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Courts May Use Search History, Texts, and Apps about Abortion to Prosecute Women



By: Andrew Zheng


Since the ruling by the Supreme Court on the Roe v. Wade case on June 24th, privacy experts have advised that more pregnant women could find themselves in circumstances in which their digital data is used against them in court. Events have shown that period trackers, apps, and even one’s search history can be a significant factor in being charged with feticide,

Fisher, a mother of three, had stated that she was clueless about her pregnancy but later admitted knowing she was expecting. After Fisher surrendered her phone, police found that she had searched up how to “buy Misoprostol Abortion Pill” ten days prior. Although it is unknown whether Fisher used the pills, she is assumed to have bought them. Her search history allowed the judge to prosecute her in killing her baby officially.


Digital evidence such as apps has also played a vital role in the case of Purvi Patel, a woman living in Indiana. The judge used texts Patel exchanged with a friend about plans to induce her abortion as evidence to charge her. Prosecutors also used her web history, which showed her opening a webpage entitled “National Abortion Federation: Abortion after Twelve Weeks.” In addition, the police found an email from InternationalDrugMart.com.


According to court records, detectives could buy mifepristone and misoprostol pills from the website without a prescription. Per the Associated Press, Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was released after the judge overturned her conviction. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the state had incorrectly applied the “feticide” law.


Authorities arrested Wydrzyńska after she was reported to the authorities by her partner. The police then confiscated Wydrzyńska’s computer during the investigation. Wydrzyńska previously told The Post that the case had not dissuaded her from activism. “Our safety is actually a matter of solidarity also," said Zuzanna Dziuban, who is part of the Abortion Without Borders network that helps Polish women travel to abortion clinics in Berlin. "Not only for us activists … but also for people who use our help.”



Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/07/03/abortion-data-privacy-prosecution/

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