How a Digital Abortion Footprint Could Lead to Criminal Charges—And What Congress Can Do About It


Professor Bennett Capers was quoted in a Time article discussing the effects that an overturned Roe v. Wade may have on the digital footprints of women.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned—as a draft of a Supreme Court opinion signaled it might be— soon having or helping procure an abortion could become a crime in some states. And that means individuals’ personal internet data could be collected and used against them if they seek or facilitate a pregnancy termination.

In states that not only outlaw but criminalize abortion—a move that Louisiana is considering adopting after a final decision from the Supreme Court—a pregnant woman’s digital search of abortion-inducing medication, online purchase of pregnancy tests, or email request for financial support to a pro-abortion resource group could be deployed against her in criminal proceedings. In states that criminalize assisting in abortions, data revealing frequent trips to a reproductive health clinic could also be used. “Everything we do is traceable,” says Bennett Capers, a visiting criminal law professor at Yale University and full professor at Fordham’s law school. “Once getting an abortion is illegal, then attempting to get an abortion is also illegal.”

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