The White House is encouraging people to “be really careful” when using period-tracking apps and making online searches for reproductive care in states with stringent abortion restrictions.
After the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, Jen Klein, director of White House gender policy, advised caution for millions of Americans who use such apps during a press briefing last week
Klein stopped short of saying the White House is outright “directing” people to stop using such apps or executing online searches related to reproductive care.
Thirteen U.S. states have so-called trigger laws that would immediately ban abortion, and more states will ban or restrict abortions in the coming months. According to public-health think tank Guttmacher Institute, 40 million women will be impacted by states’ restrictions on abortion.
As MarketWatch’s Zoe Han reports, women living in states where abortion is restricted are worried that personal data harvested from period-tracking apps could be used as evidence if a woman seeks to terminate a pregnancy after a state’s deadline for legal abortions has passed.
“Delete every digital trace of any menstrual tracking. Please,” Gina Neff, professor of technology and sociology at Oxford University, wrote on Twitter
earlier this week. Neff highlighted that U.S. privacy laws do not necessarily protect data voluntarily uploaded to these apps.
The comments come as President Biden signed an executive order in July that aims to protect some access to abortion for Americans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe.
Biden’s order aims to broaden the ability of women to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services, an Associated Press report indicated.
“This is a moment to restore the rights that have been taken away from us,” Biden said about the order.
Before the court’s recent Roe decision, polling showed a majority of Americans thought that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. According to a January poll from CNN, 69% of Americans wanted to keep Roe intact, while 30% wanted the ruling completely overturned.
Polling on abortion has remained fairly consistent for more than 20 years. Since 1989, between 52% and 66% of U.S. adults have said they want the Roe decision to remain in place, according to polling conducted and compiled by Gallup.