Dobbs ruling is a call to action on abortion rights in CT

It’s been a month since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Many lamented that this ruling had turned the clock back to 1973, but it has become clear that the reality is actually worse than that.

Today, data tracking is ubiquitous, and this pervasive digital infrastructure can be weaponized against women and health care providers. In states that criminalize abortion, a woman’s digital history could become evidence. Personal information from health apps, geolocation tags, keyword searches, and phone records could be subpoenaed or sold to third parties.

Tim Gavin

If this seems far-fetched, consider the common practice of data brokers selling this personal information to third parties such as crisis pregnancy centers. These anti-abortion organizations, which outnumber actual abortion clinics three to one in the US, have a history of misleading pregnant women. Specifically, many of these centers use deceptive advertising practices to intercept women seeking abortion care and then use medical misinformation to intimidate and dissuade clients from terminating their pregnancies.

In the wake of Dobbs, the vast amount of sensitive health data collected by crisis pregnancy centers is a particularly troubling threat to privacy. Millions of women who visit crisis pregnancy centers each year provide their identifying information, sexual and reproductive history, test results, pregnancy and/or abortion status. However, because these centers are not medically licensed and do not charge, they are not subject to federal health data privacy laws. In other words, they do not have the same level of patient confidentiality as real medical clinics. And since the mission of these centers is to prevent abortions, they may be willing to cooperate and assist law enforcement monitoring efforts.

The good news is that here in Connecticut we have strong protections for people who have made the very personal decision to end a pregnancy. In May, Connecticut became a legal safe harbor for out-of-state abortion seekers who face prosecution in their home states, allowing them to recover associated legal fees if they sue another state and restricting how plaintiffs can access health records.

Connecticut also happened SB 835 last year, which prohibits misleading advertising from crisis pregnancy centers. Women seeking care in Connecticut will be able to get complete and accurate information about the full range of options available, without crisis pregnancy centers using “misleading or false” techniques aimed at influencing their personal decision.

To further strengthen our protections, Governor Ned Lamont signed a comprehensive consumer data privacy law, which requires companies to openly disclose their privacy and data collection policy and also reduce the amount of data they collect. A national version of this law would protect women from having their personal data, such as that stored on reproductive health apps, from being used by state prosecutors. While we wait for Congress to pass a strong data privacy law at the federal level, other lawmakers may follow Connecticut’s lead and enact similar legislation in their home states.

The recent court decision should be a stunning call to action for all of us who work or aspire to work in state and local government. In Connecticut, we have an outsized role in ensuring and protecting the reproductive rights of Americans and in safeguarding the many rights we enjoy, such as same-sex marriage and contraception, which are also related to the privacy of the data.

Captain Tim Gavin is a Democrat candidate for the State Senate in Connecticut’s 28th District serving the cities of Fairfield, Easton, Newtown and Bethel. Opinions expressed by candidates are intended for voter education and are not endorsements by CT Viewpoints, The Connecticut News Project, or The Connecticut Mirror.

CT Viewpoints gives all candidates for elected office an equal opportunity to comment and will welcome their first-person position statements that meet Connecticut Mirror’s specific requirements found here.

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