“With privacy, it’s like, once it’s out, it’s out,” Professor Meiklejohn said.
Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a physician and the director of Women on Waves, a nonprofit that provides resources for abortion seekers, found this to be the case when she tried setting up her own crypto wallet. “It had exactly the same diligence requests as a normal bank account, where you have to provide IDs and other information,” she said.
She could see how anonymous transactions might appeal to abortion providers, whose work could soon turn them into legal targets. But, she said, “I haven’t found a cryptocurrency where you can do that.”
Legal scholars are not convinced that cryptocurrencies would shield patients in most cases. Abortion bans “will cover everything, whether you pay with cash or crypto,” said Rachel Rebouché, the interim dean at the Temple University Beasley School of Law and an author of a forthcoming paper called “The New Abortion Battleground.”
“If abortion is illegal in your state — it doesn’t matter whether you get a surgical abortion, a medication abortion, whether you self-manage your abortion — if it’s illegal, it’s illegal,” said Kimberly Mutcherson, a dean and professor of law at Rutgers Law School who has focused on reproductive rights. (In the first three months of this year, 22 states introduced more than 100 restrictions on abortion pills approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights.)
Still, organizations like Planned Parenthood are keeping an open mind about how they might raise and distribute funds.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the organization’s president and chief executive, said Planned Parenthood was “looking into a number of things” in the realm of cryptocurrencies but would not divulge details.
“The bottom line is all of the options are on the table,” she said.