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Apple is under scrutiny for featuring a third-party “contraceptive” app on its Reproductive Health tab even though the app has resulted in a number of unwanted pregnancies, Vice reports.
Apple announced on Tuesday an expansion of its medical research, including a new study on women’s health and the effects of the menstrual cycle on medical screenings. While many people are excited to take part in this research, it has also dragged older issues back into the spotlight.
In the Health app, there are recommended third-party apps. The No. 1 suggestion isn’t the most popular period tracker but Natural Cycles, a contraceptive app shrouded in controversy.
Natural Cycles has been accused of greatly exaggerating its efficacy in advertising, leading to its ads being banned from Facebook. The Natural Cycles website claims it’s 93% effective with “typical use,” but 98% effective with “perfect use.” Perfect use constitutes taking your temperature with the app immediately when you wake up every day and never having unprotected sex when it tells you not to. In essence, the app digitizes the fertility tracking method for birth control, which according to Planned Parenthood, is only 76 to 88% effective.
A medical study in Sweden of 668 women using Natural Cycles found that in a four-month period in 2017, 37 of them sought abortions. That’s a failure rate of about 5.5% but doesn’t count people who got pregnant and didn’t seek abortions. Natural Cycles claims that this failure rate is consistent with their advertising and not something to be concerned about. However, the Swedish study didn’t confirm that the women who got pregnant were engaging in “typical use” rather than “perfect use,” so it’s not really that clear cut.
Despite all this controversy, the FDA approved Natural Cycles as the first contraception app. At $10 a month, it is both more expensive and less effective than hormonal birth control methods. It is unclear why Apple is promoting a contraceptive app over simple period trackers for Reproductive Health tracking.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Apple for comment.
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Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.