On May 2, 2022, Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and reverse nearly a half-century of legal precedent upholding the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. The decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, followed decades of conservative-led efforts to ban abortion and to criminalize people seeking or providing such care.
The Supreme Court officially overturned Roe that June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, opening the door for states to fully outlaw abortion. More than a dozen states had trigger bans in place that would prohibit or severely restrict abortion as soon as Roe was overturned. While courts blocked certain bans from going into effect, by the fall of 2022 abortion was fully illegal in 13 states, with legislators in other states pushing to implement their own total bans. According to an October report from the Guttmacher Institute, at least 66 clinics across 15 states had stopped offering abortions following the Dobbs decision, severely limiting the availability of reproductive care and forcing many abortion seekers to travel out of state.
American Oversight is investigating what additional measures anti-abortion rights lawmakers might be pursuing, and what public health guidance or assessments — or lack thereof — they’re relying on to make such decisions. We filed public records requests in several states where severe abortion restrictions were being considered or were already in place — including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wyoming — seeking any documents reflecting guidance on abortion-related public messaging, or assessments of the impact of any new abortion restrictions.
We also filed several requests seeking communications sent or received by top officials in multiple states — including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — in the days surrounding both the leak of the draft opinion as well as the final decision.
Additionally, the Dobbs decision led to growing concerns about the potential use of digital surveillance to prosecute people who have abortions. In August, a Nebraska teenager and her mother faced criminal charges for procuring an abortion after law enforcement obtained the teenager’s Facebook messages, raising questions about abortion seekers’ privacy and ability to access online resources. American Oversight filed records requests to investigate whether state attorneys general in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah had been in contact with tech companies, app developers, or data brokers involved in the capturing of reproductive health data. So far, the attorney general offices in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have told us they found no records that were responsive to requests.
American Oversight will continue to investigate the impacts of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision, as well as the potential use of surveillance technology to identify and prosecute abortion seekers in certain states.