The June 24 overturn of Roe v. Wade came as startling news for many Americans. In our country’s ever-polarized political climate, the 5-4 decision to scrap the landmark case was monumental on both sides of the political divide. While some protested the decision, others cheered. Much of the debate over Roe v. Wade has been about abortion, but there is more to the case. Although it did protect the right to abortion, the 1973 case is fundamentally about the right to privacy. More specifically, the right to make personal and private decisions about one’s reproductive healthcare without government interference. The overturn of Roe v. Wade is not something to be celebrated because the Supreme Court no longer recognizes privacy as a right. The door has been opened for government overreach into the personal and private lives of all Americans, abortion-rights and anti-abortion alike.
We live a big portion of our lives online. It’s no secret our internet activity is tracked by tech companies for marketing, data-mining and more. In 2011, Facebook was sued for tracking users across other webpages, even after they had logged out of their accounts or deleted their accounts. Tech companies have a staggering amount of information about us. Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Americans’ online activity and data are fair game for the government to use in court. Online messages, search histories, deleted chats, location histories, online banking payments, menstrual cycle tracking apps and more can now be used as proof to prosecute those accused of having an abortion. Regardless of where one stands on the ethics of abortion, it is an extreme government overreach to use someone’s online location history, private chats and internet search history in a court of law.
Individuals who fought to overturn Roe v. Wade neglected to think about the rights other than abortion the case protected. The partisan effort to shoot down Roe was so determined that many didn’t think twice or didn’t care about what the government could do in a post-Roe America. Conservatives who backed the Supreme Court’s decision are remarkably hypocritical considering their ideology glorifies small government and personal freedom. Allowing prosecutors to use internet activity and history to criminalize a private, personal medical decision is a dystopian invasion of privacy.
Using someone’s online activity to prosecute them is not only creepy and invasive but also actively harming Americans. Women who have miscarriages and stillbirths are being accused of having an abortion more and more frequently. People are facing and serving jail time for suffering a devastating loss of a wanted pregnancy. Additionally, prosecuting abortions will lead to an increase in complications during pregnancy and illegal abortions, which will endanger the lives of thousands of women.
On Aug. 17, a U.S. District Judge reinstated a 20-week ban on abortions in North Carolina, with an exception if the mother’s life is at risk. Although the medical procedure is legal, it is restricted. Women can face a felony and up to 10 years in prison for having an illegal abortion. Additionally, there is a 72-hour waiting period on all abortions, and minors must receive written permission from a parent of guardian to receive the procedure. On top of legal restrictions, abortion clinics can be hard to access. The closest abortion clinics to Boone are in Winston-Salem or Asheville. Because abortion is still legal in North Carolina, there will fortunately be fewer cases of using internet activity to prosecute illegal abortions but online data could still be used in courts if there is suspicion of abortion after 20 weeks.
Since the federal government no longer protects privacy, tech companies and Americans alike are taking measures to protect privacy. Google is deleting location and search histories when someone visits or looks up a “sensitive location” like an abortion clinic. Groups are protesting the overturn of Roe v. Wade, including App State students. North Carolinians and the nation are on the side of privacy and autonomy. 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Raising our voices about government overreach in our personal lives is the first step to fighting the Supreme Court decision, one state at a time.