It doesn't matter what you think about abortion
Lack of digital privacy will affect you no matter what
I went to a private school in the South. A lot of the people I grew up with are anti-choice conservatives. When I talk to them about digital privacy and new laws that will affect abortion, they say things like, “Well, that’s certainly not going to affect me.”
They are wrong. Here’s an example as to why—
This is the Indiana state government’s pregnancy app. You can find it in the App Store or Google Play:
If you click on its version history in the App Store, you can see that the app was launched four years ago. It seems innocuous — but the Indiana State Health Department recently deleted a tweet about the app in light of online criticism (including from me).
I somehow failed to grab a screenshot before the tweet was gone, but you can see some of the discussion about it here.
Indiana may be headed for an abortion ban if Roe v Wade is to be overturned.
The way that pregnancy apps, including Indiana’s app, may use your data means that it doesn’t matter what your views on abortion are. If you use an app like this and have a miscarriage, or even a disruption to your menstrual cycle, you could be accused of having had an abortion.
Aggressive ignorance about our reproductive systems, coupled with a growing lack of digital privacy, means that a lot of people simply don’t know how this can work.
You put your information into apps like these, and these apps track you and what’s happening to your body. Coupled with other parts of your digital footprint, you could very well find yourself in front of a DA in the next few years.
“But I can prove I miscarried if I simply miscarried!”
Can you? A lot of women miscarry when they don’t even know they might be pregnant — but an app tracking any fluctuation in their periods will still record a missed or delayed period.
What if there are pictures of you on Instagram participating in a strenuous sporting event that are taken around the same time? And/or a tweet that’s talking about being sad and depressed?
As privacy is eroded — and believe me, Roe v Wade comes down to privacy — there’s going to be nothing stopping states from launching witch hunts, using information that seems absolutely innocent at first glance to bring charges against women whom some zealot DA suspects of having had an abortion.
“She ran a marathon, and was tweeting about feeling depressed. She wanted to lose this baby.”
If you think that’s too dystopian, consider looking at how repressive governments already use digital data against anyone they don’t like. Public health efforts can be utilized to that end as well. Just check out how Covid-19 protocols help repressive states crack down on dissidents.
Any seemingly benign digital tool can become a weapon in the right set of hands.
So here’s what I’m asking you to do:
Don’t argue with me about abortion if you came here to argue. You’re not going to change my mind. I am pro-choice, simply because I believe that what goes on in other women’s wombs is none of my business. In general, if what you’re doing with your body does not affect me — it’s none of my business.
What I want you to do instead of arguing or fretting is to delete your pregnancy/period apps. If your partner or relative or friend has them, talk to them about it. Even if you live in a state that’s not likely to pass any bans — crossing state lines may become fraught should we lose our right to privacy.
Buy a paper calendar and a journal. Pick up a pen. Track your cycle the old-fashioned way for now.
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