Anti-abortion activists are gathering the data they need to prosecute post-Roe

Anti-choice activist collects license plates at the clinic
License plate identification information was edited by MIT Technology Review.


Although news reports at the time considered this tracking a new tactic, it dates back decades. A 1993 article from Buffalo News mentions several accounts from clinic staff and clients of harassing phone calls from anti-abortion activists that appear to be the result of license plate tracking. That same year, a Florida training session for activists organized by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue gave instructions on how to use people’s license plates to identify names, addresses, and phone numbers. of clients and clinic staff. An Operation Rescue-trained volunteer, standing outside a clinic in Melbourne, Florida, that year, told ABC News the team used the database to “monitor.” [clients and] send materials to their home “to make them” fully aware of… what is the main purpose and focus of the place. ”

More examples: In 1996, a police officer in Canada was charged after using a police computer to track a client’s license plate number at a clinic. In 1999, the abortion clinic was targeted by Operation Rescue in Florida sue anti-abortion activistsalleged that they used license plate tracking to harass customers and doctors. The lawsuit was finally dismissed after the clinic’s attorneys failed to complete the necessary paperwork for the case to proceed. And Derenda Hancock, a clinic guard who works outside of Jackson Women’s Health’s “Pink House” clinic in Jackson, Mississippi (the clinic at the center of the Supreme Court’s pending case and agency. last operating in the state), said there are usually cameras there. —There used to be a regular streamer — and footage taken outside the clinic could appear on a website that specializes in tracking abortion doctors.

No place is safe

Anti-abortion activists have long denied that this data is being used to harass or contact people who want an abortion; they say it’s used to monitor doctors and assess whether the activity is preventing people from returning to the clinic for an abortion. Neither Right to Life nor Rescue Texas — which has since been renamed Operation Save America — did not respond to requests for comment.

But it could certainly be used that way, and Wessler, from the ACLU, said the possibility that this footage would target and harm abortionists would be exacerbated by the use of recognition technology. face. There are two possible scenarios, he said: law enforcement agencies in states that ban abortion could use facial recognition databases to scan clinic footage for people or groups. and private organizations can use this technology themselves.

ACLU recently settled a lawsuit against facial recognition company ClearviewAI, ban it from selling its services to many businesses. But recently The New York Times reported on PimEyesan affordable and accurate facial recognition service that almost anyone can pay to use.

Texas and Oklahoma now have laws that allow private citizens to sue anyone who performs or helps with an abortion. Wessler says that in a world where federal statutes offer no protection from such lawsuits, it’s easy to see how, with aRoe According to the law, people who want an abortion can also be sued. That ability, combined with in-clinic surveillance, can create a huge chilling effect “where you have nightmares of huge damages being filed with lawsuits against servants. like can’t afford to go to a state where they can legally have an abortion,” he said.

Mobley worries that if states can criminalize abortion, clinics like hers will become subject to more scrutiny as activists now live in states that don’t have clinics offering them. Active abortion providers seek to target the next closest locations. She recently went to the Jackson clinic. What she saw there worried her. Would Mississippi activists bring their oranges and nerves to her?

It’s not an “if,” says Hancock; it’s “when.” One protester made that clear to her outside the clinic recently: “I said, you know, so what are you going to do when it’s over? When we finish here? And he literally said, “Well, we’re going to go to the other states and shut them down.” “Without Roe, she said, there’s no state that’s completely ‘safe’ for access to abortion. It’s just a matter of how long they last.”

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