RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces Critical Action to Protect a Woman’s Right to Choose

Protecting IVF and Personal Reproductive Health Data. Fighting to Codify Roe v. Wade.

 

Above: Gottheimer in Hackensack announcing actions to protect a woman’s right to choose.

HACKENSACK, NJ — Today, September 19, 2022, at Hackensack Health Center’s Planned Parenthood, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced action to protect a woman’s right to choose, including against new legislative threats to in vitro fertilization (IVF), to protect women’s data and privacy on reproductive health apps, and to push to fully codify Roe v. Wade in federal law. 

Fourteen states have full bans, not including Georgia, which has a ban at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. About half of states are expected to enact bans or other limits. Nearly all of these bans are without exceptions for rape or incest.

Today, Gottheimer outlined the following steps:

Fighting Back Against Legislative Threats to IVF: Today, Gottheimer raised deep concerns about the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) being at risk due to federal legislation introduced by extremists. After hearing many anti-abortion voices say that the issue would be left to the states, 166 members of Congress are cosponsoring the Life at Conception Act, which not only creates a national ban on abortion ban but also creates a new personhood status after fertilization. So, if an embryo does not survive for implantation, it could be considered an illegal abortion. This would restrict women from making decisions about their body and health at any time and will attempt to block those seeking to get pregnant using IVF — which helps more than 300,000 women a year start or grow a family.

Protecting Women’s Data and Digital Privacy: Today, Gottheimer sounded the alarm on data collected by big tech companies, from web searches, widely used smartphone apps that women use to track cycles, e-commerce searches and purchases, and location data being used to prosecute and jail people seeking reproductive care in states where it’s banned. Gottheimer is fighting to pass the My Body, My Data Act, which creates a new national standard to protect personal reproductive health data by minimizing the data that is allowed to be collected and retained. This legislation will help prevent women’s reproductive and sexual health information from being disclosed or misused. 

Pushing to Codify Roe v. Wade in Federal Law: Gottheimer proudly cosponsored and voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which successfully passed the House to codify Roe v. Wade. Now, Gottheimer is continuing to call on the Senate to immediately codify Roe v. Wade into law to protect a woman’s right to choose nationwide. 

“We are watching in real time the widespread consequences of those who have declared a war on choice, a war on women’s healthcare, and a war on personal privacy,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “All women have a fundamental right to make personal, private healthcare decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures. No one should get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith. I’m here to announce action we must take to protect a woman’s right to choose, including against new legislative threats to in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, to protect women’s data and privacy on reproductive health apps, and to push to fully codify Roe into federal law.”

Gottheimer continued, “We must stop these extremists in their tracks from continuing to wage war on women and families. And until we do so, far-right extremists will continue to take away women’s right to choose, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”

“We continue to be shocked by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which everybody said was settled precedent. As American women, we believe that it is our right to privacy at stake here. Josh is here to defend us, support us, protect us, and we are all in with him,” said Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso.

“I would like to thank Congressman Gottheimer for bringing this matter up here in Bergen County. This cannot be a federal law and we have to put a stop to this. We have a right to our bodies and we have a right to make our own healthcare decisions,” said Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz.

“Over the last three months, we have seen the devastating impact of abortion bans across the country. Patients have already been forced to travel to our health centers right here in New Jersey from states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas. But we’re not backing down. At Planned Parenthood, we will work to ensure that everyone — no matter who you are, where you live, how much money you make, what insurance you have — can access the full range of reproductive health care services that they need and deserve,” said Dr. Elizabeth Talmont, DNP, a provider with Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey.

Gottheimer was joined today by NJ State Senator Gordon Johnson, Bergen County Commissioners Mary Amoroso and Germaine Ortiz, and Dr. Elizabeth Talmont, DNP, a provider with Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

 

 

Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Good morning. I want to thank all of you for being here today to reiterate the importance of protecting a woman’s right to choose, and to stand up to extremist attempts to get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith.

I know that these have been dark months for our families since the Supreme Court released its extreme Dobbs decision in June to rip away personal and private protections for millions of women across America, and put their health and safety in danger. But I’m confident that by standing together, working together, and speaking out together, both here and in the halls of Congress, we can bring hope and light back to a dark moment in our history.

That’s why, today, I’m here to announce action we must take to protect a woman’s right to choose, including against new legislative threats to in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, to protect women’s data and privacy on reproductive health apps, and, finally, to push to fully codify Roe into federal law.

Like many Americans, I remain deeply concerned about the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s devastating Dobbs decision to end decades of precedent, and take away a woman’s personal and private right to choose, including in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

This is an unwarranted breach of personal privacy that puts a woman’s life at risk. All you need to do is open your history books and read about what life was like for women and reproductive health in our country before Roe, the countless lives lost a year, and you’ll understand why the federal Court’s decision was so egregious. The fear that was instilled then in women, forcing them into dark corners.

But, now, to add insult to injury, there are lawmakers at the state and federal level who are trying to take the Court’s decision to an even more extreme place, and set even further between a woman and her doctor.

We are watching in real time the widespread consequences of those who have declared a war on choice, a war on women’s healthcare, and a war on personal privacy. We’ve all seen action being taken at the state level — in state houses and on ballots, including in states like Alabama and Texas. Fourteen states have full bans, not including Georgia which has a ban at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. About half of states are expected to enact bans or other limits. And nearly all of these bans are without exceptions for rape or incest.

Yes, nearly all, including recently a 10-year-old young girl in Ohio who was raped and forced acrossed state lines to get an abortion.

Many states had trigger laws on the books, meaning that bans went into place the moment Roe was overturned. Indiana was the first state in the nation to actually draft and pass an abortion ban post-Roe, and the ban took effect on Thursday.

For example, when South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was asked if the 10-year-old rape victim should have to have a child, her response was that — quote — “every single life is precious… But, in South Dakota, the law today is that the abortions are illegal, except to save the life of the mother.”

Also, the General Counsel for the National Right to Life group, a man who has authored model anti-abortion legislation for states to use, said, about that same 10-year-old rape victim — quote — “Unless her life was at danger, there is no exception for rape,” and “we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.”

These words from these extremists about a victimized child left me speechless. They speak as if their laws and their words only have hypothetical consequences.

And these attacks are coming in at every angle. Let me give you a small sampling of legislation that’s been introduced just since the Supreme Court’s decision, and you’ll understand the extremism we’re facing here.

Just this past week, for instance, after hearing so many on the other side of the aisle say that this issue would be left up to the states, 166 members of Congress introduced and have sponsored the “Life at Conception Act,” which not only creates a national ban on abortion ban but creates a new “personhood status” after fertilization.

So, not only would women be restricted from making decisions about their body and health at any time, this law attempts to block those seeking to get pregnant using IVF.

We know that many women are unable to get pregnant without the use of IVF. In fact, IVF helps more than 300,000women a year who desperately want to be a mother get pregnant. At least eight million babies worldwide have been given life from IVF treatment. Why IVF? It could be for many different reasons that they have no control over. Whether they are simply having trouble becoming pregnant naturally or are a same-sex couple who want to start a family.

Why would we rob women of the opportunity to become a mother just because some extremist in Congress thinks he knows what’s best?  In the minds of these extremists, if an embryo doesn’t survive for implantation, it would be considered an illegal abortion. 

This is a safe and effective way for families to have children and is often a saving grace for women trying to become pregnant. We must block this legislation and others like it in Congress and in state houses. These are the same people who want to now ban some methods of birth control. And it builds on what Senator Lindsey Graham proposed in the last weeks to both ban abortion and leave in place state laws that are more restrictive. We can’t let Graham’s bill pass the House or Senate.

Hershel Walker, who is running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, said he thinks it’s a problem that there isn’t a national abortion ban right now. He doesn’t support exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother — saying, there’s no exception in his mind.

This is the kind of extremism we’re facing.

These outcomes are heartbreaking for millions of families, and we must stop these extremists in their tracks from continuing to wage war on women and families.

It’s times like these that we are reminded just how much our voices matter.

The post-Roe America has also ushered in a new wave of threats to women when it comes to data privacy.

Many, including myself, have deep concerns that data being collected by big tech companies could be used to prosecute and jail people seeking reproductive care. That’s not hyperbole – it’s actually being utilized in some states. Per public reporting, Facebook turned over the chats of a mother and her daughter to Nebraska police after they were served with a warrant as part of an investigation into an illegal abortion.

But, unfortunately, it can go further than just texts and chats. Apps and other data could now be used against people seeking an abortion in states where it’s banned. That means we have concerns about web searches, widely used smartphone apps that women use to track cycles, e-commerce searches and purchases, and location data.

In fact, an investigation found that companies like AWS Data Exchange, Oracle, Near Intelligence Holdings Inc, and Mobilewalla harvest, sell, or trade mobile phone location data. While this data is often stripped of personally identifiable information, there is a long history of users’ identities being revealed. This data could be mined and used literally to track users who may have visited reproductive clinics or traveled outside of their home state to access reproductive care, or even if you’ve just gone into a CVS to buy contraception.

Search histories and reproductive health data collected by cycle and pregnancy tracking apps each month could also be used against women. Groups that want to punish women for seeking reproductive care could purchase a dataset that would show where women have been searching for information related to abortion. That information could be used for predatory advertising or offer a way for private citizens to report another person for seeking an abortion. And, of course, in states where abortion is illegal, investigators could use the data they get ahold of against women seeking an abortion.

Currently, few protections exist to prevent personal reproductive health data or information about people seeking reproductive health services from being collected, retained, or disclosed to third parties.

That’s why we’re fighting at the federal level to make sure that no woman is hunted down and punished because of the app she uses for her health.

That’s why I’m fighting to pass the “My Body, My Data Act,” which creates a new national standard to protect personal reproductive health data by minimizing the data that is allowed to be collected and retained. This will help prevent women’s reproductive and sexual health information from being disclosed or misused. This bill is the first congressional action to strengthen digital privacy and specifically protect personal reproductive health information.

I’m calling on House Leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote immediately because we need to take all possible steps to protect the rights of women.
 
It’s just common sense that companies and advertisers shouldn’t be able to share or sell personal information, especially data from apps used by women to track their cycles.
 
I believe we need a comprehensive federal data privacy law to restrict data collection practices and change how data that is collected is used and shared. We need to protect users that are seeking reproductive healthcare from those seeking to use this data to prosecute women.
 
Thankfully, here in Jersey, the Attorney General’s Office has created a state Reproductive Rights Task Force to protect women's rights and personal health data. The strike force will also undertake investigations to secure the private data of patients and providers and to limit the sharing of personal health-related data with third parties.
 
Here in Jersey, we don’t take a fight sitting down.
 
Finally, we must codify Roe v. Wade into law. In the House, I was proud to cosponsor and vote for the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which the House successfully passed last year to get this done. Now, it’s high time the Senate does the same.
 
Of course, the steps we’re fighting for in the post-Roe era — both at the state and federal levels — are undoubtedly necessary to protecting women, but codifying Roe v. Wade is the key to ending the extremist attacks on choice.
 
And until we do so, far-right extremists will continue to take away women’s right to choose, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
  
Now, should the Senate fail in making a woman’s right to choose the law of the land, it will undoubtedly be a traumatic blow to our nation — but our fight for choice and personal privacy will remain unchanged.
 
Here in Jersey, we protect — and will continue to protect — a woman’s right to choose. All women have a fundamental right to make personal, private healthcare decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures. No one should get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith.
 
This is just common sense, and what most Americans believe is right. We can’t allow extremism to win. We must fight to defend a woman's right to choose.
 
Thank you and God bless our great country.
 

###