Nebraska mother, Jessica Burgess (41) and her teenage daughter Celeste Burgess (17) face criminal charges after information about the teenager’s abortion was leaked by Facebook’s parent company Meta to the police through a search warrant.
The Norfolk Police Department received a tip claiming that Celeste miscarried and buried the fetus with her mother’s help.
The police had search warrants to get their hands on her medical records, which proved that she was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. The mother had gotten abortion pills for her daughter.
On top of that, Jessica was charged with two additional felonies: performing or attempting an abortion on pregnancy at more than 20 weeks and performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor. Nebraska law prohibits abortion after 20 weeks.
Supposedly, when the police interviewed Celeste, she claimed she had unexpectedly birthed her stillborn baby in the shower. This prompted her to put the baby’s body in a bag and bury it with the help of a third party, an unidentified man who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour.
The police assumed that she had lied and that’s why they got the warrant for her Facebook messages, showing that her mother talked her through a self-induced abortion. In this case, Celeste is being tried as an adult. Both mother and daughter pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Facebook defended itself by stating that the warrants they got from the criminal investigation pertained to the case of a stillborn baby being burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.
Ironic, given how earlier this year, Meta announced it would offer reimbursements to employees who had to travel out of state to seek reproductive care after the Roe v. Wade turnover.
This case is notorious because it is the first known instance of a person’s Facebook messages being used as proof to incriminate them in a state where abortion is restricted.
Others mentioned how it’s time to start using Signal with timed messages and raised concerns on the usage of period trackers as their data could be requested as well.
Social media users have reacted with horror at the situation, mentioning how technically nobody is safe now and everyone’s privacy is at risk. Two women might lose their freedom due to the conflict regarding reproductive rights and an invasion of privacy.
There’s an emphasis that communication needs to be end-to-end encrypted, and the end user should also be using Signal or end-to-end encryption software.
“Right now, and I mean this instant, delete every digital trace of any menstrual tracking.” This was tweeted by Gina Neff, a professor of technology and society at the University of Oxford, in light of the recent decision made to overturn Roe v Wade.
The overturning of Roe v Wade seems to be all the world can talk about. American women have taken this moment to discuss how this ruling will directly affect them, while women around the world empathize and come to wonder if their reproductive rights are next. For context, Roe v Wade was a landmark trial in which the right to an abortion was federally protected, allowing thousands of women to receive an abortion.
Recently, the historic case was overturned completely, leaving many women without options or access to safe abortion. The overturning of the case would result in only a few states being able to legally provide abortion. And, should someone feel the need to seek an abortion in a state where it isn’t legal, their abortion would be deemed a crime, resulting in legal repercussions.
But, how would they go about enforcing these laws? One of the easiest ways to do this is to catch someone in the act or, more tricky, catch someone who is intending to receive an abortion.
According to data analysts, one of the ways in which law enforcement could potentially target abortion seekers where abortion is illegal is through period tracking apps. Like most apps and program period tracking apps are no different in the world of free apps or cheap apps user data is gold. Often many apps notoriously make their money from selling their user’s data or using it to make customized suggestions and advertisements and, in some cases, law enforcement has tapped into people’s cell phones for vital evidence or in some cases subpoenaed user data from some companies in order to solve a case.
Period apps could provide anti-abortion groups and legislatures with all there evidence they need. At their most basic use, period apps track the begging and end of a period user’s menstrual cycle, but many of them offer other features to the users such as tracking sex patterns, predicting pregnancy, and tracking a pregnancy from the beginning of a pregnancy to the end of a pregnancy.
The government’s hand into our cyber lives goes beyond period tracking apps. The use of user data to potentially convict people of seeking an abortion can go beyond looking into apps but essentially all aspects of one’s digital life. According to an article from Cosmo, similar sentiments around Google searches were also raisedin an open letterto the online search engine earlier this year, signed by politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The signees wrote: “We are concerned that… Google’s current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data will allow it to become a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care.”
The letter then goes on to explain, “That’s because Google stores location information about hundreds of millions of smartphone users, which it routinely shares with government agencies… Law enforcement officials routinely obtain court orders forcing Google to turn over its customers’ location information.”
Popular apps like Flo have realized that they are at risk of losing a large chunk of their American clients and have gone on to implement a new feature called anonymous mode which is reminiscent of Google’s incognito mode. This new feature is set to allow users to remove identifiers such as assume, email address and other identifiers from their profile. How would it be? This work? “If Flo were to receive an official request to identify a user by name or email, Anonymous Mode would prevent us from being able to connect data to an individual, meaning we wouldn’t be able to satisfy the request,” Schumacher said in an email to users.
The world has always had a strange relationship with online anonymity and government surveillance. And, the recent overturning of Roe v Wade has proven to be about more than one thing, going on to prompt a conversation into the amount of reach the government has into our lives both online and offline.
If the procedure is life-saving, doctors will perform an abortion despite Roe v. Wade’s overturning
The landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has been a significant setback in women’s fight for health rights, especially considering how this decision set back the movement for nearly fifty years.
Half a century of guaranteed federal constitutional protection of abortion rights evaporated, immediately causing significant distress to women across the United States.
However, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday directing Health and Human Services to ensure and protect abortion access. Federal law will provide legal defence for physicians facing state prosecution when providing abortions in emergencies.
This was stated in a letter written by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to health care providers on Monday.
Should they refuse to provide abortions in these cases, hospitals could risk having their Medicare provider agreement terminated and face financial penalties. Likewise, physicians who refuse to provide abortions in their private practice could be cut from Medicare.
The US president has also directed the HHS to protect access to contraception and guarantee broad access to the abortion pill, mifepristone.
In the aftermath of the decision, abortion clinics in several states were closed, leaving women seeking abortions with little choice other than to travel to other states or countries for alternatives. The ruling could even lead to a complete ban on the procedure of abortion in roughly half of US states. It’ll have severe implications for forty million women of child-bearing age living in states where abortion becomes more difficult to access.
The psychological implications of this decision have been mostly overlooked. Having little to no access to safe abortions will probably correlate with a dwindling sex drive in the affected population.
Physicians are required to provide abortions during cases of medical emergency under federal law and will face penalties should they refuse. However, individual states decide when and whether abortions will remain legal, and many states will continue to allow them, even providing options to assist women who live in states that might restrict abortion.
As per The New York Times and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the states most likely to ban abortion include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The social and political implications of the overturn of Roe v. Wade are highly concerning for the well-being of women across the US. Seeing the federal government take measures to support them is only the first of many steps to be taken in the fight for women’s health rights.
The Overturning of Roe v. Wade Has Created an Uncertain Future for The Constitutional Right to Abortions
Abortion clinics in the United States are closing by the dozen. So, what does the overturning of Roe v, Wade mean for women and what options do American citizens have for abortions after the landmark decision?
After the Roe v. Wade overturn, half of the American states will ban or severely restrict abortion. Roe v. Wade guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights for American women. But, that doesn’t mean that women who need abortions won’t seek them out alone if the state doesn’t assist them.
After the Texas abortion ban in September 2021 women in Texas who wanted abortion began to seek the procedure in other states. As a result, Colorado reported a massive increase in abortions after the abortion ban, serving as a safe space for women seeking abortions throughout the state.
Abortions are also still considered a right in many countries, including neighbouring Canada and Mexico. Mexico is a particularly popular choice for many US women as treatments and travel are often drastically cheaper.
While it might seem that seeking an abortion in a neighbouring, less restrictive state or country would be the simple solution to this problem. However, travel is expensive and so are abortions, an issue particularly pertinent to minorities and lower-income women who now might not be able to afford to travel for abortions. This will further the inequality breach between privileged women and non-privileged women.
Removing abortion as a constitutional right and reproductive health right for women means now more than ever women will have to make choices based on their social positions.
This group of privileged women has little concern regarding the consequences of moving abroad for an abortion. On the other hand, the non-privileged group of women, which might include lower-income, racialized, and vulnerable women, face many threats.
And, most importantly, and rather unfortunately, Roe v. Wade being overturned indicated that the US is under a judicial coup, and its political climate doesn’t seem to be fixing itself anytime soon.