How to Protect Yourself? A Guide to Digital Security for Abortion/Health Care Privacy
On June 24, 2022, the U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a nearly 50-year constitutional right to an abortion. While 62% of Americans agree that access to abortions should be legal in almost all or most cases, as of July 7th, 12 states have banned abortion, 5 more are expected to implement severe restrictions, and 11 others have laws — not currently in effect — that would do the same.
As states criminalize abortion, individuals seeking reproductive healthcare will be forced to travel greater distances to receive care and may inadvertently put themselves at risk of prosecution. As abortion seekers navigate finding a clinic and confirming an appointment, the data collected from search queries, email correspondence, text messages, and phone logs could be tracked and used by prosecutors to build a case against them. In 2015 , an Indiana woman was convicted of feticide following the release of text messages that proved she ordered the abortion drugs misoprostol and mifepristone online to terminate her pregnancy.
While the U.S. does not currently have national privacy laws, there are steps that everyone can take today to help protect their data from being used against them. Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC developed the following resource guide on digital security for abortion access and health care privacy.
Please note that the content below represents suggestions for how to protect yourself, but are not legal advice.
1) Phone Calls
If you need to call a healthcare clinic to schedule an appointment or confirm appointment details, consider using a Google Voice number, which is free, or Hushed or Burner, which are paid apps to make the phone call. Whenever possible we recommend using a paid app like Hushed or Burner which have better privacy policies than Google Voice. By using these apps you will prevent a record of your phone call from being shared with your phone company, which could be subpoenaed by a prosecutor.
2) Messaging Apps
When communicating with a healthcare provider or loved ones about an upcoming appointment, use end-to-end encrypted chats like Signal or WhatsApp to protect your messages from being shared with your phone company. Both Signal and WhatsApp are available in multiple languages, you can confirm which languages are available by checking the settings within each app.
Abortion seekers may also want to consider using a strong passcode on your device and turning on disappearing messages in Signal to prevent other people in your household or those that you are in close contact with from reading your messages.
Setting Strong Passcode on iPhone:
Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Enter Current Passcode > Change Passcode > Enter Current Passcode > Create a new strong passcode
Setting Strong Passcode on Android:
Settings > Lock Screen > Screen Lock Type > Confirm Password > Select Password > Set a new strong passcode
3) Period Trackers
It has been recommended that people delete their period tracking apps as the data stored in these apps could be used to track your period cycle and if you’ve had an abortion. If that is not an option for you, consider switching to a more privacy focused app like Euki to track your reproductive health. Unlike other period tracking apps, Euki does not store your data on the cloud, it is not connected to an email or a cell phone number, and no one aside from you has access to your data.
4) Disable Mobile Ad Id
Your online activity is tied together and tracked using your mobile ad id, this data is shared with advertisers and app makers in order to send you personalized ads. Follow the steps below to turn off your mobile ad id on either an iPhone or an Android.
Turn off Mobile Ad ID on iPhone:
Settings > Privacy > Apple Advertising > Turn on Limit Ad Tracking
Turn off for Android:
Settings > Privacy > Ads > Delete Advertising ID
5) Opt Out of Personalized Ads and Third-Party Cookies
Many companies watch what we do online and keep records of our online movements in order to sell our information to data brokers and advertising firms. While a company may not be able to predict if you are pregnant, it may see what information you have been searching online and begin to target you with ads related to those searches.
To further protect your data and prevent your age, gender, and online behavior from being shared with advertisers, opt out of personalized ads on Google, Facebook, and Instagram and decline third-party cookies from websites.
Opt out of Third-Party Cookies
When possible, decline the cookies’ request to stop advertisers from tracking your online behavior.
6) Turn Off Location Sharing
If you are visiting a clinic for reproductive healthcare, turn off your location to ensure that your location data cannot be tracked. Many apps that request your location work just fine without it, but once your location is shared, there’s no way to delete it.
If you need to use a map to reach the clinic, consider using an alternative to Google Maps like OpenStreet Map or OsmAnd.
Turn off Location Sharing iPhone:
Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Toggle off Location Services
Turn Off Location for Android:
Settings > Location > Toggle Location Services
7) Biometric ID
While traveling to a healthcare clinic, particularly when crossing state lines, consider turning off any biometric unlocking, like face ID or fingerprint, especially if there is a risk of being stopped by law enforcement or having your device seized. Instead of using biometric scanners you should use a password or pin that’s difficult to guess.
Disabling Touch ID & Face ID on iPhone:
Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Enter Passcode > Toggle off Touch ID
Disabling Touch ID on Android:
Settings > Biometrics and Security >Fingerprints > Enter Passcode > Toggle off Fingerprint Unlock
Disabling Touch ID on Android:
Settings > Biometrics and Security > Face Recognition > Enter Passcode > Toggle off Face Unlock
8) Web Browsers
If you are in need of an abortion or reproductive healthcare and need to search online for more information and resources, rather than using Google Chrome as your default browser, use DuckDuckGo or Tor as they are more privacy-focused. Unlike Google, which saves all of your searches on their servers, these search engines were designed with privacy in mind. This is also true for your phone, rather than using Google or Safari, use Firefox Focus.
Whenever possible, make an effort to opt-out of third-party cookies on your browser.
9) Email Communication
If you need to communicate with a healthcare provider via email or if you need to order misoprostol and mifepristone online, create a secondary email address that’s not linked to any existing accounts you may have. Protonmail and Tutanota are free email services that offer privacy protections that more common providers like Gmail do not.
If ordering abortion drugs online, you may want to consider purchasing a P.O Box to have them shipped to rather than having them sent to your primary residence for extra security.
10) Physical Security
On the day of your appointment bring a hat, sunglasses, a hoodie, and a mask to protect your identity in case there are anti-choice protesters at the healthcare clinic. You may also want to check to see if your Planned Parenthood or other abortion provider has clinic escorts available to help you from your car to the building in the case there are protesters outside.
Though the Supreme Court overturned our constitutional right to an abortion, individuals seeking abortions can continue to receive the healthcare that they need in certain states. For more information on the fall of Roe v. Wade, fight for reproductive justice, and its impact on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, please see National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and Advancing Justice — AAJC’s community briefing.
If you or someone you know needs an abortion and needs financial or logistical support, please visit the National Network of Abortion Funds for more information. If you are looking for resources available in Texas, NAPAWF Texas recently launched an abortion guide — available in six languages — with instructions on how to access abortion care, a state listing of clinics, and support funds available.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at advancingjustice-aajc.org