How tech is helping abortion providers overcome barriers to access

This tale is a part of our Startup Resistance sequence that profiles the marketers and activists addressing problems which were omitted or adversarial by means of the Trump management.


In 2016, the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), a community of 70 organizations supporting access to abortion, used to be striking in combination its annual fundraising Bowl-a-Thon, a coordinated national sequence of video games that featured an evening filled with beverages, gutter balls, and striped shirts—all within the identify of reproductive rights. Women around the nation collected in combination to play and select pun-heavy group names like Kiss Our Uter-Ass, Bowl V. Wade, and The Fempire Strikes Back.

But within the weeks main up the fundraising match, the Bowl-a-Thon suffered a devastating setback: It used to be hacked. Not by means of bored youngsters, North Korean hackers, or the Russians—however by means of pro-life activists.

The tech-savvy attackers arrange dummy accounts, orchestrated pretend pages to collect donor main points, submitted erroneous donations totaling $66 billion, and despatched anti-abortion messages to mailing lists. Some activists went thus far as to ship pictures of fetuses along messages like, “I’m hoping I develop up large enough to pass bowling sooner or later.”

Somer Loen, on the time a scholar on the University of California, Davis, who supposed on taking part in Bowl-a-Thon, noticed protesters turning into extra subtle of their orchestrated assaults. They had been now not shouting Bible verses or hoisting home made indicators out in the street. She learned that “the wood line had moved from in entrance of the health center to on-line.”

Loen, at the side of fellow scholars Shireen Dada Whitaker and Emily Loe, determined the one possible way to offer protection to towards long term assaults used to be to improve a space that had regularly confirmed elusive to the reproductive rights sector: tech.

Later that yr, the group based the Abortion Access Hackathon, a day-long match that connects the two sectors by means of bringing technologists, coders, clinics, and startups in combination to extend access in a rustic that’s more and more transform antagonistic for the fitting to select.

i-2-90254094-how-tech-is-helping-abortion-providers-overcome-increasing-challenges How tech is helping abortion providers overcome barriers to access Technology
[Photo: Abortion Access Hackathon]

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a analysis and coverage group dedicated to reproductive well being, 29 states imposed “main” restrictions on abortion access in the previous few years. The scenario is most effective anticipated to accentuate because the Trump management constantly threatens to withhold finances from amenities that provide abortion products and services—all of this regardless of a 2013 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that discovered that 70% of Americans toughen Roe v. Wade.

How to magnify feminist management in tech

The first Abortion Access Hackathon noticed 30 contributors with a powerful appearing of feminine tech marketers. Shortly thereafter, the 2016 election came about, “and everybody were given fired up,” says Loen. “It took off from there.” A yr later, the roving town match sequence swelled to greater than 600 packages and 300 contributors—80% of them ladies. The 501(c)3 has hosted four hackathons, together with one hosted on the GitHub headquarters in San Francisco.

“Our purpose used to be to in reality magnify feminist management in tech,” says Loen. “We’re giving feminists the chance to lead tech and use their abilities to resolve the issues that they’re experiencing . . . and shore up sources for under-resourced abortion providers.”

Interest in startups tackling reproductive problems corresponding to start keep watch over surged within the Trump technology. As Fast Company in the past reported, American ladies more and more flip to telemedicine corporations like Nurx and Lemonaid Health for on-demand birth control, however abortion is nonetheless a separate class that has no longer noticed as a lot consideration as much less legally sophisticated products and services. The hackathon makes an attempt to fill that desire by means of addressing numerous problems that plague the abortion products and services business, corresponding to value, access, data, felony help, and, sure, even protesters.

INeednAnA.org, for instance, combines useful resource data in one easy-to-decipher listing. It’s a searchable database of clinics and abortion toughen products and services that runs the gamut of sensible toughen (transportation lend a hand, childcare, and so forth.) to making use of for monetary help techniques. You simply enter your zip code, at the side of age and level of being pregnant, and a chain of questions will observe to lend a hand come up with the essential toughen.

“It walks you thru this procedure in some way the place all the data is in one central position, which is in reality essential as it’s in reality laborious to in finding exact details about how to get an abortion,” says Loen.

Likewise, AbortionPolicyAPI.com serves as an up-do-date instrument that centralizes all the U.S. regulations on abortion access. Someone can simply pull details about what number of abortion restrictions there are, in say, Indiana.

Another player advanced an interactive map that lists the numerous pretend clinics falsely claiming to supply abortion products and services. (In fact, they sit down down pregnant ladies and take a look at to persuade them to give start.) ExposeFakeClinics.com is a web site nationwide coalition and evergreen marketing campaign (#ExposeFakeClinics) that protects ladies from the emotional abuse of those charlatans. Their volunteers comb thru Yelp and Google+ evaluations, and cold-call the clinics in query.

Other hackathon initiatives take on reputedly small problems that in fact greatly impact each sufferers and providers. The Knoxville Abortion Doula Project anonymizes the phone numbers of volunteers who textual content with shoppers in search of lend a hand, whilst Jane’s Due Process streamlines the volunteer shift hand-off procedure in order that data doesn’t get misplaced all the way through the method. (The latter maximum lately made information when it assisted an undocumented minor download felony access to an abortion. Brett Kavanaugh, lately appointed to the Supreme Court, sat at the panel that attempted to deny her access.)

“By construction this bridge to two other teams, we’re growing advocates on each side,” explains Leon. “In order to proceed access to abortion, we want to be sure that abortion providers have access to the newest tech equipment . . . it ranges the taking part in box a little bit bit extra.”

Costly barriers

The National Network of Abortion Funds, which suffered the 2016 mod, works around the nation to take away monetary and logistical barriers to abortions. Those in desire name the group’s hotline or e-mail throughout the website online for lend a hand coordinating a wide range products and services, necessarily “an overly elaborate protection web of group care,” says NNAF government Yamani Hernandez.

Two years in the past, NNAF fielded 100,000 calls. Last yr, amid expanding restrictions, it crowned 150,000. The workforce used to be most effective in a position to fund about 22,000 of the ones requests. “There’s an incredible desire,” displays Hernandez, who sees the nationwide dialog no longer simply affecting access, however even public belief.

“A large number of time some folks don’t even know that abortion is felony right here,” she says. “There are folks that also name and ask, ‘Is abortion felony? Can I am getting an abortion?’ as it’s this type of fraught subject within the information.”

Abortions can value between $300-$500 all the way through the primary trimester, then will get more and more pricey as time progresses or if particular instances or maternal well being problems complicate the being pregnant. The value can build up to a number of thousand bucks and, in some circumstances, exceed $20,000. They are no longer at all times lined by means of insurance coverage, and The Hyde Amendment, in impact since 1977, necessarily bans federal bucks from going to abortion protection for ladies insured by means of Medicaid. Meanwhile, 75% of abortion sufferers are deficient or low-income ladies.

For those that are living in health center deserts, it manner purchasing a airplane price ticket or discovering somebody to open up their house for an in a single day keep. Then there are those that have already got kids—in reality, 60% of those that search abortions do—because of this discovering childcare, amongst different issues like getting break day paintings.

“Like many different healthcare procedures, it turns into an emergency, and one thing that may be in reality tricky to navigate,” says Hernandez. “Women shouldn’t have to choose from paying their hire and being in a position to get a scientific process like an abortion, that are issues that we pay attention at all times.”

Such accessibility issues impressed some to focal point on workarounds that circumvent the health center fashion—by way of telemedicine. Plan C is one such group that counters the over-regulation and over-medicalization of abortion care within the U.S. by means of necessarily reviewing unregulated on-line pharmacies that promote the “abortion tablet,” i.e., the medicines mifepristone and misoprostol taken to terminate a being pregnant. (It is no longer to be puzzled with Plan B, which prevents being pregnant after unprotected intercourse.)

Plan C does no longer promote those capsules however provides a information to those that do. Founded in 2015, the group researches and orders product from those websites and will counsel those that ship the actual deal. “So we’re sharing that data with ladies as a result of abortion is in large part inaccessible in our nation and ladies are searching for choices,” explains Elisa S. Wells, co-director of Plan C. “Self-managed care is a type of resistance.”

In some nations, those medicines are readily to be had on the native pharmacy for more or less $10. In the U.S., on the other hand, they’re only administered at clinics, which have a tendency to rate $500-$800 for the exact same capsules (at the side of tests and checkups).

As for protection, a up to date find out about tracked greater than 1,000 ladies in Ireland who ordered capsules from Women on Web, the well-known group that helped 75,000 ladies in nations the place abortion is unlawful. It discovered “the protection and effectiveness of the net carrier used to be related to the scientific care that ladies who traveled to the U.Okay. won.”

Plan C additionally serves as a data outlet in regards to the felony dangers one takes by means of venturing onto the black marketplace, which isn’t completely kosher. It works partly with an internet felony crew referred to as SIA, which stands for self-induced abortion, that in particular fights on behalf of girls criminalized for taking issues into their very own fingers. Women are focused and punished a ways more than Americans who do the similar, even though in much less arguable sectors.

As Wells explains, folks regularly head to Mexico for fertility medicine, and males purchase generic Viagra at all times on the web, and no one in reality questions the legality of such purchases. Yet when it comes to abortion, the government perk up: There are a handful of circumstances within the U.S. the place ladies who use those capsules were changed into government and prosecuted.

“Women are inconvenienced and demonized and made to really feel like what they’ve carried out—managing their very own hospital treatment—is improper,” says Wells.

i-1-90254094-how-tech-is-helping-abortion-providers-overcome-increasing-challenges-686x457 How tech is helping abortion providers overcome barriers to access Technology
[Photo: Abortion Access Hackathon]

A rising resistance

Plan C, like others, has noticed hobby swell within the remaining yr and a part. The unbiased group averages 30,000 hits a month, lots of its customers referred by means of Women at the Web, which didn’t be offering products and services for the ones living in U.S. On Thursday, on the other hand, Women on Web founder Dr. Rebecca Gomperts in any case introduced a U.S. model referred to as Aid Access, which serves as an e-commerce website online and scientific useful resource. For simply $95, ladies can get capsules, counseling, and physician-supported hospital treatment.

“It used to be in reaction to the pressing scientific desire,” Gomperts instructed ThinkProgress.

Per week previous, Planned Parenthood introduced additional funding in a Regional Access Network to extend telemedicine, in addition to committing to “leveraging generation and innovation to lend a hand attach folks to products and services.”

As Wells notes, it in reality is the generation making it conceivable to reach access on this new technology of limited care. “We see that an actual alternative each for resistance and likewise for shaping the way forward for abortion care right here within the United States in response to those applied sciences,” she says. And the extra Silicon Valley embraces ladies’s healthcare, the extra it destigmatizes an business that some ladies remarkably don’t even know is felony.

Chipping away away on the old-fashioned concept that abortion is a taboo subject is crucial, stresses Loen. The cofounder believes that simply by having the time period abortion in her group’s identify proves a formidable step ahead. “When GitHub hosted the Abortion Access Hackathon, everybody knew they had been web hosting [an abortion event] . . . even announcing the phrase out loud is tough.”

Ultimately, the extra toughen Wells—at the side of some of these organizations—receives from extra established industries, the extra reproductive rights can piece in combination the care such a lot of American ladies battle to obtain. Ninety % of all U.S. counties nonetheless lack a health center.

“Ultimately our purpose is to supply clinics and providers the similar degree of tech carrier that any main industry has access to,” says Loen, “making sure that each and every abortion health center has to have the feel and appear of a related and simply obtainable group.”

And whilst abortion providers and products and services were traditionally sluggish to undertake the newest tech advances, Wells sees the tide radically transferring in ladies’s desire. She says that during 2013, when she used to be first discussing Plan C and “pushing the envelope,” she sensed the hesitation and uncertainty of the higher reproductive well being group. Today, it’s a special tale.

“Now it’s like everyone desires to leap at the bandwagon and transfer ahead with this,” says Wells. “And what’s in reality pushing it even though are the ladies themselves who’re logging on and ordering this and sharing data with each and every different. It’s a perfect type of resistance . . . one thing that ladies can do to take keep watch over in their alternatives.”