Uncertain future of menstrual-tracking apps in Virginia

by Cyna Mirzai-

Photo credit: Burst

Almost one-third of women in the United States use a mobile app to track their periods. However, a bill to protect menstrual app data from search warrants failed the Virginia General Assembly in February, alarming abortion rights supporters for a future of post-Roe abortion restrictions. 

The state’s Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill to prohibit the issuance of a warrant for the search and seizure of menstrual health data stored on electronic devices, allowing people to protect personal information about their menstrual health. According to AP News, the legislation passed with a 31-9 vote, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send it to the House. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who introduced a 15-week abortion ban early this year, tabled the bill through a procedural move in a Republican-controlled subcommittee.

Inspired by the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, introduced the legislation since current laws allow search warrants to be issued for access to all data stored on computers, computer networks and other electronic devices as long as there is a probable cause for a crime. 

Before the repeal of Roe v. Wade, an abortion could be performed up until the third trimester of a patient’s pregnancy in Virginia. Therefore, if a person stopped tracking their cycle on an app due to a terminated pregnancy, there would be no probable cause for a crime. However, as stricter abortion laws continue to pass in various states, these tracking apps can become the scene of a crime.  

Sen. Favola said her bill is straightforward and one of the shortest bills of the Senate’s season, per WUSA 9. She will wait until the election of a new General Assembly in 2023 to try for the bill again.

While this can remain an alarming time for many, there are still ways to protect one’s personal information. The Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance last year encouraging people to turn off location sharing and tracking activity across apps. Some tracking apps also state they do not share or sell data, but if weary, creating a personalized menstrual data tracker by using spreadsheets, digital planners or even paper planners will aid in concealing personal information.

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