HomeMany States, Illinois Included, Are Passing Laws to Protect Abortion Related Data

Many States, Illinois Included, Are Passing Laws to Protect Abortion Related Data

Many states, Illinois included, are trying to find legal ways to protect data pertaining to patients who visit a health-care facility to have an abortion and to those who assist them.

Abortion, basically outlawed in 14 states since Roe v. Wade got overturned a year ago

Since the Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to an abortion last year, such a measure to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is outlawed in 14 states, with very few exceptions.

The majority of U.S. adults, including those living in states with the strictest limits on abortion, want it to be legal at least through the initial stages of pregnancy, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds. Although, by 24 weeks of pregnancy, most Americans think their state should generally not allow abortions.

Since more than half of abortions in the United States are now carried out with medication, using two drugs, mifepristone followed by misoprostol, which studies indicate to be safe and effective, the idea is to send pills to people from states where abortion is banned, since most bans punish people who assist with an abortion, not those who take abortion pills.

Legislation protecting telemedicine abortion, already in place in some state

Since data related to sending such medicine over the state borders could get those sending the pills in trouble, legislation to shield telemedicine abortion has been passed in Massachusetts, Colorado, Vermont and Washington. 

In an effort to protect patients needing an abortion and those who help them get one, Washington has adopted a first-of-its-kind state law to safeguards for consumer health data collected by companies from telehealth platforms to period-tracking apps, as well as location records that could reveal visits to abortion clinics and other health-care facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed the legislation into law in April. The measure, known as the My Health My Data Act, was introduced as part of a local legislative effort to protect abortion access after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. A similar Nevada law will take effect next March.

But, as several New York based providers said they planned to send abortion pills to patients in all restrictive states, and a few providers were speaking publicly, New York’s legislation is expected to have a notable impact. 

The New York State Legislature gave final approval on June 20th to legislation that provides legal protection for New York doctors to prescribe and send abortion pills to patients in states that have outlawed abortion.

The measure, along with similar new laws in several other states controlled by Democrats, could significantly expand medication abortion access by allowing more patients in states that restrict abortion to end pregnancies at home, without traveling to states where abortion is legal.

The bill stipulates that New York courts and officials will not cooperate if a state with an abortion ban tries to prosecute, sue or otherwise penalize a New York health care provider who offers abortion via telemedicine to a patient in that state, as long as the provider complies with New York law. 

Big tech companies from California, protected by a new bill since last fall

Companies such as Alphabet Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. have been shielded since last September from turning over user messages or searches to law enforcement in states that ban abortion. On September 27, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill (AB-1242) that, in part, prohibits technology and communications companies headquartered or incorporated in California from providing user data to out-of-state law enforcement or government entities investigating abortions that would be lawful under California law. The new law also prohibits California companies from assisting the out-of-state entities in investigating or enforcing abortion violations. For California corporations, the law acts as a shield against warrants, court orders, subpoenas, or other legal processes from states attempting to enforce abortion laws that conflict with California law..

Illinois is also taking important steps to protect reproductive health rights

On July 27th, Governor JB Pritzker signed SB1909 into law, also known as the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act. This law bars so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” from using misinformation, deceptive practices, or misrepresentation in order to interfere with access to abortion services or emergency contraception. The law allows the Illinois Attorney General to investigate complaints against centers using such tactics and strengthens the AG’s Offices power to prosecute incidences of consumer fraud in such cases. 

“Women need access to comprehensive, fact-based healthcare when making critical decision about their own health—not manipulation or misinformation from politically motivated, non-medical actors,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “By empowering the Attorney General’s office to battle deceptive practices, we’re ensuring

Illinoisans can make their own decisions about their bodies using accurate and safe information.”

The law is effective immediately upon signing.

Governor Pritzker has made access to reproductive healthcare a cornerstone of his administration, promising Illinois to be  “the most progressive state” for abortion rights. Back in 2019,  Illinois, Chicago and Cook County sued the federal government to stop a new rule that further restricted abortions. The Governor signed legislation requiring insurance coverage for abortion and birth control services and lowering costs for Medicaid patients. He has also signed legislation protecting providers from outside litigation for assisting patients traveling out of state and expanded insurance coverage for off-label use for abortion drugs like misoprostol.

Illinois allows abortion until the fetus would be viable, generally considered to be around 24 weeks, and has become a destination for people from neighboring Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin and other places with travel bans for abortions.

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