Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith are among members of Congress calling on President Joe Biden to declare a public health emergency after the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights by overturning the landmark decision Deer vs Wade on June 24th.
As Republican officials prepare to implement criminal anti-abortion laws and impose jail terms and hefty fines on providers and individuals who “support and encourage” abortion, pressure is building on the White House and Congress to protect people to empower those seeking abortion — including people traveling abroad who fear prosecution by law enforcement at home.
“If we sound angry and alarmed, it’s because we are,” the senators wrote The New York Times on June 26th. “We both lived in an America where abortion was illegal. A nation where infections and other complications were devastating lives. A nation where unplanned pregnancies derailed careers and livelihoods. A nation where some women took their own lives instead of continuing intolerable pregnancies.”
Declaring a public health emergency will free up “critical resources and powers that states and the federal government can use to meet the surge in demand for reproductive health services,” according to the senators. “The danger is real, and Democrats must face it with the urgency it deserves.”
Senator Warren is also introducing legislation to prevent data brokers from selling or transferring location and health data amid fears that digital footprints — including Google search results, location information, period-tracking apps and other personally identifiable information — are used as evidence of a crime.
Legal analysts and abortion rights advocates have warned that the availability of location data collected from smartphones could be exploited by anti-abortion activists and law enforcement agencies, who rely on subpoenas to obtain data for states’ anti-abortion criminal cases those who have made abortion illegal and those who “encourage” abortion, sometimes with jail terms and large fines.
Last month, Senator joined a group of 13 senators who criticized two data brokers for collecting and selling phone-based location data from people who have traveled to abortion clinics. She was also among the senators who urged Google CEO Sundar Pichai to “stop the unnecessary collection and storage of customer location data to prevent that information from being used by right-wing prosecutors to identify individuals who have performed abortions.”
Another bill — the My Body My Data Act — by Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs would severely limit what sexual health data can be “collected, stored, used, or disclosed” to only what is relevant to an individual use of the product is required.
“Like tens of millions of Americans, I have used period tracking apps to manage my reproductive health,” she said in a statement. “It is unscrupulous that information could be passed to the government or sold to the highest bidder and armed against us.”
Several prosecutors have said so The Independent that they will not prosecute individuals who seek abortion treatment or who perform abortions.
President Biden directed the US Department of Health and Human Services to “protect women’s access to critical reproductive health drugs,” including “essential health care like contraception and medical abortion.”
US Attorney General Merrick Garland has also warned states they cannot ban the abortion drug mifepristone — the most common form of abortion — as Republican lawmakers introduce dozens of proposals that limit the availability of approved prescription drugs to terminate a pregnancy.
A group of Democratic senators, including Senator Warren, has also called on the president to issue executive orders “directing the leaders of all federal agencies to present their plans to protect abortion rights.”