Q&A: Privacy concerns in states where abortion is illegal

Aug 19, 2021 | Q&A

My state has made abortion illegal – how does this impact my privacy?

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I come from a state where abortion is illegal, and I’m worried about my legal exposure if I make an intro at EWP.  Can I be excused from introduction?


First, please read our post about introductions in general, but for this special case, the short answer is that nobody can be excused from introduction in our group.  The long answer follows. 

First, a resource: The Digital Defense Fund is an incredibly helpful resource.  They have recommendations for before, during, and after your abortion.  Please start there for these very valid concerns of digital privacy. 

 Regarding Facebook, yes, it’s a problem.  Our group is what they call “secret” on facebook — which means that you are unlikely to be exposed through participation with us.  The most common leaks that bring legal scrutiny are, very unfortunately, close friends and family of the patient.  Your close friends and family won’t see your stories that you share with us unless they also are members of our group, which means they, too, have had an abortion in a medical emergency just as you have.  Nobody participating in FB can tell that you’re in our group unless they are ALSO in our group.  100% of our members have had an abortion or are partnered with someone who has had an abortion and were part of that decision making process.

However, META does have access to this information about you.  And if they ALSO have information about your geographic location, then it is likely that, should META ever be subpoenaed for the members list of our group or for your specific FB activity, anyone who was really scrutinizing you would be able to figure it out just by your being in our group even in the absence of you sharing your story in detail.  Combine this with the timing piece (your records of pregnancy or medical records), and yes, it’s a potential exposure that we can not guarantee to protect against.  Just by existing on Facebook, there is risk. 

 There are other safety concerns, too, which we don’t like to make our members think about too hard, but which requiring everyone to make an intro protects against.  Because of this, there’s no getting around the intro.  However, you do not have to put every detail of your loss (for instance, where you live, where you traveled, or what the year of your loss was) in order to introduce yourself ot the group.  Your peers in the group are a very low-risk exposure as they are in the same boat as you are.  A “secret” FB group like ours is a low-risk exposure AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME, but it may become a greater risk at a later moment in time if some awful DA goes on a witch hunt for every woman who has ever traveled for an abortion.  I can’t promise that won’t happen, but it isn’t what’s happening now. 

If you decide that participation in EWP is too much potential exposure, we completely understand.  You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to stay safe.  Below are some alternate resources which might feel safer in one way or another. 

 One of our mods also leads a general mother-grief group on FB called Through The Fire where you still have to make an intro, but you can present your loss as a miscarriage if you like.  It’s a small and quiet group at the moment of this writing, but it comprises a nice community of women gathered for a variety of specific hardships from hysterectomy to aging out of motherhood to miscarriage to abortion in all sorts of circumstances, including TFMR.  Members are screened for their support across differences and you can be assured that TFMR is welcome and understood in this space.

 The subreddit r/tfmr_support is totally public, but also totally anonymous, and trolls are extremely rare despite the public nature of the space.  With a VPN, posting anonymously to Reddit is likely safer than posting to Facebook.  Do get that VPN, though!  Otherwise, depending on where you live, that IP address number which reddit definitely has access to may be as good as your ID, and if we’re protecting against subpoenas in the future, we want to make it hard to figure out who you are through anonymous posts, even with the data behind the scenes.  You can set your VPN to a state where abortion is legal or to another country or to your governor’s neighborhood just to mess with him or wherever you like.

 Postpartum Support International offers video meetups that come recommended by some of our members.

Then there are resources like podcasts, books, and blogs which don’t require you to participate or share anything at all.

If you decide to protect your privacy from FB at the maximum level, being in EWP’s FB support group won’t be compatible with that level of privacy.  But if you decide that you can tolerate the risk as it is, then make your intro in as much or as little detail as you prefer and we will welcome you in.  You are worthy of support that feels safe to your legal situation and nervous system. 

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