STATEMENT: Congress must pause all Section 230 legislation until the impacts on abortion and trans healthcare are assessed

March 8, 2023

The following statement can be attributed to Evan Greer (she/her) director of Fight for the Future:

“Today’s hearing on Section 230 lacks critical context on how the law protects marginalized communities. Never has this need been greater, as multiple states are working to strip critical healthcare rights, like access to abortion and gender affirming care, including the right to even obtain information on these healthcare options online. We ask the Senate to advance no legislation on Section 230 until a hearing can be held solely on how changes to Section 230 could impact those seeking information on abortion and gender affirming care.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the last line of defense keeping reproductive and gender affirming health care support and information online. Section 230 specifically bars states and local governments from imposing liability inconsistent with its protections on hosting content from unrelated speakers. This allows platforms to host user content discussing abortion and gender affirming care despite bills being contemplated in multiple state legislatures that would penalize this speech.

If Section 230 is repealed, as Senator Whitehouse among others have suggested, it would immediately allow states to ban information on abortion and gender affirming care. States such as Texas, South Carolina, and Iowa have all introduced bills that seek to limit what material is offered online, restrict access to abortion information, and create liability for individuals and health care professionals who facilitate efforts to obtain an abortion. 

The threat of these bills are real. Texas has already passed SB 8, which targets online speech surrounding abortion information, and the National Right to Life Committee’s model state law  intentionally criminalizes providing or hosting information or assistance on how to get a medical abortion. Walgreens recently announced that they won’t carry medical abortion pills in certain states. If Section 230 is weakened, we would see online platforms refuse to carry speech related to abortion, fearing liability under draconian state laws.

Section 230 is an old law, but it remains vitally important to defend the free speech rights of marginalized people and preserve access to safe abortion. We’ve had enough hearings with witnesses who refuse to acknowledge the complexity of changes to Section 230. It’s time for a hearing that includes experts from the LGBTQ, abortion rights, and human rights community who can speak to the harm done by the last change to Section 230, SESTA/FOSTA, and the potential impact that changes to 230 could have on precious civil liberties and marginalized people’s safety.