Supreme Court Abortion Decision Sparks New Privacy Concerns

Health and Gender Policy Brief #140 | By: Alexandra Ellis | August 9, 2022

Header photo taken from: The Houston Chronicle




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Should women worry about data from their period-tracking app being used against them?

Photo taken from: Kaiser Health

Policy Summary

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court released the published opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.19-1392, 597 U.S. ___. In a 6-3 majority opinion, a group of unelected officials stripped people bare of the right to choose whether they will carry a pregnancy to term and left this determination up to the states. 

In the wake of this decision, people who have the capacity to carry a baby to term are increasingly worried about how their personal data will be used against them. People are afraid that their personal cellphone, social media, or purchasing data will be tracked to inform the state or federal government whether or not they are pregnant.

Policy Analysis

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In a post-Roe America, Googling “abortion” could put you at risk. Tips shared online to minimize such include using a burner phone and browsing privately using browsers like Tor and Brave over Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.

Photo taken from: BuzzFeed

Overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, is an assault not just on the right to bodily autonomy, but on privacy itself. The 9th amendment provides, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In overturning Roe v. Wade, people are asking what is actually private anymore?

As the Supreme Court ruling is being questioned, a mass panic has arisen online. People are posting tips on how to contact app companies asking them to delete personal data obtained from the app. 

For example, Houston women are deleting period tracking apps, citing privacy concerns: Many are concerned the personal health data could be obtained as part of an investigation or a lawsuit related to a prohibited abortion, Houston Chronicle ( July 1, 2022) Other conversations of panic center on how data from credit cards, stores, or online shopping will be used against women in ways that might indicate someone was pregnant.

Through this, a conversation has developed concerning the right to privacy to one’s own data – a conversation that has long lingered in the public conscience as online ads become more personal and targeted. Specifically, people are concerned that States with abortion bans will use their period tracking data against them in potential litigation.. Is  that crazy? 

After a century long assault, unelected officials got to decide whether or not someone can bring a pregnancy to term. They did this with little judicial precedent and in truth showed their hands as judicial activists. The now question becomes after Roe v. Wade has been overturned, what does the right to privacy still entail?

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