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Hirono aims to protect reproductive health data

LIHU‘E — U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono has reintroduced legislation that would limit reproductive and sexual health data being collected, retained and disclosed to third parties, alleging that online data could be used to target people in states that restrict or ban abortion access.

Hirono introduced the legislation along with Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

According to a statement released on Wednesday by George Flynn, a representative for Hirono, the legislation follows reports showing that “social media companies are collecting and data brokers are selling location data that could be used to identify individuals seeking reproductive health care services.”

The My Body, My Data Act was originally introduced in 2022 after a leaked draft decision revealed the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The landmark decision has given states the power to regulate and restrict abortion access, ending federal constitutional abortion protections.

Following the June 2022 decision, some 24 U.S. states “have banned abortion or are likely to do so,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports abortion rights.

Hirono, a strong abortion rights supporter, believes that people’s digital footprints may be “weaponized against them,” meaning they could be targeted or arrested for seeking abortions in restricted or banned states.

“Along with restricting the reproductive rights of people across the country, the Supreme Court’s disastrous Dobbs decision opened individuals up to the risk of surveillance and prosecution for providing or seeking reproductive care,” said Hirono in a statement.

“Everyone should be able to trust that their personal data is safe and secure. This legislation will help protect people’s privacy and ensure their personal health data can’t be used against them,” said Hirono. “I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the right of all individuals to make decisions about their bodies and their futures.”

The statement linked to a May 2022 Vice article, which said that a location data firm was selling the abortion-related information of Planned Parenthood visitors, as well as a July 2022 Forbes article, which said Facebook “has been targeting users who visited pregnancy center sites.”

The My Body, My Data Act aims to prevent personal reproductive health data from being disclosed or misused by limiting the information that is collected and retained to only what is needed to deliver a product or service.

The act also lists several efforts to address the problem, including increasing personal privacy by protecting data collected by apps, cellphones and search engines, which are not currently covered under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limits how personal information can be diseminated); requiring regulated entities to develop and share a privacy policy outlining how they collect and use personal reproductive health information; additional consumer protections, including the right to access, correct or delete personal health data.

According to the statement, the bill has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) Pro-Choice America, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Privacy Information Center, National Abortion Federation, Catholics for Choice, National Council for Jewish Women, Feminist Majority, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, and Indivisible.

The My Body, My Data Act was co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown, Maria Cantwell, Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley, Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen and Tina Smith, according to the statement. Additionally, U.S. Rep. Sarah Jacobs of California has introduced companion legislation in the House, which has been co-sponsored by 91 representatives.

Hirono has made multiple other efforts to protect personal data health privacy, including introducing the Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act in March. That act states that it would “prevent companies from profiting off of personally identifiable health data for advertising purposes.”


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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