South Carolina bill outlaws websites that tell how to get an abortion


South Carolina bill outlaws websites that tell how to get an abortion: South Carolina state senators filed legislation shortly after the Supreme Court decision that invalidated the right to abortion in June to make it unlawful to “aid, abet, or plot with someone” to procure an abortion.

More than only abortion is the goal of the measure. Provisions would make it illegal to give advice on how to get an abortion over the phone or the internet. Providing a website or “internet service” that contains information that is “reasonably likely to be utilized for an abortion” and targeted toward pregnant women in the state would also be prohibited under the new law.

In an effort to limit the availability of abortion, the state may use this plan as a forerunner of future restrictions on free speech and expression. A model for anti-abortion legislation, S. 1373, was developed by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in June and is intended to be used by legislators around the country.

A parallel fight is emerging over the future of internet freedoms and privacy in states throughout the country as the fall of Roe v. Wade unleashes a torrent of new legislation — one that experts warn might have a chilling effect on First Amendment-protected speech.

As the head of UC Irvine’s Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, Michelle Goodwin remarked, “These are not going to be one-offs.” “States that have shown antipathy to abortion will see these laws spread like wildfire.”

“Unconstitutional” is how Goodwin described the South Carolina bill. Even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she warned that the courts had “turned a blind eye” to anti-abortion legislation.

Due to the fact that legislative sessions in many conservative states ended before the Supreme Court ruling and will not begin until next year, South Carolina’s bill stands out as an exception in the conservative movement. Tech lobbyists, on the other hand, argue that the business must be proactive and ready to combat legislation imposing communications limits that could have far-reaching effects on companies’ operations.

Chamber of Progress, which receives support from businesses like Google and Facebook, president and CEO Adam Kovacevich said, “Services will be held responsible for providing essential reproductive health care for women” if tech companies stay out of this issue.

Tech corporations may soon find themselves in the heart of a political tug-of-war between red and blue states as they try to navigate a patchwork of state legislation. New data privacy proposals are already being considered by Democrats to preserve reproductive health data and other digital trails that may be used to prosecute those seeking abortions. The same data that has been used to prosecute pregnant women might be preserved and collected by Republican states.

As Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Eric Goldman explained, in many cases, the First Amendment as well as Section 230, a bill that protects internet service providers and tech companies from liability for the posts, photos, and videos that users share on their sites, provide a strong defense for websites and service providers facing lawsuits over hosting information about abortion access.

If someone sends a message regarding how to procure an abortion, they could be held liable for aiding and abetting someone who is breaking the law.

Restricting access to information is an important approach for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), which drafted the model legislation. Jim Bopp, the group’s chief counsel, wrote in a July 4 memo comparing the group’s actions to combatting organized crime that “the full criminal business needs to be dealt with to effectively prevent illegal conduct.”

Bopp told The Washington Post that since the South Carolina measure was unveiled last month, the group has refined its model for states. According to him, prohibitions on websites and internet hosts in the July model bill text would only apply when the information is likely to be used “for an unlawful abortion in this state,” not abortions as a whole, as the South Carolina measure states.

To avoid violating anyone’s First Amendment rights, the group “tried to be extremely careful in vetting this,” he added. Throughout the discussion, he equated the trafficking of fentanyl with the trafficking of abortion-inducing medications.

Abortion-related information could be taken down from websites and businesses due to uncertainty about how the courts would rule on such legislation.

“The uncertainty in the law works to regulators’ advantage,” Goldman explained. “Fear of liability allows them to silence a lot of constitutionally free expression.”

In response to the conservative states, Democrats are expected to introduce new regulations aimed at safeguarding personal information. Lawmakers in the state of California’s Assembly introduced legislation earlier this year to safeguard citizens from requests from other jurisdictions for the disclosure of information that could identify women seeking abortions.

The law was introduced by Bonta’s office because she feared the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. She was approached by the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California with the idea of legislation. A hearing on the measure will take place in August, and Bonta’s staff is already working on revisions to make it stronger in light of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

California won’t stand by and let others exploit our systems to get information in order to harm people who are exercising a basic right here in California since the Supreme Court has decided to strip us of the fundamental freedom to choose what [to do] with our bodies, Bonte said.

“My Body, My Data Act” has been proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives, which would provide expanded protections for reproductive health data. The legislation’s architect, Rep. Sara Jacobs, recently told The Washington Post that she wants states to emulate the bill, despite the slim prospect of it becoming law in a congressionally divided body.

They’re preparing for the post-Dobbs controversies in privacy and technology advocacy. Pro-life groups, academics, civil rights organizations, and privacy advocates have come together for a new task force on reproductive health data protection.

California’s privacy bill has been backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that advocates for the protection of personal information. “Serious difficulties” have been raised by Hayley Tsukayama, a senior legislative activist at EFF and a former reporter for the Washington Post.

When many states resume their legislative calendars early next year, she expects tech corporations and their trade associations to step up their lobbying efforts at the state level.

“The next several years are going to be a crazy journey for IT businesses and everyone interested in digital rights,” she warned.