Massachusetts House Passes Bill to Protect Privacy of Individuals seeking Reproductive and Gender Affirming Care

Bill prohibits the sale of reproductive and gender affirming care location information from cellphones

BOSTON – State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) join his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass “An Act providing protections for reproductive or gender-affirming care location information,” which protects the privacy of individuals seeking reproductive and gender affirming care by prohibiting the sale of cellphone data collected during visits to health care facilities in Massachusetts that offer those services.

“As we continue to witness the ever-shifting landscape for reproductive healthcare following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, this piece of legislation is a crucial step in protecting the privacy and security of those seeking and providing essential healthcare services in Massachusetts,” said Representative Haggerty. “In an era of increasing digital surveillance, we are adapting our laws by prohibiting the sale of location data related to reproductive or gender affirming care in order to protect patients and their families, as well as those who provide these services, from potential harassment or intimidation. This bill continues Massachusetts’ legacy as a leader in healthcare access and individual privacy protection.” 

At present, data brokers can aggregate and sell data tracking the location of cellphone users. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, news outlets reported that location data firms were selling location information related to patients’ visits to Planned Parenthood facilities, which could then be used to identify, target, and intimidate both patients seeking care and healthcare providers.

The legislation passed today aims to protect the privacy of patients by prohibiting companies from gathering and processing an individual’s reproductive or gender affirming care location information unless it’s for a permissible purpose, such as a response to an emergency service agency, or if the individual was provided with a location privacy policy and subsequently granted consent to such policy. The Attorney General would issue regulations related to this law, such as location privacy policies and consent, and have the authority to enforce it under Chapter 93A.

Although Massachusetts maintains legal abortion access due to the passage of An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access (the ROE Act) in 2020, which codified and expanded access to reproductive rights, the Legislature took additional action in 2022 to further protect those rights, and established additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2022, the Legislature passed comprehensive legislation to provide legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers; to expand access to contraceptives; and to help ensure that women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to access reproductive health care services.

Having passed the House of Representatives 159-0, the bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration. 

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