How Period-Tracking Apps Fit into a Post-Roe V Wade Climate
Regardless of where you stand on abortion in America, the overturning of Roe V Wade has complicated all of our lives by limiting our options. Now, it feels like our reproductive lives aren’t fully in our control, risking our futures in very serious ways. It might even feel like we don’t know the basics when it comes to our health (courtesy of my freshman year health class).
When there are things that I feel like I need to know, I've struggled to find safe, medically-sound answers. In the past, I’ve skimmed Cosmo articles, begging for some helpful information and tips on whatever I need. Google searching specific questions about health concerns is no longer an option.
If you, like me, have been struggling to find an app that doesn’t make you pay for a subscription to access the basic amenities that they claim to provide for free (eye-roll), you probably stumbled upon the same highly-recommended apps that I did, each promising to be the end-all-be-all app for women’s reproductive rights. Period-tracking apps have been around for a while, informing women of their fertility, ovulations, and when to expect their periods. It’s one of the few ways that your average “modern woman,” as we are often called, can access important information and resources. An expert, plus all of the information we need, is right at our fingertips.
You go in, enter your customized settings with a girl power flair, and then you receive recommendations for contraceptives and pregnancy odds based on the information that was sent to them. It’s tastefully done and reassuring for young women out there who are scared.
Apps like Flo have articles, automated chats, and a place to not just log your period, but its symptoms in detail, yet Flo doesn’t just chart your period for you. It gives you information on anything under the sun regarding your personal health, from pregnancy signs, how to cope with cramps, and fertility, explaining it to you in ways your high school health teacher probably didn’t. It is a medically-accurate, sex-positive, and gender-nuetral app that takes a judgement-free approach to being sexually-active but not wanting kids. In other words, it is the kind of app we need right now.
However, despite seemingly being women’s best friends, period-tracking apps are perhaps more dangerous now than ever. On one hand, using the apps puts a person more in control of their biology, making pregnancy less likely in the first place, but apps aren’t always 100% accurate since they aren’t perfectly tuned into your body. It can only do the best that it can with the information that it has, not taking into account the quirks and whims of human fertility.
Mostly, it is a question of privacy. These apps sell our information, information that is highly sensitive and can potentially wreck havoc on our lives in our current political state. Your personal information can be accessed by others and used against you if you’re seeking an abortion in a state that has recently banned them.
Privacy concerns surrounding these apps existed prior to the end of Roe, but are posing real concerns now since they aren’t protected by HIPAA and can be used in criminal investigations.
So should we or should we not go back on our period-tracking ovulation apps now that we’ve gone back on Roe as well?
Experts say that you don’t have to delete your app, since it is unlikely that the information will be shared at all, but that you should be aware of the risks associated with not doing so, since it is still not impossible. Another important question to ask is whether or not you live in a state in which abortions have recently been made illegal. If you live in a state where it’s illegal, tracking apps are far less safe.
In the end, it is up to the discretion of each and every woman to decide whether or not she is comfortable to continue using her tracking app. Concerns surrounding the future of this issue still abound as we wait with bated breath to see how our lives will be shaped by living in a post-Roe V Wade America.