Restrictions on right to abortion bring new threat to free speech in US

Restrictions on right to abortion bring new threat to free speech in US - Civic Space

Abortion rights protest, Los Angeles, California, USA, 9 July 2022. Photo: Behzad Moloud/Shutterstock

What are the implications for freedom of expression following the US Supreme Court decision to end the constitutional right to abortion?

In this podcast, part of the Boundaries of Expression series, Jo Glanville talks to Quinn McKew, Executive Director for ARTICLE 19, First Amendment expert, lawyer and ARTICLE 19 trustee Bob Latham, and Alexandra Reeve Givens, CEO at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade on 24 June 2022, and with it, the right to abortion as a constitutional right. A number of states took immediate action: in South Carolina, moves are underway to make it illegal to provide information about abortion; in Texas, people are being encouraged to spy and report on anyone who offers assistance to people getting an abortion. At the time this podcast was recorded, at least 10 states had taken steps to criminalise abortion for their residents. 

This attack is not purely about reproductive rights: it’s also an assault on people’s right to access information and to freely express themselves.

In the aftermath of the Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization judgment, Jo Glanville talks to Quinn McKew, Bob Latham, and Alexandra Reeve Givens about the inevitable rise of self-censorship and websites being taken down for fear of legal repercussions. And they assess how tech companies will deal with the aftermath, and how their long-standing refusal to balance profits with privacy might further entrench restrictions to people’s rights. For years, privacy and free speech advocates have argued for leading tech companies to incorporate ‘privacy by design’ and be more transparent and responsible about how they collect and store data — and they have failed to do so. 

And here, surprisingly, is where the speakers also see some sort of hope. What has happened in the US, as shocking and dystopian as it is, may actually present an opportunity. Although the US is sharply divided on so many issues, there does appear to be some common ground when it comes to privacy, from data security to consumer protection. And it is through this lens that the protection of other rights might be safeguarded. 



This is part of the Boundaries of Expression podcast series. Developed by guest editors, the series explores the limits and challenges to freedom of expression and focuses on some of the most controversial and divisive issues of our time.

More Boundaries of Expression:

Listen to Jo Glanville’s Boundaries of Expression podcasts:

The spy in your pocket

The UK Human Rights Act

Why the right to protest matters

The right to truth


Read the essays:

Why the right to truth matters

Why the right to protest matters

Are some rights more equal than others?

Spyware threatens everyone’s right to free expression


Journalist and editor Jo Glanville

Jo Glanville is a journalist and editor. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, London Review of Books and the Observer, among other publications. She is editor of Looking For An Enemy: eight essays on antisemitism (Short Books, UK; WW Norton, US, August 2022).