In the Media

The Weaponisation Of Women’s Social Media Use In Abortion Cases (ELLE)

The powerful role that social media use played in the latest British abortion prosecution is concerning and could have real implications for future cases. Claire Cohen investigates…


Here are the facts: the woman, who pleaded guilty, had denied knowing exactly how far along she was in her pregnancy when she contacted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and obtained abortion pills to use at home, for which the cut off is 10 weeks. The prosecution used her search data and messages to contradict that.

‘Messages found on your phone indicate that you had known of your pregnancy for about three months,’ said the judge, in his sentencing remarks.

‘By mid-February, you were conducting internet searches on ways to induce a miscarriage. By the end of February, you were searching for abortion services’

‘On April 24, you searched, “I need to have an abortion but I’m past 24 weeks”.’

Imagine someone reading your own Google history back to you like that. It’s a stark reminder that what we click online is not our own – if your data is being tracked in the first place, then it can be retained and scrutinised, too.


What is interesting, the law firm McAllister Olivarius tells me, is that Google searches featured so heavily in the judge’s sentencing in the case of the 44-year-old.