Anti-abortion activists are collecting the data they’ll need for prosecutions post-Roe

The selected anti-worker collects the license plate at the clinic
Identify revised license plate information by MIT Technology Review.

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Although news reports at the time made this tracking a new tactic, it goes back decades. A 1993 article in the Buffalo News cited several accounts of clinic staff and clients who were harassed over phone calls from anti-abortion activists that appeared to be the result of license plate tracking. That same year, the Florida training session for activists organized by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue instructed people to use the public license plate to identify the names, addresses and phone numbers of clients and clinic workers. The group used the database to “follow up”, an operation rescue-trained volunteer standing outside a clinic in Melbourne, Florida that year told ABC News. [clients and] Send them literature to their home “to make them fully aware of the main purpose and focus of this place.”

Here are more examples: In 1996, a police officer in Canada was accused of using police computers to track the license plates of clinic clients. In 1999, an abortion clinic targeted by Operation Rescue in Florida sued anti-abortion activists, alleging that they were using license plate tracking to harass clients and doctors. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court after the clinic’s lawyers failed to provide the necessary paperwork to proceed with the case. And Derenda Hancock, a clinic defender who works outside the Jackson Women’s Health “Pink House” clinic in Jackson, Mississippi (the center of the pending Supreme Court case and the last working clinic in the state), says cameras are common there. — Used as a regular livestreamer there — and footage taken outside the clinic can be seen on a website dedicated to tracking abortion doctors.

Nowhere safe

Anti-abortion activists have long denied that the data was being used to harass or contact people seeking abortion; They say it is used by doctors to track and evaluate whether activism is preventing people from returning to the clinic to have an abortion. Neither Texas Right to Life nor Operation Rescue – named Operation Save America – has responded to requests for comment.

But it can certainly be used that way, and Wesler of the ACLU says the possibility of targeting and harming abortionists for this footage is increased by the use of facial recognition technology. There are two possible scenarios on that front, he says: law enforcement agencies in abortion-prohibited states could use facial recognition databases to scan clinic footage for residents, or private groups and organizations could use the technology themselves.

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

Texas and Oklahoma now have laws that allow private citizens to sue anyone who aborted or assisted in an abortion. Wesler says that in a world where federal laws do not provide protection from such lawsuits, it is easy to see how, post-Row By changing the law, people who want an abortion can also be prosecuted. That possibility, combined with clinical surveillance, could have a tremendous chilling effect “where you have to claim heavy damages against people who can barely afford gas to travel to a state where they can legally perform an abortion.” Says.

Mobley worries that if states are able to criminalize abortion, clinics like hers will be subject to more scrutiny as activists who now live in states where there is no operation of abortion-providing clinics try to target nearby locations. She recently visited the Jackson Clinic. What she saw there worried her. Will Mississippi activists bring their body cams and bullhorns to him?

That “if,” says Hancock; That’s “when”. One protester recently clarified this to her outside the clinic: “I said, you know, what do you do when it’s done? When are we done here? And she literally said, ‘Well, we’ll move on to other states and shut it down.’ “Without Rowe, she says, there are no completely” safe “states for access to abortion.” ”

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