When Texas' restrictive new abortion law took effect last week, Texas Right to Life had already launched an anonymous abortion tip line called ProLifeWhistleblower.com, which asked people to submit reports revealing information about people who are facilitating abortions.
This was made possible by the new law's strange mechanism that allows any person, even one outside the state, to sue any other person who either performs an illegal abortion or knowingly aids and abets an illegal abortion (including paying for it). The law defines illegal abortions as those performed past the point at which fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks into pregnancy. ("Fetal heartbeat" is a somewhat fraught term, notes Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown, since it "refer[s] to any embryonic cardiac activity—an electrical pulse that mimics a heartbeat even before an embryo has a heart—and can generally be detected about two weeks after pregnancy registers on a typical home test.")
The law essentially deputizes abortion vigilantes to monitor the activities of other people and sue them for violating the law. If successful, snitches can be rewarded $10,000 in damages. This is all done "in an effort to frustrate constitutional challenges," writes Reason's Jacob Sullum. It has predictably earned the ire of the pro-choice movement and its media boosters. "Here's How You Can Help Shut Down the Vile Website for Snitching on People Who Get Abortions in Texas," reads one Gizmodo headline from last Wednesday. That story suggests that angry pro-choicers contact the site's web hosting provider, GoDaddy, and allege that the website is violating the company's terms of service, which do not allow users to
collect or harvest (or permit anyone else to collect or harvest) any User Content…or any non-public or personally identifiable information about another User or any other person or entity without their express prior written consent.
Gizmodo also notes that readers could file abuse reports with the hosting platform, bluntly declaring that "it looks like our best line of defense is filing those reports until the company can't take it anymore." Meanwhile, TikTok users have taken to creating videos that show each other how to flood the site with fake tips. GoDaddy seemingly either buckled under the pressure and/or came to the decision that the TOS violations were indeed too major to allow, giving Texas Right to Life notice that it would need to migrate elsewhere within 24 hours. (Texas Right to Life has not responded to Reason's request for comment.)
The company Epik then agreed to host the site. But before long, Epik's general counsel informed The Verge that the whistleblowing site's anonymous tipline ran afoul of the company's terms of service, too. Now, the ProLifeWhistleblower.com url redirects to Texas Right to Life's homepage, seemingly hobbled by the trials and tribulations of finding suitable web hosting.
Pro-choicers and pro-lifers appear to have one thing in common: a passion for snitching on each other.
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