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Lawmakers Scramble to Reform Digital Privacy After Roe Reversal

Privacy rights need to be protected

Before Roe v. Wade granted women the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, most abortion procedures were kept hidden, even from close family members. Some women destroyed evidence and traveled in the wee hours of the morning to cover their tracks. But with today’s advances in technology, even though it’s never been easier or safer to access abortion at home, keeping it private could turn out to be much harder. The websites and apps that people use every day leave a digital footprint that’s nearly impossible to hide.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on June 24 has directed a spotlight on the question of digital surveillance, as Google searches, location information, period-tracking apps and other personal digital data could be collected and used as evidence of a crime if one seeks to terminate a pregnancy—or helps someone do so—in states where it’s illegal. The prevalence of abortion pills, which allow people to end their pregnancies in their own homes, raises new privacy issues, as most patients must order the pills over the Internet or access a telemedicine appointment to have the medication prescribed.

While some lawmakers have been fighting for this issue for years, legislation that would enshrine safeguards against the collection of personal data by governments and companies for criminal surveillance and corporate profit has stalled. But the urgency has intensified in recent weeks.

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