(WASHINGTON) — As oral arguments begin in a federal appeals court case Wednesday weighing access to the widely-used abortion pill in the United States, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are sounding the alarm about data privacy.
Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from California, said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that restricting the use of mifepristone — a pill used to end pregnancies of less than 10 weeks — could have a greater impact than the Supreme Court’s decision last June that overruled the constitutional right to an abortion.
“This is about people having the ability to make decisions about their own lives and their own families and their own health care without government or politicians getting involved,” Jacobs told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott during an interview.
Jacobs says the issue, fundamentally, is about privacy, and she is concerned that restricting medication-based abortions would force companies to collect personal data. The California congresswoman told ABC News exclusively that she will reintroduce legislation to limit such data collection Wednesday.
“It creates a national standard,” Jacobs said of her My Body, My Data Act, which she first put forward in 2022.
“Companies can only collect and retain what is strictly necessary to provide the service you’re asking them,” Jacobs added.
Women using period-tracking apps could prohibit companies from selling or otherwise sharing such data under Jacob’s proposal. Users could also request that the apps delete personal data, and users would retain the right to sue companies they believe are misusing their data, Jacobs said.
“We know that this data can be very vulnerable, whether you’re searching online for medication abortion for where an abortion clinic could be,” Jacobs said.
While the prospect of Jacobs’ legislation passing the Republican-controlled House is unlikely, the congresswoman hopes this is an issue that will unite both sides of the aisle.
“I think we can all agree and the majority of Americans agree that government should not be using your personal private reproductive health data to prosecute a crime against you,” Jacobs said.
At the same time Jacobs is reintroducing her proposal on the House floor, three federal judges in New Orleans will hear arguments as part of an appeal to a Texas judge’s April decision to strike down the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The judges — all with a track record of opposing abortion rights — will not rule immediately, and their decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court, which would make a final ruling.
In the meantime, mifepristone and its companion drug, misoprostol, remain available nationwide.
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