As we inch ever closer to Inauguration Day, women across the national—particularly in red states—are scrambling to secure birth control and other reproductive healthcare while it’s still covered under the Affordable Care Act, a fixture of Obama’s legacy that President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal. Some women are opting for Intrauterine Devices (IUDs), some of which provide protection against pregnancy for up to 12 years—longer than the duration of two presidential terms. Others who worry about access to abortion or emergency contraceptives are scrambling to obtain the pill ahead of Trump’s official swearing in.
Trump’s future VP, Mike Pence, is among the nation’s most militant politicians waging war against women’s reproductive healthcare. Throughout his career, Pence has advocated for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, an institution that has repeatedly clarified that it uses 97 percent of its government funding to offer important, non-abortion services that include STI/STD screenings, routine checkups, cancer screenings, and birth control services. Trump has recently (despite ongoing flip-flops) referred to himself as “pro-life,” and has vowed to appoint anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court. Some constitutional law scholars fear an anti-choice leaning Supreme Court court overturn Roe v. Wade, making access to preventive reproductive healthcare absolutely paramount. One company is attempting to make that process even easier for women who need it now.
Nurx, a web and phone app offered in California, New York, D.C., and Washington, offers birth control prescriptions (and the morning after pill) from local doctors in your area for as low as $15 a script. Nurx networks with physicians in the aforementioned states to write the scripts you need for your existing or new birth control regimen. As an added bonus (and perhaps the ultimate “fuck you” to the Trump administration), Nurx is offering free birth control through the end of the year using the code “DonaldTrump.” If that sounds too good to be true, it’s not.
Complex reached out to one of Nurx’s co-founders, Hans Gangeskar, to figure out how it works, and how women can take advantage of the app in a post-Trump America with increasingly limited access to reproductive healthcare.
Nurx has been around for about a year. Can you explain how it got started?
My co-founder Eddy [Engesæth, MD] is a doctor and I’m a lawyer. We realized there’s a space for people who have a particular healthcare need, and just want it done. What we heard over and over again [from physicians] is, "I always get calls from friends of friends after hours, and they ask me to prescribe birth control because they’ve run out." That really made us realize that the most powerful application for telehealth that we can make now is to give that level of service to women who don’t have doctors that they can call up at any time during the day.
The more we talked to other doctors about this, the more we realized that there was a huge demand for it, but also that it would be completely safe.
Why specifically target Donald Trump in your recent campaign? What’s the idea behind that?
Donald Trump has traditionally been in favor of women’s reproductive rights. As you know he’s donated to Planned Parenthood and he’s supported Hillary Clinton in the past, but he’s been flip-flopping on a lot of the issues. I think the important thing for us is to make sure that his administration realizes the importance of women’s rights and puts focus on women’s rights around the inauguration, and make sure that reproductive justice isn’t eroded under his presidency.
What's your biggest concern?
Personally the thing that worries me much more than Mr. Trump is Mr. Pence. Pence has a well-documented track record of attacking women’s healthcare and women’s access to reproductive justice time and time again. It’ll be interesting to see whose advice Donald Trump takes here. We can hope he realizes the importance of easy access to this type of care.
I was personally unaware that this was something you could even do, even having taken various forms of birth control for years. Can you break down how it works?
The way it works is that if you know what kind of birth control you want, you just select that. Otherwise, you just say I want the doctor to help me pick a pill. Then you go through and fill out about 10 data points about your health—it depends on how you answer the questions, there may be some follow-up questions. And then that is sent to one of the doctors in our network, and they will review it manually. Sometimes they will prescribe the birth control straight away, and sometimes they’ll have follow-up questions. As much as possible, we try to do those follow-up questions via secure text message, but sometimes it’s escalated to a phone call or video message.
One of the points covered on your website is the disproportionate price disparity between basic healthcare for men and women if Obamacare were to be repealed. Can you describe how your app works to fight that disparity?
Before Obamacare, it was fairly common to discriminate against women in health insurance in two ways. One way was just to charge women more. The more opaque way was to exclude coverage for things that only women would need, like birth control, Pap smear, prenatal services—which obviously puts women in a really bad position because they needed those services, their insurance wouldn’t pay for it. Now with the Affordable Care Act, the law (and the regulations around the law) clearly set out minimal coverage requirements that include all of the basic care that is specific to women, including the ones I just mentioned.
So what are some of the more immediate benefits of Nurx versus getting your prescription from your primary care doctor?
You have to remember that not having prompt and timely access to birth control on your own terms has huge medical consequences. For us, it’s also very important that we don’t hold up access to women when there’s no reason to. Obviously if you’re not getting your script in a timely manner, the ultimate consequence is an unintended pregnancy. Having to deal with that might entail either carrying a pregnancy to term that you didn’t intend to have, or having to have an abortion—both of which are pretty serious consequences.