South Carolina State House.

South Carolina’s Abortion Debates: A Game of Ping Pong

By Katie Gu

On January 5, the South Carolina Supreme Court permanently struck down Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1), also known as the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which banned most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. The decision was issued just five days before the state’s General Assembly returned for 2023, setting into motion a game of ping pong between the state branches of government in South Carolina’s abortion debates. 

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File folders containing medical records.

How Dobbs Threatens Health Privacy

By Wendy A. Bach and Nicolas Terry

Post-Dobbs, the fear is visceral. What was once personal, private, and one hoped, protected within the presumptively confidential space of the doctor-patient relationship, feels exposed. In response to all this fear, the Internet exploded – delete your period tracker; use encrypted apps; don’t take a pregnancy test. The Biden administration too, chimed in, just days after the Supreme Court’s decision, issuing guidance seeking to reassure both doctors and patients that the federal Health Privacy Rule (HIPAA) was robust and that reproductive health information would remain private. Given the history of women being prosecuted for their reproductive choices and the enormous holes in HIPAA that have long allowed prosecutors to rely on healthcare information as the basis for criminal charges, these assurances rang hollow (as detailed at length in our forthcoming article, HIPAA v. Dobbs). From a health care policy perspective, what is different now is not what might happen. All of this has been happening for decades. The only difference today is the sheer number of people affected and paying attention.

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privacy curtain around hospital bed.

Lessons in Health Data Privacy from the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act

By Katie Gu

The past may hold important lessons for our uncertain future of health privacy for patients, physicians, and hospitals in the face of abortion subpoenas post-Dobbs

In returning the legality of abortion back to states, the Supreme Court’s decision has paved the path towards greater surveillance of sensitive health data contained in patient medical records. This stark increase in privacy risks for individuals seeking reproductive care resembles the shifts in patient privacy protections nearly twenty years ago following the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (PBAB). 

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Vintage history book and magnifying glass on wooden background.

The New Search for Reproductive Justice in Old Laws

By Katie Gu

In the post-Dobbs fight to safeguard reproductive healthcare, a new spotlight has been placed on two existing federal laws: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). 

Guidance documents issued over the summer by federal agencies emphasize how these laws can be used to protect reproductive health privacy and access.

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Blue biohazard sign in front of columns of binary code.

The International Weaponization of Health Data

By Matthew Chun

International collaboration through the sharing of health data is crucial for advancing human health. But it also comes with risks — risks that countries around the world seem increasingly unwilling to take.

On the one hand, the international sharing of health-related data sets has paved the way for important advances such as mapping the human genome, tracking global health outcomes, and fighting the rise of multidrug-resistant superbugs. On the other hand, it can pose serious risks for a nation’s citizens, including re-identification, exploitation of genetic vulnerabilities by foreign parties, and unauthorized data usage. As countries aim to strike a difficult balance between furthering research and protecting national interests, recent trends indicate a shift toward tighter controls that could chill international collaborations.

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American Constitution - We the people with US Flag and gavel.

Abortion Bans Threatening Pregnant Patients’ Lives Are Unconstitutional

By James G. Hodge, Jr., Jennifer Piatt, Erica N. White, Summer Ghaith, Madisyn Puchebner, and C. McKenna Sauer

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion, laws went into effect in multiple states that restrict when abortions may be provided, including during potentially life-threatening emergencies.

To the extent highly restrictive, amorphous, and indeterminate abortion bans contravene physician implementation of life-saving interventions for pregnant patients — and thus infringe upon the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of the right to life — they are unconstitutional.

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Hand holding smartphone with colorful app icons concept.

The Fourth Amendment and the Post-Roe Future of Privacy

By Katie Gu

An April 2021 data privacy bill sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has taken on new urgency in the post-Roe Digital Age.

The bipartisan bill, The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, would close the current legal loophole through which the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service, have repeatedly purchased Americans’ personal and consumer information from data brokers.

In the wake of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, this bill may play an important role in protecting reproductive health data against government overreach and new forms of surveillance technologies.

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Washington, DC, USA, May 5, 2022: people protest the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion

Stemming Supreme Court Rights Reversals

By James G. Hodge, Jr.

Based on the May 2022 leak of an initial draft, most believe the Supreme Court will carry through some rescission of abortion rights later this month through its final opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Already, concerns have arisen over other freedoms the Court may seriously reconsider down the road, including rights to gay marriage, intimacy, contraception, and informational privacy.

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Black and white photograph of the front of the Supreme Court. Pro-abortion protestors stand holding signs, one of which reads "I stand with Whole Woman's Health"

A Brief History of Abortion Jurisprudence in the United States

By James R. Jolin

POLITICO’s leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that U.S. abortion rights are on the verge of a fundamental shift.

If the official decision, expected this month, hews closely to the draft, the constitutional right to abortion affirmed in Roe v. Wade (1973), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and other seminal Supreme Court rulings will disappear.

This brief history of abortion rights and jurisprudence in the United States aims to clarify just what is at stake in this case.

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Washington, DC, USA, May 5, 2022: people protest the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion

The Leaked Dobbs Opinion, Explained

By Chloe Reichel

On May 2, 2022, Politico published a leaked draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which showed the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn the right to abortion as decided in Roe v. Wade.

In response to the leak, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted a discussion with legal historian and Daniel P.S. Paul Visiting Professor of Constitutional Law Mary Ziegler and Petrie-Flom Center Faculty Director, James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams Professor of Law, and Deputy Dean I. Glenn Cohen.

Together, Cohen and Ziegler explained the background of the case, the contents of the draft opinion, and its potential implications not just for abortion access, but also for other constitutionally-protected rights, and for access to reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization.

The highlights of the conversation have been edited and condensed below.

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