Anti-abortion group uses US federal grants to push controversial fertility app

By: Jessica Glenza, The Guardian, July 29, 2019

US federal grants intended to help poor women obtain contraceptives are being used to promote a menstruation tracking app funded and operated by anti-birth control and anti-abortion campaigners.

The Femm app sows doubt about the birth control pill and promotes itself as a natural way for women to “avoid or achieve” pregnancy. The app collects women’s most intimate data, including details on menstruation, sex, mood and prescription drugs. Its developers say it has been downloaded more than 400,000 times.

The app is led by the nonprofit Femm Foundation, whose board opposes abortion, and whose leaders have repeatedly refused to answer questions from the Guardian on how effective the method is as a contraceptive. One of the foundation’s leading board members, Sean Fieler, is a prominent Republican political donor and a vocal supporter of Trump’s anti-abortion policies.

A grant proposal by Obria Group, a network of “crisis pregnancy centers” based in California, show the centers asked for $5.9m per year. It was later awarded $1.7m per year in funding approved by the Trump administration, and has the potential to receive $5.1m over three years.

Click here to read about CfA’s efforts to hold Obria accountable.

The Femm Foundation’s methods and app are being used as key components of Obria’s natural family planning program promoting “the value of abstinence”.

Femm was a prominent part of the Obria Group’s proposal for Title X funds. The Obria Group said in its application it wanted to use the Femm app and educational material at 21 clinic locations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Santa Clara counties.

“Femm’s program is based upon a particular religious ideology that forbids birth control and instead promotes fertility awareness, one of the least effective methods for avoiding pregnancy,” said Alice Huling, counsel for the […] watchdog group Campaign for Accountability, which pushes for greater access to reproductive health services.

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