Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Feminist Cyberlaw Perspectives Offer a Clear View of the Nature of Digital Privacy Threats from Abortion Bans
Michela Meister & Karen Levy, Digital Security and Reproductive Rights: Lessons for Feminist Cyberlaw,
Feminist Cyberlaw (Meg Leta Jones and Amanda Levendowski, eds.), University of California Press, Forthcoming
Reproductive rights in the United States are under threat, and the threat is growing more serious by the day. The 2022 Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the fundamental right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade, cast into danger the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The rise of digital technologies has exacerbated these threats in multiple ways, and digital threats have a marked impact on abortion access. Threats to reproductive rights are of paramount importance to people interested in the gendered relationship between law and technology. But they also offer a case study in what a feminist viewpoint provides to cyberlaw even beyond abortion. In this chapter, we offer three lessons for feminist cyberlaw in the wake of Dobbs. Feminist perspectives offer a clear-eyed view of the nature of threats to reproductive privacy. They illustrate that privacy threats indeed lead to physical harms and “dead bodies,” if you prioritize looking for them; they show the insufficiency of protecting discrete pieces of particularly sensitive data while continuing to collect massive amounts of other more general data; and they emphasize the entanglements and interdependence of multiple kinds of vulnerabilities, multiple kinds of attacks, and multiple kinds of targets. Recognizing these characteristics shows an appreciation for the complexity of the problem—a first step toward devising adequate solutions to protect the lives and livelihoods of abortion seekers and providers in the post-Dobbs era.