By Meg Leta Jones and Amanda Levendowski, co-editors of Feminist Cyberlaw

After the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many feared that America was returning to a time before Roe v. Wade. They were wrong. As Feminist Cyberlaw contributor Cynthia Conti-Cook cautioned in 2020, “[a] wide variety of digital forensic technology and other forms of technology broaden state surveillance power through online searches, geofencing, location tracking, purchasing history, and more. Combined, these data points could identify, for example, the profiles of pregnant people spending time at substance abuse treatment centers, making purchases at bars, or repeatedly taking a particular route across state lines.” 

Even before Dobbs, cyberspace made pregnancies easier to detect and track, which makes terminations easier to criminalize. That harm is not borne equally — a Black mother named Latice Fisher, who experienced a stillbirth, was charged with second-degree murder after law enforcement discovered her web searches for abortion pills.

My forthcoming anthology with Meg Leta JonesFeminist Cyberlaw, examines how gender, race, sexuality, disability, and class shape cyberspace and the laws that govern it – like how the restrictions that kicked in post-Dobbs affect pregnant people. Reproductive privacy plays a central role in chapters by Michela Meister and Karen Levy and Elizabeth Joh, which deconstruct the sociotechnical and legal implications of Dobbs. But Meg herself makes a creative contribution through her critical yet hopeful comic about pregnancy privacy, shown below. “It’s always been a big deal to share pregnancy information,” Meg concludes, “but 2024 should be the year American law protects that moment for everyone.”  She layers that text with the illustration of a pregnant woman using a smartphone under watchful eyes, colored with bold oranges and bright blues. While the message is striking in its simplicity, the comic itself is equal parts profound and playful.

The playfulness of Meg’s work is part of its power. As Julie Cohen and critical theorists have explained, play is “an important modality for challenging dominant cultural forms . . . transgressive play may ripen into a more conscious challenge to cultural and political forms.” Without play, feminist cyberlaw – particularly our work on reproductive privacy – could become a relentless recounting of traumas, harms, and resignations. A sense of play, which pervades so many chapters in the anthology, imbues feminist cyberlaw with feelings of curiosity, grace, and even joy. Like Meg, I’ve been inspired to integrate play into my work. In my Privacy Justice Seminar session on decision-making, students play a video game called Beholder, in which a landlord under a dystopian government spies on his tenants. The game serves as an urgent reminder that, as Levy has documented beyond the anthology, the greatest threats to “sexual privacy” are often not technology but “surveillance deputies . . . ordinary people, rather than state actors, [who] use their labor and economic resources to engage in such activity.” Whether through chapters, comics or video games, feminist cyberlaw scholars are invested in how privacy interacts with materiality and bodies. Or, as Meg puts it in her introduction, “Feminist Cyberlaw scholars account for the physicality of the network. They know where the bodies are.” And if you read Feminist Cyberlaw, we’ll show you where those bodies are as well.

—Amanda Levendowski