Immediately after the reversal of Roe v. Wade worried women feared data from their period tracking apps could be used to prosecute them for having an abortion. Now women and people with wombs need to consider what to write in chat logs, direct messages and search bars online.
Period apps in a post-Roe world: what you need to know
A report from insider(Opens in a new tab) notes that Pro Publica(Opens in a new tab) found that at least nine online pharmacies that sell abortion drugs — Abortion Ease, BestAbortionPill.com, PrivacyPillRX, PillsOnlineRX, Secure Abortion Pills, AbortionRx, Generic Abortion Pills, Abortion Privacy, and Online Abortion Pill Rx — shared information such as users’ web addresses , relative location and search data with third-party sites such as Google. This type of exchange makes this data accessible in response to law enforcement requests.
But law enforcement requests are nothing new.
insider points to the case of Jessica Burgess(Opens in a new tab), who is accused of helping her daughter have an illegal abortion in her home state of Nebraska. A key piece of evidence in the Burgess case was chat transcripts(Opens in a new tab) provided to law enforcement by Meta discussing abortion drug searches on Facebook. The evidence has been submitted Before The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade up.
Social media companies are often required by law to comply with law enforcement requests for user information. Unlike public user content, which can be viewed by anyone and used in court, private user content such as location, search or message history must be obtained by search warrant. From June 2022,(Opens in a new tab) Meta said it receives more than 200,000 requests for information and honors them about 76% of the time.
In 2022, Google announced it would automatically delete the location history of users who attended abortion clinics. Google said it would “resist claims that are overly broad or otherwise legally objectionable” when it comes to using data as evidence, but as Mashable’s Alex Perry notes, that statement leaves a lot of wiggle room.
But Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, told the story insider that social media is just a “pawn” in the larger law enforcement game of prosecuting women for abortions.
So what can you do to minimize your risk? Know that most of what you say online may used against you in connection with abortion law enforcement in states where abortion is illegal. Talk to people you trust face-to-face rather than over the phone, text, or on social media. In the meantime, here’s how you can donate to abortion funds and reproductive justice networks across the country.