See what some police departments in California are up to

Amy and her boyfriend, Jed, traveled from Mitchell County Texas all the way to California so that Amy could get an abortion. They picked California because it was far away and where they knew nobody would report them to authorities. After Amy had an abortion at a Planned Parenthood Clinic, she and Jed returned to Texas where Jed was arrested for aiding Amy. Amy’s mother then sued Jed as well and collected $10,000 from the State under Texas’ “bounty” law. How, Amy and Jed wondered, were they ever caught? Come to find out, the police in the California town where the Planned Parenthood Clinic was located gave the authorities in Mitchell County Amy’s license plate which had been detected at the Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Does the foregoing hypothetical strike you as at all odd from a California standpoint? Of course it is outrageous and probably unconstitutional that Mitchell County made it illegal to transport a person out of state to get an abortion. That part is not hypothetical. They did. 

But, can California police agencies invade people’s privacy like that? The answer is no. It is against California law. But they have! There are at least 35 police agencies that still violate people’s privacy by sharing automated license plate reader (ALPR) information with out-of-state government agencies. This puts abortion seekers and providers at particular risk. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and California’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates wrote a letter to California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta. In it they stated, “We urge your office to explore all potential avenues to ensure that state and local law enforcement agencies immediately comply. We are deeply concerned that the information could be shared with agencies that do not respect California’s commitment to civil rights and liberties and are not covered by California’s privacy protections.” 

According to Electronic Frontier Foundation’s January 2024 press release, in October 2023, Bonta had issued a legal interpretation and guidance clarifying that a 2016 state law, SB 34, “prohibits California’s local and state police from sharing information collected from automated license plate readers (ALPR) with out-of-state or federal agencies. However, despite the Attorney General’s definitive stance, dozens of law enforcement agencies have signaled their intent to continue defying the law.” (Emphasis added.)

Jessica Valenti in her newsletter, Abortion Everyday, on Substack on February 15, 2024, states,“The truth is that there’s all sorts of data that could be used by anti-choice states to prosecute abortion patients and the people who help them. A report put out this summer by STOP (Surveillance Technology Oversight Project) (here) for example, raised the alarm on automated license plate readers (ALPR), street camera footage, and the data within cars themselves—which are retained for long periods of time and can be accessible without a warrant.” You can add mobile telephones, car computers, Uber and Lyft records, and even bikeshare to that list!

Law enforcement from anti-choice states could use all this information to prosecute abortion-related “crimes”! 

For more information on the increasing danger of law enforcement’s ability to track abortion and gender-affirming care—from ALPRs to reverse warrants—read the report from STOP (Surveillance Technology Oversight Project).