The Washington Post reports that a new bill working its way through the South Carolina state legislature outlaws the practice of "providing information over the internet or phone about how to obtain an abortion," while also outlawing hosting a website or internet service that contains information that is “reasonably likely to be used for an abortion."
The report notes that the legislation is based on a model crafted by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and is likely to be replicated in other states run by anti-abortion Republicans.
Michelle Goodwin, the director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California at Irvine Law School, tells the Post that this bill is "unlikely" to be a "one-off," and warns that "these are going to be laws that spread like wildfire through states that have shown hostility to abortion."
However, Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, said that the law's provisions targeting tech platforms and internet service providers were likely not enforceable, as they would run afoul of both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that explicitly states that tech platforms and ISPs should not be treated under the law as publishers.
Nonetheless, he said these laws could have a chilling effect on clinics that provide information on reproductive health care online.
“The legal ambiguity works in favor of regulators,” Goldman said. “They can suppress a lot of constitutionally protected speech just because of fear of liability.”