Democrats introduce bill to ban collection of reproductive health data
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would bar companies from retaining data about users’ reproductive health without consent.
The bill would also give people the power to demand companies disclose and delete the data as well as the power to sue companies for violations of the law.
The legislation was drafted in response to a Supreme Court draft leaked in May that showed the court was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that would trigger abortion bans or severe restrictions in a number of U.S. states.
“This is some of the most sensitive and personal data that exists. It deserves the highest level of privacy protection that the government can provide and that’s what our bill does,” Jacobs told The Hill.
The Democrats’ My Body, My Data Act would protect personal data collected by entities not currently covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), including data collected by apps, cellphones and search engines.
Privacy groups and abortion advocates have warned in the months since the bombshell Supreme Court leak that data from period-tracking apps and other information could be used to target people seeking abortions and possibly lead to criminal action in states where the procedures would become illegal without federal protections.
“Right now, there is no real protection in place for this type of data,” Jacobs said.
The bill would bar regulated entities from collecting, retaining, using or disclosing personal reproductive or sexual health information without the “express consent” of the individual.
It would direct the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law and develop rules to implement the statute.
Jacobs said leadership is “tracing this closely.” She also noted that on the Senate side, the bill is co-sponsored by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
The bill is being introduced not only as Democrats prepare for the seemingly imminent overturning of Roe v. Wade but also as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have reignited debates over privacy legislation.
A draft of a comprehensive data privacy bill was released earlier this month. The draft has bipartisan support in the House and backing from Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in the upper chamber.
The comprehensive bill, though, lacks key support from Cantwell.
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