Groups Argue Gigi Sohn’s FCC Nomination Is an Abortion-Rights Issue

FCC nominee Gigi Sohn
Democratic FCC nominee Gigi Sohn (Image credit: ill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Progressive groups are using the hot-button issue of abortion rights to push for the confirmation of FCC nominee Gigi Sohn, who has had three nomination hearings in the Senate, two separate nominations from President Joe Biden and a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee, but whose nomination has yet to make it out of that committee to a Senate floor vote.

On its face, the abortion connection would appear to be a stretch, but the nexus is online access to abortion information and network-neutrality rules eliminated by the previous Republican chairman and expected to be restored by a Democratic Federal Communications Commission majority.

Last month, almost four dozen groups, including some reproductive-rights groups, wrote Senate leaders saying that installing a fifth commissioner and third Democrat on the five-member FCC was necessary for it to help protect “the safety and rights of people seeking, providing and facilitating abortion care.”

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In the two years Sohn’s nomination has been stalled and the FCC has been at a 2-2 political tie, the groups said, “telecom giants and Big Tech have only scaled up their collection and retention of an astonishingly unnecessary amount of customer data, including the locations and search histories of individual people.”

That “mass surveilance,” they said, combined with a lack of constitutional privacy protections, is allowing for the “mass-scale tracking and criminalization of those seeking abortion healthcare.”

Given Sohn’s history of defending privacy rights, they argue, she would be in a position to help the FCC reduce the amount of personal data being collected and retained, while her absence — and more broadly the lack of a Democratic voting majority — has led to a data free-for-all.

Fight for the Future, one of the groups signing on to the letter, also pointed to a report this week (opens in new tab) about a proposed Texas law that would require ISPs to block websites with information on how to get an abortion.

FFTF says that restoring the net-neutrality rules would prevent such laws by not allowing ISPs to block websites “unless they contain content that’s federally illegal.” ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.