ISABEL: Hi. This is Isabel. I'm here to introduce the host, my mom, Elise. All right, let's start the show.
ELISE HU, HOST:
You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Elise Hu. All right, we live so much of our lives on the internet, and information is always only a search away. We track our health, whether it's exercise or sleep or heart rate, on our apps. And increasingly, we're seeing our doctors online or getting medications delivered to us straight to our homes. But if a federal protection for abortion ends nationally and we have to reckon with individual states getting more involved with our intimate lives, it kicks up a lot of questions about the information we store and the information we can get.
RACHEL COHEN: Whether you're searching on Google or whether you download, you know, an app - even your Fitbit - we're constantly sort of entering questions about our health or we're tracking various things. And I think it is not made clear to people sort of, who gets access to that data? Who are they selling it to? Even when you delete the app, that doesn't mean that you've deleted the data.
HU: That's journalist Rachel Cohen. As the senior policy reporter at Vox, she's been reporting on how tech companies control our access to information on reproductive health. The likely end to legal abortion nationwide has also sparked concerns over how law enforcement might use our data to prosecute patients.
LIL KALISH: What we've seen so far is that tech companies are kind of reluctant to draw a hard line in the sand about where they stand on how they're going to protect, or not, access to information about abortion.
HU: That's journalist Lil Kalish, who's a reporter at CalMatters, who's examined questions about privacy in a post-Roe America. Lil and Rachel join me to talk through these questions because if there is one major difference between now and the last time abortion was illegal in America, which was some 50 years ago, it's telemedicine, the internet and the availability of safe abortion pills.
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HU: Just to be clear, as things stand now, can the abortion medications - can they be acquired by every American in every state?
COHEN: Well, right now, how you can get it can vary by states. I mean, they've been long approved - so they're very safe, and we've gotten, you know, even further studies over time on their safety. But the ability to access them is being restricted by states. So now, you know, conservative states are making it harder and adding more restrictions on how you can get it. But they are sort of legal, mass-produced drugs that are available in the U.S. and around the world.
HU: So what happens then, Lil, if Roe v. Wade is overturned and there is no longer a federal protection for abortion?
KALISH: Basically, in light of this leak, there's been greater awareness on how we get information on reproductive health and abortion. And what we've seen already is, you know, tech platforms will flag or take down information relating to reproductive health or women's health. There's a organization called the Center for Intimacy Justice, and they ran a report that looks at advertising for sexual and reproductive health. And they've seen that ads that use keywords like abortion or pregnancy or pelvic pain - those ads get taken down way more often than, for example, ads that say erectile dysfunction. Or, for example, there's a telehealth company that I spoke to that provides abortion medication. And they saw, at the end of March, that their ads on Google were taken down for 10 days. And they're still trying to figure out what exactly happened, even though they have the two certifications that they need to be an online retailer of abortion medication.
HU: Rachel, your reporting has focused on the nonprofit Aid Access, which has been delivering abortion medication to Americans in every state, including the 19 that currently ban telemedicine abortion. Can you briefly explain how these services work?
COHEN: Essentially how it works is you fill out an online consultation form. If you are living in the states in the U.S. where medication abortion is not restricted, they refer you to a provider who will ship you the pills in one to two days. If you are in one of the more restrictive states, then they refer you to Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, who is based in Austria. And then she will fill your prescriptions from a pharmacy she trusts in India. One of the things about Aid Access that I think is really notable is it is cheaper to get medication abortion from them right now than even the providers in the U.S.
COHEN: So the drawback is that shipping from India can take 2 to 3 weeks. So for something that it's safest to take within 10 weeks of pregnancy, like, there is a time element to this. And...
COHEN: ...But the upside is you don't have to raise as much money, necessarily, to get the pills. So that is sort of the model and how it's worked since 2018. They've delivered over 30,000 pills to over 30,000 people. Since then, you know, Republicans have struggled to figure out how to shut them down so far.
HU: Why don't we break up the concerns? Because there are kind of two main threads to this, right?
HU: There's the worry about information in - just access to information about reproductive health and fertility that we seek. Just this week - right? - Aid Access' Instagram was taken down briefly.
COHEN: Yeah. Aid Access' Instagram was taken down for two days with, like, no explanation other than being told that something they did, quote, "violated community guidelines."
HU: And let's just bring back home why Aid Access' Instagram or any of these other groups' Instagram or ability to reach out via social platforms matter and the timing matters.
COHEN: I mean, this is where a lot of people are. I always - I search, like, every question I have. And I am rarely giving thought to, like, how these searches can be used against me. I think the articles that have been coming out recently have been extremely important reminders about the urgent need to pass more of these data privacy consumer protection laws. I think if this doesn't give legislators the kick in the butt, like, we're really in trouble.
HU: There's also the concerns about our information out and surveillance or data tracking.
KALISH: Yes. There's a case that researchers often point to of a Black pregnant woman in Mississippi. In 2017, she became pregnant and had mentioned to nurses that she was thinking about terminating her pregnancy. And she experienced some complications and went to the hospital because she had a stillbirth at home. The nurses previously, because she never followed up for her ultrasound - they had handed over her records to the police. So by the time she got to the hospital, she was already under suspicion, and police asked her for her phone. She gave it to them. And investigators were very easily - be able to download her search history, which showed that she was researching terms like buy abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol online - the two pills used in medication abortion. And they found that she had purchased those pills online, and she was charged with second-degree murder, though that charge was eventually dropped. And, you know, the keywords warrant is just one of the ways that police and prosecutors can get that data from folks. They can also use a geofence warrant, which basically - with a geofence warrant, police can basically identify the device history of everyone in a certain location, so everyone who's visited an abortion clinic, for example. It starts out with a low-tech way of just nurses and doctors maybe being suspicious of a patient, but the tech part and the data extraction comes in later to help secure those convictions.
COHEN: This is Rachel. If there's suspected criminal activity, law enforcement right now can basically get everything. Like, there's very, very, very little that they cannot get of your social media or internet searches. And they can just go to Google. They can go to social media companies, and they have broad authority to do that kind of thing. And right now, there's very little rules on any of these companies or apps to delete your data, even if you're using private searches; you're deleting your apps from your phone. There are bills that exist that would require companies to delete that data or that would limit how much they collect in the first place. And other countries like Europe has a much stronger data privacy law. Like, other countries have been much more proactive than the U.S. And so there is, like, hope, and hopefully these conversations will move pressure in that direction. But right now, we are in a bad spot.
HU: To both of you, considering how much of our data we are freely offering up to tech platforms and the real complexity of our reproductive and our intimate lives that now the government is getting more involved in, what can people do to protect themselves?
KALISH: I want to emphasize that it's really hard to be rock solid, but there are things that you can do to protect yourself and those that are helping you with your abortion - never really bring your phone to a clinic. And if you're going to search about, you know, how to self-manage an abortion or get an abortion, don't do it on your personal device or your own Wi-Fi network. A lot of advocates I've spoken to have said things like go to your local library or, you know, use an encrypted search engine. And similarly, if you're looking to purchase medication online, don't use your credit card. It's often people ratting each other out what kind of kicks off investigation.
KALISH: So be careful about who you're talking to you about this and work with people that you feel like you can trust. There are robust abortion doula networks and abortion funds that help folks and, you know, can teach them about how to stay safe. I really recommend getting in touch with the Digital Defense Fund, which is an organization that provides abortion providers and individuals with the knowledge of how to beef up their own cybersecurity.
HU: Yeah. Lil, this is such a fantastic list of resources, but it does sound really complex and requiring a lot of background information or tools that maybe we don't have the time or the bandwidth to do. It's a lot, it seems like.
KALISH: It is. As one privacy researcher told me, you know, it's a nightmare scenario. Nobody wants to have to do all of those things. It's kind of impossible. And if you are under stress, as you might be if you want to terminate your pregnancy, it's kind of impossible to get all of those things done and ensure that you're rock solid.
COHEN: Yeah, just to add briefly to what Lil's like because I think those were really great suggestions. I think raising the pressure on getting some of these laws because it is so immensely difficult to expect us as individuals living in this society to not, like, search on the internet the questions that we have. That's just the world that we live in. And it feels so - to be like, oh, well, you gave your information to Google. Well, that feels like a really unfair expectation. So I think, like, there are steps we can take to mitigate things, but it's also - have to - like, it's really hard to be 100% consistent. And I think our - the best hope is kind of elevating these as, like, pop political needs to deal with so that we're not in this position where we have to feel guilty for Googling our health care questions.
HU: Thanks again to journalists Rachel Cohen and Lil Kalish. Coming up, a little change of pace, I'm joined by Christine Quinn from Netflix's "Selling Sunset." We talk about her persona on screen, which you've probably seen, and her new book. Stay with us.
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HU: The thing about reality TV, which we're all kind of used to now, is that every show has a villain, someone you love to hate and maybe even hate to love, the one who's all about the drama. And on Netflix, "Selling Sunset" about a group of luxury real estate agents in L.A., the villain is pretty obvious from the start.
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CHRISTINE QUINN: I'm willing to work with anyone to be at the top of my game. Hell, I'll work with Satan if I need to, I mean - hi, guys.
HU: That is Christine Quinn. She is one of the real estate agents at the heart of "Selling Sunset." And Christine is known for not always playing well with others.
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QUINN: When I ask you, what did you say?
CHRISHELL STAUSE: Don't yell at me.
QUINN: When I ask...
STAUSE: Don't yell at me.
QUINN: ...You, what did...
HEATHER RAE YOUNG: OK. Hold on, hold on.
QUINN: ...You say?
STAUSE: Do not yell at me.
MAYA VANDER: Christine.
QUINN: And you don't own up to what you said, it makes you look like a crazy person.
STAUSE: If you keep yelling at me...
QUINN: You say, I don't remember.
STAUSE: ...I'm not going to listen.
HU: In real life, villainy isn't so simple. People are complex, and Christine Quinn wants to assure you that she is, too. "Selling Sunset" is out with a new season. And Christine, she's written a new book with a slightly in-your-face title. It's called "How To Be A Boss B*tch: Stop Apologizing For Who You Are And Get The Life You Want." It's out next week. In our chat, we talked about her book and her TV persona and the differences between her persona and reality.
Something that you write about is that a lot of audiences mistake your character on the show for the actual you. So I'd love to know what the difference between how you're portrayed on TV in a so-called reality show - even though we all know reality is kind of reality in quotes these days...
QUINN: Of course.
HU: ...And the real Christine.
QUINN: Yeah. Well, I think, you know, going into the show, I knew that the most important thing that I wanted to take away from the experience was I just want to stand out, and I want to be remembered. And it goes back to, you know, my acting. And I wanted to make people feel something - whether that was relatability, whether that was vulnerability, whether that was strength, whether that was inspiration. I just wanted to make people feel something.
So on the show, you know, I did my absolute best to, you know, play up my humor and have fun and not take it too seriously and be over the top. And I want people to be inspired to be the boss b*tch that they are, which is why I wanted to write my book, and I wanted to encourage people to be the most authentic, truest version of themself. And I think, you know, so many people are worried about perception. Gosh, you know, I don't want to be portrayed as the b*tch. I don't want to not be taken seriously in business. But I'm tired of the word b*tch being used in a negative connotation. It's not. If you're being called a b*tch, that means that you're doing something right. That means that you're not being an amenable, quiet woman and you are making waves and shattering glass ceilings.
HU: Is there a paradox, though? - because you're saying that folks should embrace their authentic selves when, in your case, your authentic self is actually a lot kinder. You are portraying a meaner person on television.
QUINN: Yes, absolutely. When I went into the reality television world, I knew that I needed to do everything I could to set myself apart, and I was willing to fall on my sword, you know, in the process, whether that be, you know, me saying things maybe not as kind that I maybe wouldn't say in real life. But the reality is, is I am very blunt, and I am very intimidated. Do I amp it up? Yes, absolutely. But in real life, I'm not like that at all on television. And, you know, when the show came out, the No. 1 messages and emails and requests I had been receiving, you know - I would - I thought it would be about fashion or...
HU: Yeah, yeah. I'm curious.
QUINN: ...You know, clothes, make up. The No. 1, by far, biggest request from people and question was, how do I have your confidence? How can I be as confident as you? How can I stand up to my boss in a situation when I feel like something's not right? In a male-dominated industry, how can I do this? And so for me, this was the inspiration to write my book, because over the years I've realized, for me, confidence is not something that I was born with, and so many doors were slammed in my face. So confidence was something that really, you know, gained over the years of rejection. And I used my haters and my doubters to fuel my fire.
HU: And is there, to some extent, a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach with you? - because you've also written about how you doctored your resume, and...
HU: ...That, you know, you totally embrace some aspects of plastic surgery, which is very normalized, of course...
QUINN: All aspects.
HU: ...In LA. And so are you as - (laughter) fantastic. So are you - is part of your message that if you don't have confidence, that it's OK to be dishonest about it, just to kind of punch it up?
QUINN: Well, basically, you know, I didn't come from money of any sort. You know, my family was - you know, we didn't grow up wealthy by any means. We were less than middle class. You know, we - I grew up poor. And, you know, my dream was to go to the Juilliard School of Performing Arts. That was my dream. But I couldn't afford it. My parents couldn't afford it, and I couldn't take on the debt. So it's such a catch-22 in this industry because us as women and people in general, you know, you need to have experience in order to be considered for a job. But how do you get experience if no one will hire you if you don't have the credentials?
So I - yeah, absolutely. I had to doctor my resumes to even be taken seriously, even for a bartending job. And I just - I hate that so much because, you know, it's not about what's on paper. It's about the person, the individual. But through my journey of growing up and becoming accountable to other people, other young people, especially young women, whether it be being transparent about plastic surgery, whether it being transparent about everything, really, I realized that it was my duty to be honest and say, you know, I appreciate that everyone thinks I you know, am a great businesswoman. However, you know, I want to tell you my story and how hard it was to get here and how I had - how I had to do the things that I had to do and fake it till I make it because people weren't taking me seriously.
HU: You are somebody who really celebrates the hustle. A lot of your book is about how we can hustle better.
HU: But what is your message to folks who also work hard and things don't work out for them? How do you address that...
QUINN: Oh, yeah..
HU: ...When your value system is, you know, really focused on winning?
QUINN: Oh, I mean, absolutely. I mean, I dealt with it for years. You know, hustle doesn't happen overnight, and success doesn't happen overnight. You have to understand, I was 29 years old until I was actually taken seriously as a professional, and I had worked so many years. But the key is persistence, persistence, persistence - outside of the box thinking. You know, you'll read in my book - there's instances where I was trying to apply for a modeling agency, and they kept denying my headshots. You know, after I was being told, no, no, no, no, no. I said, you know what? I'm just asking the wrong person, and I will get a yes. And so what I did was I thought outside of the box, and I just showed up to the office. I showed up to the office, and I said, I need to speak with this person. They're like, who are you? I waited in that office lobby for about - I don't even know - five hours or something just to speak with the head of this agency. And she finally took me in, and I said, listen, I understand that you get thousands of headshots a day, but I wanted you to meet me in person. I wanted you to see me as an individual human. I'm not just a photo on a piece of paper. I'm so much more. Let me explain to you why. So for anyone who, you know, thinks...
HU: Wait, and what happened? What happened?
QUINN: Well, she signed me, of course.
HU: It's crazy. Yeah...
HU: ...It's almost unheard of that that would happen, that she would even kind of just take a random person in the lobby.
QUINN: Well, I was a stalker. I wasn't (laughter) - I wasn't letting...
HU: We are not endorsing stalking on this show...
QUINN: We are not endorsing...
HU: ...But this worked out for Christine Quinn.
QUINN: We are not endorsing stalking, but I'm saying, you know, it falls in line with being extremely persistent and being a creative thinker, doing anything that you can do to set yourself apart, to do things differently. You know, even when I'm working in real estate, what I do is I see homes that are being built. I'll go to construction sites. And I will literally walk up to the workers working on the property. And I say...
HU: Oh, wow.
QUINN: ...Hi, who's the developer? Who's managing this project? I'll get their information, and then I'll reach out to the developer directly. You know, these are things that I do to think outside of the box because, you know, we have a way and a system of doing things, but I think it's all about disrupting the system and finding a new way, a creative way to get yourself out there.
HU: OK. Before we let you go...
HU: ...I know you're really celebrated and make a lot of money for striving and achieving. But do you ever want to stop the hustle, make less money or fewer appearances, and live a quieter life, especially now that you've become a mom and, you know, are older?
QUINN: You know, it's so funny to me. It's actually not about the money. It's not about the money for me. I enjoy - I genuinely enjoy working. I genuinely enjoy accomplishing projects. So for me, I think the hustle will never stop. And it comes from, you know, this ambition that was deep-rooted inside of me from, you know, so many people telling me I couldn't do things and, you know, me wanting to prove them wrong, but also feeling so fulfilled in the process of loving the work that I do. And it's all about surrounding yourself with people that resonate and are on your level and want you to succeed, and you want them to succeed as well. It's all about the environment. You are the sum of the five people you hang out with. You are the sum. So I think that's the most important thing, is to, you know, get rid of all the toxic people in your life, and then watch how you will catapult and thrive to become a butterfly.
HU: Christine Quinn, I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.
QUINN: Thank you so much. It's been wonderful.
HU: Christine Quinn stars in the reality show "Selling Sunset" on Netflix. Her new book, "How To Be A Boss B*tch," is out May 17.
Coming up, we hear from you, dear listeners, and the best things that happened to y'all this week.
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EVA: Hi. I'm Elise's daughter, Eva. Now it's time to end the show like we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag - and they do. Let's hear them.
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FABIAN: Hi, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. My son, Gabriel (ph), will be graduating high school May 20. I'm very proud of him. And I look forward to where he's going to go in the future, and I'm there to back him up as he moves on. Go all you seniors, 2022, wherever you are.
CHRIS: Hi, this is Chris (ph) in Arizona. And the best thing that happened to me this week - I heard the three best words in the English language. On a FaceTime with my daughter and my 2-year-old grandson, I heard, love you, Grandma. And it was followed by him blowing me kisses.
SARAH: This is Sarah (ph). I guess the best thing that happened to me this week is that I found out that I'm pregnant, and I didn't realize how happy I would be. So I'm about to tell my husband, and I just wanted to try to say it out loud one time. And it sounds weird, but I'm really, really happy. So thank you for all the work that you do. I love this part of the show. Have a great day.
HU: Aw, I love this segment, too. Thank you to those listeners you heard there - Sarah, Chris and Fabian (ph). Listeners, you can send your best thing to us at any time during the week. We want to hear from you. Just record yourself and send a voice memo to our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. That's I-B-A-M @npr.org.
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HU: All right, this week's episode was produced by Barton Girdwood, Andrea Gutierrez, Liam McBain, Chloee Weiner, Janet Woojeong Lee and Aja Drain. We had engineering help from Kwesi Lee. Our editor is Kitty Eisele. Our director of programming is Yolanda Sangweni, and our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. So until next time, take care, y'all. I'm Elise Hu. We'll talk soon.
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