Legislation intended to keep law enforcement from obtaining menstrual data held by period-tracking apps has been shot down in Virginia this week.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D), passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last week in a 31-9 vote. Known as S.B. 852, the legislation was supported by every Democrat and 18 Republicans, according to the Washington Post.
Despite its popular support, the bill ultimately failed on Monday due to opposition from a Republican-controlled subcommittee following objections from the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R).
Given that such data is not protected by the federal health privacy law HIPAA, Youngkin’s Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Maggie Cleary argued that law enforcement should still be allowed access.
“Currently, any health information or any app information is available via search warrant,” Cleary said. “We believe that should continue to be the case.”
Cleary also argued that allowing the bill to pass would undoubtedly “open the door to put further limits on search warrants down the road.”
In a press release responding to the decision, state Democrats criticized Youngkin and his administration and argued that it intended to target women with criminal action for obtaining abortions.
“The bill, which the Youngkin administration advocated against, would have prohibited the issuance of a search warrant for electronically stored menstrual health data,” the press release said. “This legislation has been widely supported by women’s health and pro-choice advocacy groups over fears that apps used by women to track their menstrual cycles could be used as evidence against her if she were to be charged with a crime for seeking reproductive healthcare.”
Democratic Party of Virginia Press Secretary Liam Watson went one step further by describing Youngkin as eager to “imprison women and doctors.”
“Governor Youngkin’s eagerness to imprison women and doctors for seeking and providing reproductive care is a dangerous step,” Watson said. “It is 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.”
But Macaulay Porter, Youngkin’s press secretary, says the administration would oppose any bills that imprisoned women for receiving an abortion. Virginia Republicans have, however, proposed legislation that would impose penalties on those who perform abortions.
According to Axios, as many as a third of all women use apps to track their menstrual cycles.