On Wednesday, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee easily pushed through a bill that would allow patients to bring their cellphones into abortion clinics — a measure that would open the doors to allow anti-abortion groups from spamming the phones of pregnant women while they are in the clinic waiting room.
The committee passed the bill by Rep. Beth Mizell, a Republican from Franklinton, by an 11-2 vote. However, if the Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe vs. Wade and the right to legal abortion in the United States, abortion would immediately become illegal in Louisiana, with one exception only if the life of the pregnant person is in danger. With the closure of the state’s three remaining abortion clinics, the bill would no longer be applicable.
Mizell said it was important for patients to have access to a cell phone, as opposed to a landline at a clinic, because some people might prefer to text at the clinic.
But reproductive rights advocates said it would create significant privacy and security concerns for both patients and those working in clinics, exposing them to being targeted by anti-abortion extremists, who sometimes impersonate for patients to enter a clinic.
“People could be dealing with issues of domestic violence, where their location and why they are there could put them at risk if other patients just take pictures or leak someone’s identity,” he said. said reproductive rights lawyer Ellie Schilling. “[This] It’s happened in clinics in Louisiana — just people teasing and acknowledging someone — but it’s putting people at risk.
Abortion clinic staff and patients already face hostility from anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic, especially in Louisiana, where abortion rights are particularly polarized. And thanks to cell phone location tracking services, the threat isn’t just when a person is in a clinic.
Using a practice known as geofencing, anti-abortion groups can send targeted ads to people who have been within a certain radius of an abortion clinic.
“These advertisements appear as advertisements on a variety of websites that the person can view on their phone,” reads one website advertising this type of service. “These kinds of ads can be effective when women are sitting in the abortion center waiting room, because many aren’t fully convinced that abortion is the right choice.”
People understandably have a lot of questions about the future of access to reproductive rights, especially in the South.
Schilling also referenced a Washington Post article published on May 4 that explains how commercial data brokers sell information collected from the phones of people who have visited abortion clinics. This can include where a person visiting a clinic went before and after.
“It’s not just about the risk of harassment or safety issues while people are at the clinic,” she said. “It’s also after they left.”
The Health and Welfare Committee has been mindful that only two of its 18 members are women, Rep. Laurie Schlegel, a Republican from Metairie, and Rep. Pat Moore, a Democrat from Monroe. Only Schlegel was present for the vote, and she and the other committee members joked that she was the “female resident”.
Rep. Larry Bagley, a Stonewall Republican, said, “As a male-dominated group, it’s hard for us to understand what a woman goes through for an abortion.”
Bagley preceded by imagining a hypothesis in which his daughters would want to call him if they ever had to have an abortion. “They’re in their 40s, and they’ll get in my lap now if they’re upset,” he said.
Schlegel voted for the bill allowing patients to bring cellphones into abortion clinics, along with ten of her male colleagues. The Senate advanced Bill 34-3 last month. He is now heading upstairs of the house, where he is likely to pass.
On another Mizell bill to give victims of sexual assault access to certain documents from their forensic examination, Melissa Flournoy, founder of women’s advocacy group 10,000 Women, testified in support . “To all of you super daddy girls, you know your daughters are tough and we have to respect them,” she said.
Bagley replied, “Actually, I can’t speak for all the girls. Mine aren’t tough and they still love dad. And I love them to death.
The committee passed this bill unanimously.