May 4, 2022
Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Good morning. Technology has changed almost everything about the way we live in the last five decades. But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the same technology that has made life easier could also be used against the companies who made it possible — and the users who need it. I’m Kate Cox, and it sure has been a week.
The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, 49 years and approximately as many technological eons ago. While the legal precedent still holds as the law of the land, it seems all but certain Roe will not make it to 50. Many states already have laws on the books that will make abortion completely illegal within their borders the second Roe stops existing. But for all the talk of going “back” to a pre-Roe world, tech has completely changed the landscape — and has a huge role to play in what comes next.
Technology makes health care and legal information much easier to access. Fifty years ago, getting access to health care without actually seeing a doctor in person was significantly more challenging than it is today.
But technology can also be weaponized. Tech companies face a legal nightmare if Roe is overturned, because they may be compelled to turn over user data related to obtaining abortions.
We don’t have meaningful federal privacy law, and we’re not going to anytime soon. In a post-Roe world, that leaves mountains of commercial user data wide open for cops who want to track down people trying to secure abortions.
So here we are. The pre- and post–Roe worlds couldn’t be farther apart thanks to technology. While the internet threw open the door to free health care information and resources, that same internet will also be used to surveil people trying to obtain health care. Tech companies might be caught in the crossfire, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
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