Partisans Distort Proposed MOMS Act and Website for Pregnancy Resources

18.05.2024, 1:15, Разное
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Quick Take

Republican Sen. Katie Britt has introduced a bill that would create a government website to help connect pregnant people with resources, excluding abortion services. Some Democrats and partisan websites have misleadingly claimed the proposed law would create a federal database of pregnant people. The bill doesn’t require users to provide any personal information.

Full Story

As Republicans face an uphill battle on their restrictive abortion policies for the 2024 election, GOP Sen. Katie Britt — who opposes abortion — has introduced a bill that she says seeks to support pregnant women.

But critics have spun the draft legislation into a claim that the senator from Alabama is proposing a government-run database that could track pregnant people.

The bill — called the More Opportunities for Moms to Succeed Act, or MOMS Act — has three sections:

The first would create a website called that would list “relevant resources” to pregnant people and parents of young children, including health services (not including abortion), nutrition assistance, and recovery and mental health services.

The second would offer grants to organizations that provide prenatal and post-natal services — such as housing assistance, adoption services, and child care assistance — and to organizations that would use telehealth to improve prenatal and post-natal health care to people in remote or underserved areas.

The third would require states to impose child-support payments through pregnancy.

Within days of the bill’s introduction, partisan media outlets, including the MeidasTouch Network and HuffPost, panned the proposal, misleadingly claiming that it would create a federal database of pregnant people.

Some Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, also opposed the bill. In a statement issued on May 13, they characterized the bill as a means to “push anti-abortion propaganda” through “a new government-run website to collect data on pregnant women and direct them to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and other ‘resources’ to pressure women into carrying pregnancies to term, no matter their circumstances.”

And posts have proliferated on social media, repeating the claim that Britt had proposed creating a “national database of pregnant women.”

But the bill includes no such proposal.

The claim appears to be based on the first section of the bill, which would create a new government-run website. But nowhere in the text of the proposed law does it say that people who use the site would be required to enter their personal information. Rather, it says that users would be able to opt in to give their contact information and receive follow-up emails or phone calls with “additional resources that would be helpful for the users to review.”

The bill doesn’t specify where or for how long the contact information provided by users would be kept, so we asked Britt’s spokesman Sean Ross for further details. He pointed out that the website would function under existing federal privacy guidelines.

“Nothing in this bill alters existing federal data privacy laws or regulations related to government agencies, including the Privacy Act of 1974, the E-Government Act, and existing HHS regulations,” Ross said in an email, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services.

He also highlighted existing rules for websites maintained by the HHS, which Britt’s proposed website would follow.

“Submitting personally identifiable information (PII) such as name, address, telephone number, email address, etc. is voluntary and is not required to access information on our website,” the HHS privacy policy says. “We retain the information only for as long as necessary to respond to your question or request, in most cases no longer than three months. We maintain and destroy information submitted electronically as required by the Federal Records Act and the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) records schedules. It may be subject to disclosure in certain cases (for example, if required by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, court order, or Congressional access request, or if authorized by a Privacy Act SORN).”

The bill doesn’t mention anything about creating a database with users’ personal information.

It does say that within six months of the site’s launch, the secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to report to Congress on website traffic and feedback. The bill specifies that “the report … shall not include any personal identifying information regarding individuals who have used the website.”

So, the bill proposes listing pregnancy-related services, except for those involving abortion, on a website where users could choose to share their contact information in order to get more customized results. It does not describe the creation of a nationwide database detailing the whereabouts of pregnant people.

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