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Digital Surveillance In the Wake of Dobbs

May 15, 2024

June 24 will mark two years since the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe and held that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t confer a right to abortion. The effects have been devastating – just take a look at this map of abortion laws by state post-Dobbs. As Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) notes, “the obvious perils of stripping away half the country’s right to reproductive healthcare” immediately led to a “flurry of concerns” about digital surveillance and mass data collection.

Those concerns have been confirmed. Privacy risks around abortion have spiraled into severe consequences, from the criminalization of pregnancy to abortion-related prosecutions to targeted harassment. To cite a few examples offered by EFF: in Nebraska, a woman was sentenced to two years in prison for obtaining abortion pills for her daughter, with prosecutors introducing a Facebook Messenger chat log as evidence. Hate groups are increasingly “abusing public records requests and data broker collections to publish personal information” about reproductive healthcare workers. Put simply, people who seek abortions and those who provide them are under relentless attack.

We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation affirm that the digital surveillance of people trying to access their most basic human rights to bodily autonomy and healthcare is unconscionable. We’re thankful for organizations like EFF for publishing clear tips on how to stay safe in this terrifying age of surveillance, and we’re devastated that there’s even a need for circulating such information.

Photo of a camera lens

Photo of a camera lens. The lens is pointing at the viewer. (By Bernard Hermant)

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