Reproductive apps – creative solutions to the global gag rule


Global crises surrounding refugees, famine and climate change are on the rise, but so are grassroots solutions aimed at helping at-risk populations. As we discussed last week on this blog, there are already many tech solutions being implemented in Africa to help combat famine.

Another hot button issue is the implementation of the Mexico City Policy. This renewed US policy will impact reproductive rights organizations all over the world by de-funding any US-supported organizations that talk about abortion as an option, educate women about safe abortion or refer women to abortion providers.

Trump’s administration also recently withdrew funding for the UN Population Fund, which helps provide family planning in 150 countries. Consequently, women all over the world will have less access to family planning resources. In the past, the Mexico City Policy led to more unsafe abortions around the world, not less.

But there are tech companies trying to combat this impending crisis, and I wanted to take a look at some different ideas out there.

A company called Cycle Technologies has developed a number of different apps to help women tell when they are fertile. The first app, Dynamic Optical Timing (DOT), tells a woman her risk of getting pregnant each day, depending on where she is in her cycle. This way a couple can abstain from sex or use condoms if they don’t want to get pregnant on days when a potential pregnancy is the highest.

Cycle Technologies

(Credit: Cycle Technologies)


(Credit: CycleBeads®)

The company also created CycleBeads, which works as an app to identify the fertility window for women. They also have a physical necklace that can be used to keep track of a woman’s cycle, for places without smart phone access.

The company believes that creating these free apps and low cost necklaces will give women and couples the knowledge they need to help them with family planning.

Credit: Ipas

(Credit: Ipas)

INGOs such as Ipas and Pathfinder International have been using mHealth (mobile health) technology to reach women by phones to give them information about abortions and maternity. Ipas started a program in South Africa in 2012 where they partnered with tech companies to send SMS messages to follow up with women who had gotten a medical abortion using pills.

Another NGO working in South Africa, Safe2Choose, recently started an SMS service where women can find a place to have a safe abortion by texting a number with the subject ‘FEM’.

These solutions, if implemented on a global scale, could help to keep women informed about their reproductive choices. This will require a monumental effort, and it doesn’t take the place of reproductive rights programs. But these are good potential first steps.

If you have seen other tech solutions for women’s reproductive health, let us know by leaving a comment below.

Written by: Tara Todras-Whitehill in Data Visualization

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