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Federal protection of reproductive health care data proposed

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(The Center Square) – Federal protection of reproductive health care data from law enforcement probes has been proposed and supported by a North Carolina congresswoman.

The Reproductive Data Privacy and Protection Act would ensure “any data obtained by law enforcement does not involve or pertain to the criminalization of reproductive and sexual health services. The bill protects individuals’ information related to abortion and IVF care, the use or purchase of contraceptives, period tracker apps,” and pregnancy-related conditions, a release says.

IVF is the acronym for in vitro fertilization, a process of fertilization in which an egg is combined with sperm in vitro. Legal liability, in conjunction with abortion law being returned to the states by the June 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade, has prompted proposals and in some cases new law enacted in a number of states across the country.

According to Ballotpedia, through March 29 there are 42 states restricting abortions at specific stages of pregnancy. Thirteen of those restrict at the beginning state of fetal viability, defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade as about seven months or 28 weeks but possibly occurring earlier at up to 24 weeks. Twelve restrict after conception.

“We must protect women and doctors from insidious actors who want to restrict and control abortion access even further through data collection and surveillance,” said U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, D-N.C., a cosponsor of the legislation from Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., alongside Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., Hillary Scholten, D-Mich., and Maxwell Frost, D-Fla.

Ross said if enacted, the federal law would “prevent government and law enforcement entities from collecting data that would be used to prosecute or criminalize women seeking reproductive care.”

Lieu said law enforcement surveillance technology tactics on people visiting abortion clinics, in vitro fertilization clinics, or even purchasing contraceptives at a drugstore is a “blatant invasion of privacy.”

Supporters of the proposal are among the expected and a long list. It includes Planned Parenthood Federation of America; American Civil Liberties Union; Reproductive Freedom for All; Center for Reproductive Rights; National Partnership for Women and Families; National Council of Jewish Women; National Women’s Law Center; League of Women Voters; Catholics for Choice; National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association; URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity; and the Project on Government Oversight.

In Raleigh, during the 2023 long session at the General Assembly, lawmakers passed and enacted by veto override of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper the Care for Women, Children and Families Act. It stops abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions, down from 20 weeks under the old law. There are exceptions through 20 weeks for rape and incest, and through 24 weeks for “life-limiting” fetal anomalies. There is also a medical emergency exception.

North Carolina, with more than 32,000 legal abortions in 2021 before the Supreme Court decision, is among 16 states at 12 weeks or less in its abortion restrictions.

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