One more reason to ditch high-tech period-tracking apps

The majority decision disclosed in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has sounded the alarm about the future of reproductive rights in the United States. Among the concerns raised are the privacy risks associated with using period-tracking apps and whether the data they accumulate – detailed entries by people about myriad aspects of their menstrual cycles – can be exploited by law enforcement or private actors in states where abortion and even pregnancy outcomes are criminalized.

These are not hypothetical concerns. At least half of US states are certain or likely to ban abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; 13 will do so immediately under the trigger laws currently in place. Louisiana lawmakers have tried to classify abortion as a homicide before.

Legal experts agree that rule-tracking apps do indeed pose a potential danger to users, even when companies tout strict privacy protocols. Some recommend opting for a simple pen and paper calendar instead.

The low-tech approach has benefits that go far beyond protecting individuals from their digital footprint. Total control of the ebb and flow of the menstrual cycle is not just a matter of personal good health, but a civic necessity for navigating a post-Roe society.

Consider the remarks made by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in support of SB 8, his state’s law that has virtually wiped out access to abortion in Texas since last September. By creating liability for anyone who provides or assists in obtaining an abortion after fetal heart activity is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy, SB8 is among those who have earned the nickname “the six-month ban”. weeks”. Governor Abbott said at a press conference the day after the law came into force, that it is not a burden because “it provides at least six weeks for a person to have an abortion”.

This is obviously false. A “six-week ban” on abortion is not the same as a six-week window to get one. Pregnancy is measured by the date of the last menstrual period (“LMP”), not the date of the missed period. For those whose cycles are a precise rotation of 28 days, they are two weeks pregnant on the day of conception and four weeks pregnant on the first day of a missed period. For those with longer or irregular cycles or who have intermittent bleeding — which is the vast majority, as only 13% of women say they usually have 28-day cycles — PML is an almost meaningless metric.

This means that in the rare best-case scenario – an accurate pregnancy test result on the first day of a missed period in a predictable 28-day cycle – a person has a maximum of two weeks to obtain an abortion, a window unbelievably thin second-hand. And too often an absolute impossibility for those affected by obstacles such as state-mandated waiting times or delays due to long trips to a clinic or backlogs of appointments.

Lawmakers like Governor Abbott are either ignorant of basic biology or planning to get away with murky math and lies, which is why it’s increasingly essential that every person — and every voter — be better off. educated and equipped to eliminate misinformation about the menstrual cycle. , particularly with regard to policies that have an impact on teenage pregnancies and abortion.

Unfortunately, we cannot currently rely on schools in our country to teach these lessons. Not only is sex education an increasingly polarized and partisan issue, but 21 states have no mandate to provide it. Faced with the urgency of the moment, one intervention consists in appealing to the private sector to fill the gap.

Menstruation itself captures a large commercial market. Billions of consumers around the world regularly purchase tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual underwear and menstrual cups, as well as other supplies and resources. Federal law can and should require menstrual product companies doing business in the United States to provide standardized, medically accurate information about the menstrual cycle in their packaging and on consumer websites, just as the Food and Drug Administration requires. uniform language in tampon boxes to warn. the risks and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. Since many newer and smaller menstrual product companies are already making period advocacy part of their mission – participating in campaigns to address period poverty, fight stigma or the “tampon tax – menstrual literacy could be a timely and coordinated extension of their efforts.

Besides, any kind of business could use their platform to amplify trusted menstruation literature. Several have already mobilized to facilitate employee access to abortion, including Levi Strauss and Citigroup; Menstrual literacy resources would be a great addition. The nonprofit Our Bodies, Ourselves offers an accessible online library; Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has published user-friendly menstruation guides for teens and teachers.

We are entering a disturbing new chapter for reproductive and bodily autonomy in this country. Mastering the mechanics of menstruation is essential for good health and good citizenship – and, for many, will be essential to their personal safety and survival.

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