#ShoutYourAbortion and the art of violating your own privacy

If you #ShoutYourAbortion on Twitter, and the public reaction scares the crap out of you, well, you should only blame yourself.

Abortion doctors have been murdered on their way to work, and people have gone to court for the right to harass women entering clinics. Planned Parenthood has been infiltrated by videographers hoping to incriminate its personnel. You probably know all of this if you’ve waded into pro-choice advocacy.

You must also know if you’ve sought health care – women’s or otherwise — that the federal government has thousands of pages of regulation intended to protect your medical privacy. Your wart removal and your colonoscopy are equally sacred in the eyes of the law. Nobody – not even your insurance company – is supposed to receive details about those procedures without your permission.

But Amelia Bonow traded privacy for protest in the face of a threat to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, by publicizing her own abortion. She encouraged other women to share without apology that they’ve had abortions. Bonow soon left her apartment because of death threats.

As a free speech advocate, who am I to rebuke Bonow and her followers? I won’t. But as a privacy advocate, I would suggest that you never know when or why you might later regret sharing personal information. You also never know which information you might some day regret sharing.

Bonow told the New York Times that she’s not sure how seriously to take the threats, and not sure when it will be safe to go home.

“I’m not a public figure,” she said. Actually, she is a public figure now. You may have heard that the internet never forgets, and that forever is a long, long time.

By the way, have you also heard that any information you commit to a digital device can get out of your control?

If you carry around stored video of yourself having sex, for instance, as Indiana House Majority Leader Jud McMillan did, you really have nobody else to blame when your phone gets stolen and your personal porn goes public.

This can be particularly embarrassing for a family values guy. Yes, he is.

The takeaway should be obvious, but I guess it isn’t. You can’t be hurt by the stuff you never reveal. You can’t reveal the stuff you never record. Almost anything you reveal or record can be cause for regret.