The world changed for many people on Friday, June 24, when the Supreme Court rolled back Roe v. Wade† Although the opinion had been leaked two months earlier, the ruling nonetheless dealt a hard blow to millions of women – none more than the hundreds of thousands already considering an abortion.
With the loss of constitutional protection and trigger laws quickly in effect across the country, getting an abortion is now both more complicated and, at least legally, more dangerous. There is already a huge demand for it Plan B Pills that’s so big that CVS and Walmart have started rationing the emergency contraceptive pills.
Several states are already threatening to use the ruling as a springboard, aimed at doctors who perform abortions for prosecution — and some worry that patients could be the next target.
HIPAA laws, which normally protect your medical information, does not apply when it comes to abortion. There is a regulatory exception that requires healthcare providers to share data for law enforcement purposes, such as a court order, subpoena, discovery request, or subpoena. And many apps that women use have bad data privacy, which can be used against them.
“Lawmakers are likely to pressure police and prosecutors to use whatever tracking tools they have to use health care providers, pregnant people, and anyone who helps them access care,” the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) wrote in its book. Report “Pregnancy Panopticon”† “And with all the massive surveillance, countless bystanders will also be targeted, those jailed for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and inaccurate data. This is a bleak prediction for the future, but there are still steps that health care providers, lawmakers and members of the public can take to protect pregnant people from this looming surveillance state, if we act now.
If you are in a state where abortion is no longer legal, here are a few steps you can take to protect your information.
- As you’ve probably heard widely, it’s probably time to remove time-tracking apps. Many sell user data and could potentially put you at risk if authorities decide to prosecute patients. Some, like Euki, promise not to store user information, but that’s still a lot of trust in a company you don’t know. Also send a data deletion request for everything you’ve used before.
- Lock your phone when you travel somewhere like a clinic or a rally. The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends: get a burner that isn’t connected to your normal mobile account, but if that’s not possible, disable advertising IDs and check the permissions of other apps you use to see how much data they collect. Also, consider turning off the “Find My” feature on your Apple device (or any form of location sharing). Better yet, just leave the phone at home as your mobile carrier can still ping or track the phone if it is turned off.
- If you do that buy some medicine or go to a specialist for a reproductive health issue, pay cash. (Also pay cash for the burner phone if you get one.) Anything paid by credit or debit card is traceable. Cash is private as long as the transaction is less than $10,000. (Crypto is not a wise option because it can also be traced by law enforcement.)
- If you do research online to find an abortion provider, but live in a state where they are illegal, your search history will record it. Consider using a VPN and the TOR browser, an open-source browser that anonymizes searches. Incognito modes on standard browsers are not enough, as your ISP may still be able to identify the sites you visit.
- Limit who tells you. This includes your doctor and friends (who may have a different stance on abortion than you think and could tell the authorities). If/When/How, a non-profit organization specializing in reproductive justice, tells The Washington Post that a miscarriage and a self-selected abortion with pills look the same for most health care providers.
These are, of course, far from all-encompassing steps. Paranoia is not an unreasonable approach for those who want to terminate a pregnancy these days when the laws change so quickly. It makes a tough decision a lot harder, but avoiding that oversight can prevent future problems.
“Anti-surveillance protections will never fully replace the reproductive rights that Roe and Casey have protected, but they are the most impactful steps abortion advocates can take,” says STOP.