe havens, are voting this November on constitutional amendments to even further secure abortion access. Vermont – which allows abortions at any stage of pregnancy and has already enacted a state law codifying abortion rights – has certified a ballot measure, Proposal 5, that recognizes that the “right to reproductive liberty is central to the exercise of personal autonomy and involves decisions people should be able to make free from compulsion of the State.” It says that codifying that right in the state constitution is “critical to ensuring equal protection and treatment under the law and upholding the right of all people to health, dignity, independence, and freedom.” It’s likely to pass, given that about 70 percent of voters in the state support legal abortion in all or most cases. In California, where abortion is legal up to the point of fetal viability, the state legislature voted on June 27 with overwhelming support in both chambers to put a similar proposal, Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 10, on the ballot. It would “prohibit the state from denying or interfering with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.