Guest Editorials, Opinion

Menstrual-tracking bill underscores bizarre extremes in abortion debate

Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkin’s partisans killed a bill that would have banned police from tracking women’s menstrual cycles while investigating potential crimes. The mere fact that Virginia Republican and Democratic lawmakers felt compelled to write such a bill conveys how far American society has veered off the deep end.

The response of Youngkin, a first-term Republican believed to have presidential aspirations, goes against even his fellow partisans in the Virginia Senate. Half of state Senate Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a ban on police intrusions into women’s personal health information. Youngkin’s administration couldn’t even cite a valid reason for needing to access menstrual-cycle information as relevant to a criminal investigation. Nor could the administration cite a specific reason why lawmakers lacked jurisdiction to set limits on police actions. The main apparent goal of Youngkin’s action was to forestall anything that could interfere with his efforts to mimic other Republican-run states and impose a ban on abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Mobile phone apps and other electronic devices where women might store data on their menstrual cycles are not necessarily protected by the federal law that protects the confidentiality of personal health data. If a state like Virginia decides to impose restrictions on abortion access, it could use menstrual-tracking data to establish that an abortion occurred beyond the state-mandated limit.

The Washington Post quoted Maggie Cleary, the state’s deputy secretary of public safety, as saying the Youngkin administration “understands the importance of individuals’ privacy” but the bill in question “would be the very first of its kind that I’m aware of, in Virginia or anywhere, that would set a limit on what search warrants can do.”

Actually, it’s the job of state legislatures to set limitations on what police may or may not do as part of their duty to define laws and establish boundaries for their enforcement. That’s why they’re called “lawmakers.” Judges are obliged to follow legislative limitations when approving search warrants or reviewing whether they’ve been properly executed. For Cleary to suggest otherwise underscores the absurdity of the administration’s position.

Even before members of Virginia’s GOP-controlled lower house were able to consider the Senate bill, Cleary’s statement prompted Youngkin’s backers to vote to table the measure, effectively killing the bill for this session.

With the elimination of abortion rights under Roe v. Wade, women’s bodies more and more are becoming the property of the state. Suddenly, the nightmarish world of fiction depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale” seems not so fictitious anymore.

This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.