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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Abortion Surveillance After Roe

Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Report, May 24, 2022: “Abortion rights will soon be a thing of the past for millions of Americans. At the time of publication, a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion shows a majority of justices are poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and any federal constitutional right to abortion. But repealing a half century of reproductive rights won’t transport Americans back to 1973, it will take us to a far darker future, one where antiquated abortion laws are enforced with cutting edge technology. Sweeping abortion laws are already on the books in many states, primed to go into effect the moment the Supreme Court’s decision is published. But those sprawling bans won’t enforce themselves. Police, prosecutors, and private anti-abortion litigants will weaponize existing American surveillance infrastructure to target pregnant people and use their health data against them in a court of law. This isn’t speculation—it’s already happening. Abortion opponents surveil pregnant people and abortion providers to chill their reproductive freedoms. Hospitals track pregnant patients with suspicionless drug testing. while police harness surveillance to enforce existing abortion laws. Nearly every aspect of pregnant peoples’ online lives is already targeted—including search histories, online purchases, and messages—while cellphone location data is used to track their movements in physical space. If this is the state of surveillance today, in an America with abortion rights, what surveillance will we see in a post-Roe future? Lawmakers will likely pressure police and prosecutors to use all of the tracking tools they have to target health providers, pregnant people, and anyone helping them to access care. And with all mass surveillance, there will be countless bystanders targeted, too, those who will be jailed because of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and inaccurate data. This is a bleak forecast for the future, but there are still steps that providers, lawmakers, and members of the public can take to protect pregnant people from this looming surveillance state, if only we act now.

Current Analog Surveillance of Pregnant People – For 49 years, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey promised pregnant people significant reproductive autonomy. Although states dramatically expanded abortion access restrictions in the decades since Roe was decided, its core holding—granting pregnant people the right to determine whether to seek abortion prior to viability—remained a key pillar of American constitutional law. However, abortion rights have often been far more limited in practice than they appear on paper. Non-state actors use surveillance as one of many tactics to harass pregnant people and providers, chilling their exercise of reproductive rights. Activists film and publicly identify abortion seekers and medical staff. They map patients’ social networks and contact their families, leading to familial coercion and even violence. They track the license plates of people entering clinics.  One anti-abortion advocate even created a website listing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and photographs of reproductive healthcare providers…labeling each doctor as “working,” “wounded,” or “fatality.” While courts later ruled this website was an unlawful threat, all the other surveillance described was perfectly legal, even in a world where Casey and Roe remained the law of the land. It’s impossible to know just how many pregnant people were intimidated not to pursue abortion care through surveillance, even though it’s their right…”

How DHS Massive Biometrics Database Will Supercharge Surveillance and Threaten Rights

Immigration Defense Project – HART Attack: “The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is building a $6.158 billion-dollar, next-wave biometric database that will vastly expand its surveillance capabilities and supercharge the deportation system. The Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART) will collect, organize, and share invasive data on over 270 million people (including juveniles), with… Continue Reading

The Surveillance State Is Primed for Criminalized Abortion

Wired – “A new report lays out existing US policing capabilities that can easily be repurposed to monitor pregnant people. In the three weeks since a draft opinion leaked from the United States Supreme Court promising to roll back the federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States, reproductive rights activists and privacy advocates… Continue Reading

The Future of Abortions in America – An access map

The Cut and New York have removed their paywall for articles about finding abortion care. Find abortion services near you. How to have a medication abortion. How to protect yourself when seeking an abortion. Don’t trust DIY abortion advice on Tiktok. How to get help for your abortion via mutual aid networks. The crisis pregnancy… Continue Reading

8 Nonfiction Books About Censorship

Book Riot: “If there’s one thing to love about Book Riot, it’s that contributors and editors around here are excellent at covering censorship and book banning attempts. From historical topics like the history of Nazi book burning, to heartwarming attempts to rectify wrongs like the Brooklyn Library offering teens across the U.S. access to banned… Continue Reading

Human Rights, and Algorithmic Opacity

Lu, Sylvia Si-Wei, Data Privacy, Human Rights, and Algorithmic Opacity (May 6, 2022). California Law Review, Vol. 110, 2022 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4004716 “Decades ago, it was difficult to imagine a reality in which artificial intelligence (AI) could penetrate every corner of our lives to monitor our innermost selves for commercial interests. Within a… Continue Reading

Feds Warn Employers Against Discriminatory Hiring Algorithms

Wired: “As companies increasingly involve AI in their hiring processes, advocates, lawyers, and researchers have continued to sound the alarm. Algorithms have been found to automatically assign job candidates different scores based on arbitrary criteria like whether they wear glasses or a headscarf or have a bookshelf in the background. Hiring algorithms can penalize applicants… Continue Reading

The Post-Roe Battleground for Abortion Pills Will Be Your Mailbox

Wired – “If regulation of abortion access falls to the states, it will unleash legal havoc over pregnancy-ending medications that are shipped across state lines. The draft legal opinion leaked from the Supreme Court that promises to overturn the right to abortion in the United States says it will “return that authority to the people… Continue Reading

Why Roe v. Wade must be defended

The Lancet – Editorial | Volume 399, ISSUE 10338, P1845, May 14, 2022. DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00870-4: “Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the… Continue Reading

How the issue of abortion touches Americans personally

Pew Research Center: “Americans report a wide variance in how much thought they have given to the issue of abortion personally. Overall, 36% of adults say that prior to taking the survey, they had given “a lot” of thought to issues around abortion. An identical share say they had given “some” thought to the issue, while… Continue Reading

Confronting Misinformation in the Age of Cheap Speech

LawFare: “In 1995, Eugene Volokh published a law review article in which he predicted that the rapidly growing internet would “dramatically reduce the costs of distributing speech” and that “the new media order that these technologies will bring will be much more democratic and diverse than the environment we see now.” The concept, which Volokh… Continue Reading

ICE ‘now operates as a domestic surveillance agency’

Engadget: “Although it’s supposed to be restricted by surveillance rules at local, state and federal levels, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has built up a mass surveillance system that includes details on almost all US residents, according to a report from a major think tank. Researchers from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology said… Continue Reading