Tech and Reproductive Rights


Last updated on May 23, 2024

By SEAN GLADWELL - GettyImages


Access to information is vital in the fight to protect reproductive rights. Women, girls, and people who can become pregnant must be able to access trustworthy and medically accurate information about reproductive healthcare when they seek it out online. 

However, in the United States access to information about reproductive health and rights is facing new challenges. Following  the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped away federal abortion protections, reproductive health and rights organizations reported a sharp increase in the number of their social media posts about abortion being removed from social media platforms. Two years after the Dobbs decision, this problem persists, and organizations are still having their abortion content removed with little to no explanation. 

Everyone has the right to access critical information about reproductive health and rights, including information about medication abortion, and social media companies should not limit access to such content on their platforms. 

Big Tech and Repro Rights

What you need to know

As abortion rights are being stripped away from people, it is more important than ever for everyone to be able to access accurate information online about reproductive health and rights, including abortion care, and to feel safe using technology without the fear that their private messages or data will be used against them. 

Here are some of the issues that exist at the intersection of technology and reproductive rights.

When content on reproductive health and rights is removed online, it limits the public’s access to crucial information and prevents topics like abortion from being included in public discourse- that means people might not be able to see critical information about how abortion works, or how to access abortion care. Additionally, censoring limiting the visibility or public availability of abortion information can reinforce the harmful idea that abortion is a topic that should be concealed and not discussed openly. This can further isolate people who have had abortions and can further stigmatize abortion, despite abortion being an extremely common reproductive health procedure (about one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45).

There is widespread misinformation (incorrect information shared with no intent to deceive) and disinformation (incorrect information shared with specific intent to deceive) about abortion online. Mis/disinformation on abortion that is shared widely online can make it more difficult for someone to access accurate and unbiased information on abortion, and impede their ability to access safe and reliable abortion care. 

There are many misconceptions about medication abortion, for example, that are widely shared online. Over 60% of abortions in the USA are done via medication abortion, and while medication abortion is extremely safe, people re-share inaccurate posts about its efficacy and safety. Mis/disinformation can negatively impact someone who is trying to make a well-informed decision about their reproductive health, potentially scaring them away from safe abortion services.

Personal data from cell phones and computers can be mishandled or used in ways that can put abortion-seekers and activists at risk. Data brokers – third party companies who collect information, including location information from different sources and then package and sell that information – may collect sensitive reproductive health information without users knowing where this data is really going.

The federal government is already taking action against a company that is selling sensitive geolocation data. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing a data broker for selling geolocation data that included users’ movement to and from sensitive locations, including visits to reproductive health clinics. The FTC alleges that the sale of this data can expose people to threats of stigma or discrimination, and is seeking to stop the company’s sale of sensitive location data.

Data that tracks your location can also be used in ways that put abortion-seekers and activists at risk. Dataminr, an artificial intelligence company, alerted federal agents to dozens of pro-abortion rights protests following the Supreme Court’s reversal of their decision on Roe v. Wade in 2022. The company monitored social media posts about the specific time and dates of demonstrations, and did so by tracking the posts of protest organizers and participants.

While people may think that their “private” messages on social media with friends and family are just that – private – they may not realize that these messages can easily be turned over to law enforcement officers. Officers can issue search warrants to social media companies and receive the messaging history of any user that is not using a messaging service that is “end-to-end encrypted” (messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Signal are end-to-end encrypted). This was the case of a 17-year-old girl in Nebraska who had an abortion and was helped by her mother: private Facebook messages between the mother and daughter were used as evidence against them in their prosecution, and the teenage girl was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

There have also been cases in the U.S. where browser search histories have been used against people who have had abortions or miscarriages. In 2017, a woman in Mississippi experienced pregnancy loss at home and was charged with second degree murder. Her internet searches were used as evidence against her in her case, as she had searched for information on abortion pills . While the charges against her were ultimately dropped, her story illustrates one of the many ways that digital evidence can be used against people suspected of having an abortion.

Read Amnesty International USA’s public comment on the Meta Oversight Board’s “United States posts discussing abortion” cases.

our work

Amnesty International USA calls on social media companies to ensure that information on abortion and how to access it is not removed from their platforms.. Amnesty works with nonprofits and companies that have reproductive health and rights content removed to understand the type of content that is taken down, discuss the challenges and negative impacts stemming from such removal, and work
in coalition to develop advocacy strategies on this issue.

Amnesty and its coalition partners demand answers from social media companies regarding their inconsistent enforcement of community guidelines, which has led to the removal of abortion-related content. Amnesty wants to ensure that free discussion of reproductive health and rights online is protected, and that accurate reproductive healthcare information is accessible on social media.