Why the Overturning of Roe V Wade is Going to Increase the Necessity of Encryption

The overturning of Roe v Wade has shocked a nation. As a result, it is only going to make encryption all the more important.

While the Canadian government is looking to chip away a basic civil right, the US saw another basic civil right taken away completely. The leak back in early May that says that the Republican controlled US Supreme Court shocked America. For one, the US Supreme Court never leaks as far as many observers are concerned. For another, it became clear that the right wing activist judges were set to destroy a basic human right.

Roe v Wade is a critical precedence which helps to allow for access to safe legal abortion. The precedence was set nearly 50 years ago and, as a result, has been a settled debate ever since. Unfortunately, some elements in the US never gave up on efforts to attack this civil right. With impeached president, Donald Trump in power, Republican’s began packing the court with activist judges so that they would always have a court that would tilt the balance of power into their favour for a generation. While many saw the damage this would bring to America, few could foresee the extent of the damage these efforts would inflict on America.

Yesterday, the decision the leak warned America about has come to pass. The US Supreme court has overturned Roe V Wade. The decision was largely ideologically driven as part of a much larger effort to see what basic civil rights can be taken away. With far right judges now running the show, the justices pushing for those chose now to swing their hammer at this basic civil rights. Thanks to this basic civil right smashed into pieces, women have now been effectively relegated to second class citizens. This thanks to having no autonomy over their own bodies.

With women now being one step closer to being mere chattel, Republican lawmakers cheered the decision on as an ‘act of bravery’ among other things. The very idea that women should be treated equally to men has long been a thorn on the side of the far right as far right wingers look at the 1800’s with envy. What’s more, many are looking at what other basic civil rights can be destroyed next as they work to burn civil rights to the ground.

Of course, the damage being done is wide ranging. American people in general will have to constantly be wary of their actions. As we know about the Texas abortion ban laws, some states have provisions that deputizes ordinary people and rewards them sums of money like $10,000 if they turn in their friends, loved ones, and neighbours as soon as they suspect an abortion might be happening.

What’s more is that if a woman goes to a state that still does what is right and permit access to safe, legal abortion, there is also that fear that if that individual crosses a state line back home, would they face legal consequences after.

The World Reacts

Of course, the International reaction in all of this was a collective gasp of horror that this was unfolding. Canadian’s have been offering their support by welcoming American refugees into Canada. In fact, the generosity was so significant, it briefly caused “Welcome to Canada” to trend on Twitter. In Canada, for instance, politician’s reacted with shock that this was even happening. From the CBC:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in Friday on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn decades-old jurisprudence on abortion, calling what’s unfolding south of the border a “horrific” development that threatens the right of women to choose what to do with their own bodies.

“My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion. I can’t imagine the fear and anger you are feeling right now,” Trudeau said in a social media post.

He said “no government, politician, or man” should force a woman to carry out a pregnancy, reiterating that, under his Liberal government, “women in Canada know that we will always stand up for your right to choose.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also condemned the ruling, saying she had a “visceral reaction” when she first heard of the court’s decision.

“I was just shocked and horrified and so worried, actually,” Freeland said in an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday.

Canadian lawmakers have also noted that people who come to Canada from the US do use the Canadian medical system. They have hinted that the country would be welcoming of American’s who flee across the border into Canada to access basic medical health.

Of course, such discussions did prompt questions about how robust the Canadian system really is in protecting these rights. It is noted that, yes, accessing sexual health services in Canada is, indeed, an option, however, if there is no health insurance coverage that allows for this, then Americans would have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for such a procedure. It’s these discussions that are prompting calls to better protect these basic civil rights which the Canadian government seems to be receptive to.

Another element in all of this too is the worry that Canada would follow suit in rolling back these civil rights. For now, that appears unlikely thanks to the Liberals and NDP running things. Still, there are elements in the Conservative party that would like nothing more than to re-open the abortion debate and eliminate this right entirely. The good news is how this has long been a weapon by other parties to dissuade public support of those parties altogether, so the public appetite is still very much against overturning this right.

It seems that Canada isn’t alone in seeing far right elements being more motivated to destroy these civil rights. The BBC is noting that similar discussions are happening in Italy right now:

In 1978, five years after Roe v Wade, Italy legalised abortion with Law 194. And while it is not the same lightning rod political issue here, the rise of a new hard-right conservative politics, ever closer to the Catholic church, has brought it back into focus – and the US Supreme Court’s decision is reverberating in Italy too.

From the political left and centre, there’s been a chorus of condemnation and alarm. Emma Bonino, a leftist former foreign minister who helped pass Law 194, said it showed the risk in Italy of moving backwards and of “losing achievements that had seemed permanent.”

But on the right, some feel galvanised.

“A great victory”, declared Simone Pillon from the far-right League, adding that he hoped Italy and Europe would follow suit.

However, his party leader, Matteo Salvini, was notably more nuanced, stating that he believes “in the value of life… but on pregnancy, the last word belongs to the woman” – perhaps a recognition that the majority of Italians say they still support the right to abort.

How Encryption Fits In

While, on the surface, this seems like an unrelated debate, there is a connection to be had here.

Spy agencies all over the world have been doing what they can to de-legitimize encryption. It is often associated with criminal activity, helping criminals hide abuse, and a whole number of other things. Of course, encryption has been an invaluable tool for those fighting for civil rights. Examples of this include those who are reporting on things in third world countries and fighting for civil rights in those countries. Others use it to protect their privacy, not to cover up something untoward, but as something that was just an added level of personal choice.

So, when one looks at, say, how Canada has once again become welcoming to American’s as they start experiencing increased oppression, the question then becomes, how would that work in a modern world?

Everyone knows we live in an interconnected world, so, communication then becomes a necessity. Before people in Canada think about building Underground Railroad 2.0, we have to ask how one coordinates the logistics in all of this. Very few plans would be able to avoid the requirements of encryption altogether. As such, encryption that is able to avoid the prying eyes of both government and third parties is going to be essential. It needs to be able to effectively thwart the US government because there is always a risk that Republican’s will get back into power – and you can bet that they will have no problem trying to turn the power of government to better enforce the removal of basic civil rights.

If you think that this is all some kind of overreaction in all of this, we are far from alone in this kind of thinking. Already, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a guide on ideas and tips on how to protect your privacy in a Roe v Wade world. So, many people already know full well how things are about to hit the fan.

What’s more is the fact that the EFF has recently released a statement, echoing the sentiments of the importance of encryption:

Today’s decision deprives millions of people of a fundamental right, and also underscores the importance of fair and meaningful protections for data privacy. Everyone deserves to have strong controls over the collection and use of information they necessarily leave behind as they go about their normal activities, like using apps, search engine queries, posting on social media, texting friends, and so on. But those seeking, offering, or facilitating abortion access must now assume that any data they provide online or offline could be sought by law enforcement.

People should carefully review privacy settings on the services they use, turn off location services on apps that don’t need them, and use encrypted messaging services. Companies should protect users by allowing anonymous access, stopping behavioral tracking, strengthening data deletion policies, encrypting data in transit, enabling end-to-end message encryption by default, preventing location tracking, and ensuring that users get notice when their data is being sought. And state and federal policymakers must pass meaningful privacy legislation. All of these steps are needed to protect privacy, and all are long overdue.

The Destruction of Civil Rights Won’t Stop At Abortion

Having already tasted the blood of killing off one civil right, it seems that some on the US Supreme Court are already hungry for more blood. With salivating chops, one justice has already openly written how there are plans to go after gay rights and contraceptives as well. From CNBC:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday said landmark high court rulings that established gay rights and contraception rights should be reconsidered now that the federal right to abortion has been revoked.

Thomas wrote that those rulings “were demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

The cases he mentioned are Griswold vs. Connecticut, the 1965 ruling in which the Supreme Court said married couples have the right to obtain contraceptives; Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 established the right to engage in private sexual acts; and the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said there is a right to same-sex marriage.

Thomas’ recommendation to reconsider that trio of decisions does not have the force of legal precedent, nor does it compel his colleagues on the Supreme Court to take the action he suggested.

But it is an implicit invitation to conservative lawmakers in individual states to pass legislation that might run afoul of the Supreme Court’s past decisions, with an eye toward having that court potentially reverse those rulings.

That is the tack conservative lawmakers took in multiple states, where for years they passed restrictive abortion laws in the hopes that a challenge to them would reach the Supreme Court and open the door for federal abortion rights to be overturned as a result.

So, there are efforts to further plunge America into the dark ages as they work to roll back even more basic civil rights. Obviously, such efforts would take considerable time, but it does show that there is an appetite to continue breaking down basic civil rights one at a time.

While the damage being inflicted on America is considerable with this overturning of Roe v Wade, the damage risks becoming a massive fire raging across institutions trying to guard basic civil rights. The worst part about all of this is that America hasn’t even started feeling the painful effects this decision has brought. It will take time for the effects to start trickling down – especially in states that don’t necessarily have so-called “trigger” laws.

Democratic lawmakers have taken the opportunity to tell American’s that if they want to reverse this trend, then vote for Democrats. Still, it’s not exactly clear what can be accomplished if they have a US Supreme Court always getting in the way of progress.

In the mean time, civil rights will continue to crumble within the US. There doesn’t appear to be much stopping the Supreme Court from tearing everything down at this stage. So, as the status of civil rights continues to plunge in the US, that will only increase the necessity of encryption. After all, if the government is not going to protect your basic civil rights, then it will be up to individuals to fend for themselves. The least the world can offer is better tools to better fend off this oppression in the first place.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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