Youngkin administration opposes shielding menstrual app data from search warrants
A proposal to put menstrual data stored on period-tracking apps beyond the reach of Virginia authorities failed in the state House of Delegates Monday after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration expressed opposition to the idea for the first time.
The legislation, which had passed the Democratic-controlled Senate with bipartisan support, was backed by abortion rights supporters who see it as a way to ease a privacy concern that arose from the fall of Roe v. Wade last year. Supporters of the bill said it would remove any possibility that data stored in menstrual apps could be used in abortion-related prosecutions.
Addressing a House subcommittee Monday afternoon on Youngkin’s behalf, Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Maggie Cleary warned legislators that the proposed law appeared to be the first of its kind limiting what information Virginia courts can deem relevant enough to potential criminal cases to authorize warrants to obtain.
“Currently, any health information or any app information is available via search warrant,” Cleary said. “We believe that should continue to be the case.”
In response, Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, the bill’s patron, suggested menstrual information is uniquely sensitive and should be treated accordingly.
“There’s very little information that is as personal and private as your menstrual data,” Favola told the subcommittee before her bill was defeated 5-3 along party lines.
A legislative staffer told the committee information stored in the apps is not covered by HIPAA, the main federal privacy law protecting health information, because users only store information in them and they don’t involve the provision of health care services.
The Democratic Party of Virginia seized on Cleary’s comments, issuing a statement shortly after the vote calling it “exceptionally disquieting to see Governor Youngkin oppose a bill that would protect women from having their private health data weaponized against them in a court of law.”
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