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Federal grants are being funneled into a network of health centers that are using a women’s sexual and menstrual health app to push for abstinence as birth control, an investigation by the Guardian revealed.
According to the report, the Femm Foundation’s FEMM app touts ways to “avoid or achieve” pregnancy for its users, collecting intimate information such as menstruation details, sex life, mood, and prescription drugs.
But beyond the facade of an app using seemingly scientific information for women’s sexual and reproductive health, tailored with a purple logo and the kind of visual appeals usually present in feminine products, the app is funded by anti-abortion advocates. Medical advisers listed for the app are tied to a Catholic university in Chile, according to a May report by the Guardian, and are not licensed to work in the U.S.
The Guardian’s more recent investigation revealed that the FEMM app is central to the methods used by Obria Group, a group of “crisis pregnancy centers” in California using the app to promote its abstinence agenda. The network recently requested an annual $5.9 million in funding. The Trump administration awarded the organization $1.7 million per year.
Obria says it uses Femm Foundation’s app to promote “value of abstinence” in its natural family planning program and cites the foundation as part of its “basic infertility services.” The Guardian report also claims the Femm Foundation is linked to the World Youth Alliance, which is known for its anti-abortion stance.
While the app generally has positive reviews on the iTunes store, some users are starting to doubt its transparency. “Full of Misinformation,” reads one review from June. “No actual doctors were even consulted in this app. The amount of misleading information is horrendous, makes me wonder if someone with an agenda for propaganda is behind this.”
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Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque