United leak State Supreme Court Draft Opinion published by Politico on Monday and shortly after confirmation by Chief Justice John Roberts is a strong signal that the court will set aside the 1973 reproductive rights case. Rowe vs. Wade. There was already access to abortion dramatically stripped down in many US states, but the court’s ruling will turn back the clock nearly 50 years, restoring historic abortion bans in some states and paving the way for new “trigger laws” to go into effect.
This seismic shift has not yet arrived. The leaked draft opinion is just a draft and perhaps the judges will go in a different direction. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its official ruling in June. Currently, people across the country continue to push for legal, albeit often limited, abortions. However, the leak raises important questions about what criminalization of abortion might look like across states, how far it could spread, and what people can do to protect themselves and minimize their digital footprint as they inevitably continue to seek medical intervention.
Critical Component Rowe vs. Wade lies in its definition that “the right to privacy … is broad enough to cover a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy.” But comprehensive digital privacy is difficult to achieve in an era of widespread user tracking, location tracking, and corporate data storage.
Organizations such as Digital Defense Fund and Electronic Frontier Foundation offer detailed guides on the steps you can take to protect your digital privacy when looking for and searching for an abortion or related services. As for the possible dismantling CaviarHowever, it remains to be seen how far criminalization will go in different states and exactly what the landscape will look like. Meanwhile, reproductive health researchers and experts point out that understanding a few basic concepts can go a long way.
Before diving into the research and logistics associated with abortion, consider how public this or that communication channel is. Using a social network where most posts can be viewed by anyone, or posting in a group with a large number of members (such as a large Facebook group or Telegram channel) carries the risk that your posts may be detected or disclosed.
“If you know you’re doing something risky, just be careful how you talk about it online, or don’t talk about it online at all,” says Kat Green, managing director of Abortion Access. Front. “And if you can avoid explicit statements about what you are asking for and what you are talking about…[it’s] It’s best not to text someone insecure and ask, “How do I get abortion pills?”
Abortion access advocates everywhere recommend talking about anything that could be risky on an end-to-end encrypted messaging app like Signal with the fading/auto-delete feature turned on so that your messages don’t get stuck on your device or that the person you’re with talking. Apps like Signal also offer end-to-end encrypted calls and even video chat to keep your calls from being snooped on (and your calls and text logs aren’t stored on your phone company’s records).
While it may be increasingly important for people in the US to consciously consider what they post when it comes to abortions of their own or loved ones, Hayley McMahon, an independent public health researcher who studies abortion affordability, notes that the purpose of this advice is not to deter speech, but to keep people safe.
“I never want to tell someone that they shouldn’t talk about their experience or that they can’t talk about their experience, because storytelling about abortion is so powerful,” McMahon says. “But I think that people need all the information and understanding of the risks, and then they can choose what and where to say.”
The researchers also emphasize that people in the US need to know and feel secure about their rights when it comes to interacting with law enforcement. If you are being questioned by the police, you can simply say, “I am exercising my right to remain silent and would like to speak to a lawyer.” Resources such as Legal Reproduction Support Service can help connect you to specific legal advice. Also, lock your devices with a secure unique PIN, keep them locked, and just ask a lawyer if a cop tries to force you unlock your device.
McMahon also adds that in very rare cases, complications with medical abortion, people should not feel pressured to report treatment to doctors in the emergency room or other healthcare facilities. Just saying “I think I’m having a miscarriage” is enough.
“People need to understand that it’s impossible to tell a miscarriage from a medical abortion,” says McMahon. “Medicated abortion just causes a miscarriage. And, of course, we usually want everyone to disclose their medical history to their doctor, but in this case, the treatment is the same, so nothing is lost by not disclosing this information.”
Use of a search engine that does not track potentially sensitive user data, such as DuckDuckGo, and browser extensions that block web trackers, such as EFF. Privacy Badger, are all the steps you can take to significantly reduce the amount of your browsing data that ends up in the hands of technology companies. And consider, if possible, analog options for recording and storing reproductive information, such as a notepad or paper calendar where you record the details of your menstrual cycle.
One of the most pernicious and difficult aspects of trying to rein in your personal data when you are seeking or seeking an abortion is the question of how to reduce your location data collection. Always disable location services for as many apps as possible.iOS and android both do it relatively easily now. And if you’re traveling to have an abortion, you can leave your phone at home or keep it in a Faraday bag for as much of the trip as possible.
“Many of the data collection activities that you have done in the past already exist,” says Andrea Downing, founder of the nonprofit Light Collective and a security and privacy researcher specializing in patient groups and social media. “You can remove apps from here and there, turn off location services, stop using the fertility app, and these are all great moves. But it’s also reasonable if people can’t remember everything all the time. Patients are receptive and vulnerable online and we need to focus on protecting them.”
McMahon, an independent public health researcher, shares this sentiment, noting that any small steps an individual can take to protect their data are positive and should be welcomed.
“I want to emphasize that it’s definitely not anyone’s fault if they forget to do any of this and then get prosecuted,” she says. “People may think that they have made a mistake if they turn to others for help, but no! You have done a normal human thing and the system is criminalizing you.”
While digital privacy issues are extremely important for people seeking abortion, they affect every marginalized and disenfranchised group. And, as Downing of the Light Collective points out, they eventually affect everyone.
Rowe vs Wade as far as privacy is concerned, that has always been the main thing behind this case,” she says. “So even if you don’t want to have an abortion, you need to think about how your rights can be exercised in the future.”
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