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2022 Annual Report: After Dobbs, CDT Takes the Lead to Protect Private Health Data

Graphic for feature story in CDT's 2022 annual report, focused on reproductive health privacy and access to info after the Dobbs decision. Left to right: person on their computer; protesters waving signs at a demonstration; the Supreme Court steps; person holding "I Object" sign.
Graphic for feature story in CDT’s 2022 annual report, focused on reproductive health privacy and access to info after the Dobbs decision. Left to right: person on their computer; protesters waving signs at a demonstration; the Supreme Court steps; person holding “I Object” sign.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a devastating blow for the privacy and personal freedom of people seeking reproductive care. CDT responded swiftly to the moment, providing high-profile leadership on the need to protect health data privacy, and helping policymakers and companies take action to protect people’s rights.

In the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization decision, CDT launched a task force with representatives from tech companies, reproductive rights groups, healthcare providers and other experts in data privacy and civil liberties to share information on protecting the privacy and access to information of people seeking reproductive care.  

We’re working directly with companies large and small, urging changes to protect data that can reveal information about users’ health status and medical choices. From location data to browsing history, from health apps to the content of personal messages, users share vast amounts of private data in the course of their daily lives. Reports have shown how recklessly this information can be shared and sold, from a Vice reporter who bought a week’s worth of data showing where people who visited a Planned Parenthood clinic had come from and gone next (information that can easily reveal a clinic-goer’s identity), to healthcare providers who were inadvertently leaking patient information through marketing pixels on their sites. Whether the concern is reproductive privacy or any type of health-related information, it’s time for companies to rethink how much sensitive data about their users they gather, store and share, and take quick steps to act. 

CDT is also working to ensure that law enforcement access to people’s private data complies with human rights and constitutional requirements. We’re urging companies to play their part in pushing back on investigative fishing expeditions, and helping them navigate laws designed to protect sensitive user data. CDT is providing input to the growing number of states passing or considering laws to shield people’s sensitive data from out-of-state investigations, and urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue new rules to better protect patient health records. CDT has also taken a leading role in pressing the Biden Administration to ensure that federal aid to state law enforcement agencies is not co-opted for abortion investigations. 

In addition to protecting people’s private health information, CDT is working to support access to reliable, safe information about reproductive care. Some states are considering laws that would outlaw websites that provide information about abortion services, and there are concerns of other websites being used to identify and entrap people seeking abortion-related information. In response, CDT is advocating for social media services and other tech companies to stand firm in moderating abortion-related mis- and disinformation, and in amplifying verified sources. Unfortunately, the conditions for them to do this are only getting harder: In addition to pressure from anti-abortion policymakers, Texas passed a social media law in 2022 that exposes social media companies to lawsuits if they block content “based on a user’s viewpoint”, which will make it harder for companies to moderate mis- or disinformation about reproductive care. CDT filed amicus briefs in the Fifth Circuit and at the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the law from going into effect, but the issue is widely expected to return to the Court next year. 

As the national fight over reproductive rights continues, CDT is playing our part to defend users’ rights. We’re leveraging our years of experience advocating for strong data privacy protections, guardrails on law enforcement’s ability to access people’s data, and fighting for people’s right to access reliable, trustworthy information in this unprecedented time.

Learn more about CDT’s work on reproductive rights post-Dobbs at