How The Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling May Impact Privacy

The 1973 Roe v. Wade case saw the Supreme Court rule by a vote of seven to two that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the U.S. constitution. Now millions of women in the U.S. will lose the constitutional right to abortion, after the Supreme Court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision on June 24, 2022, returning the authority to regulate abortion to states.



“Without Roe v. Wade, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion to the fullest extent possible, including 13 states that have “trigger” laws that will be set in motion to ban abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization.”



Democratic governors of several states including California have already announced plans to enshrine abortion rights within their constitutions.



“Many states that restrict access to abortion also are trying to prevent medication abortion. But stopping telehealth providers from mailing pills will be a challenge. Further, because the FDA approved this regimen, states will be contradicting federal law, setting up conflict that may lead to more litigation.”






This legal situation creates confusion for hospitals and health systems, which are working hard to navigate the legal landscape.






Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court said abortion is a protected constitutional right, protected by the right to privacy. Now they’re saying it isn’t.



Experts warn that the Court’s decision is another attack on the American right to privacy.



“While perhaps seemingly unconnected at first glance, the two rights — the right to an abortion, and the right to privacy — are connected in U.S. law. That’s because the right to abortion, according to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, stems from the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.



The due process clause does not explicitly state a right to privacy. However, the Supreme Court has recognized such a right going all the way back to 1891. In Roe v. Wade, the Court decided that this right to privacy extends to control over pregnancy.”






The alarming aspect is that the new rule rejects the concept that the right to privacy includes intimate decisions about how Americans live their lives.



Smartphones, Apps, Google searches, social media – devices know a lot of private things about us. Just think about that giant location data collection. As the Washington Post reported, “all of this data generated is potentially enough to determine with some certainty whether or not a person has had an abortion. And at least some of that data is for sale.”






Privacy experts have raised concerns personal data could be used as evidence that a user sought an abortion. Google said it plans to automatically delete location history when users visit sensitive places like abortion clinics.



And some senators “are calling on HHS to update HIPAA to ensure patients’ health information can’t be shared with law enforcement agencies that are targeting people who may have had an abortion.”





This is a decisive moment. The court’s ruling has done what some experts feared for decades: It has taken away the constitutional right to privacy that protected access to abortion.



Privacy and legal experts already see a dangerous and regressive path ahead. There’s a lot of concern for Americans’ privacy.






Privacy protection is a top priority, as well as healthcare’s commitment to helping patients navigate the changes ahead while continuing to provide safe, high-quality and compassionate healthcare to all patients.





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