The Trump administration is doing everything it can to undermine Planned Parenthood’s law-abiding, science-based reproductive health services. But Planned Parenthood has a powerful weapon in its arsenal: tech that increases access to care.
On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood announced that it had expanded its Planned Parenthood Direct app to functioning in 27 states, and that it will be available in all 50 states in 2020. The app lets users order birth control, get a prescription for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) antibiotics, and schedule appointments at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“As politicians across the country try to restrict or block access to critical reproductive and sexual health care, the Planned Parenthood Direct app is just one part of the work we do to ensure that more people can get the care they need, no matter where they are,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
In August, Planned Parenthood pulled out of the government’s Title X funding program, which provides financial support for reproductive health services. Under the Trump administration’s new rules, Title X funding recipients would not be allowed to refer patients to abortion services. Rather than capitulate to the anti-abortion agenda, Planned Parenthood forewent the $60 million in funding it would have received had it stayed in the program.
Planned Parenthood says the app is one of the ways that it is expanding care at a time when funding and access for women’s health is shrinking across the country. This is part of a larger telehealth trend, in which doctors and app makers alike are utilizing technology to help reach rural, low-income, or other people who may not have access to healthcare.
Birth control and UTI prescriptions are also a great use case for this sort of tech. In the app, users go through the same questions they would in a doctor’s office. Then clinicians assess what medication is right for them. That makes sense for an ailment like a UTI, since prescriptions to treat a UTI are just antibiotics, and waiting for a doctor’s visit to treatment can be agony.
Birth control similarly does not necessarily require an exam beyond the standard questions, and expanding access is an important step to preventing unwanted pregnancy. The app doesn’t take insurance (other birth control delivery apps, like Nurx and Pill Club, do), but out-of-pocket birth control can cost as low as $20 for a three month supply.
Planned Parenthood Direct is the result of two app pilot programs the organization originally launched in 2014 and 2015. The change today expands access to 27 states and the District of Columbia (you can check if it’s available in your state here). Planned Parenthood also runs a chatbot for questions about reproductive health called Roo, a chat/text program, and other digital tools making reproductive healthcare and information accessible to as many people as possible.
Trump and his anti-uterine party may be living in the stone age, but at least Planned Parenthood is building for the future.