8 investors discuss what’s ahead for reproductive health startups in a post-Roe world

One of the most pressing issues the U.S. has to prepare for, perhaps, is the future it faces after the toppling of Roe v. Wade.

Come the midterm elections, voters will weigh in on candidates and, consequently, measures that will dictate abortion access and other human rights issues. The role venture capital must play in all of this is becoming clearer: There has been a push to fund more reproductive health companies, include healthcare access in ESG investments and reevaluate the safest places to open a business for women employees.

To get a clearer picture of what lies ahead, TechCrunch+ surveyed eight investors and learned what they think venture’s role should be in a post-Roe world. McKeever Conwell, the founder of RareBreed Ventures, noted the tenuous relationship between venture money and ethics. He said although there are some who might not care about human rights issues in relation to investing, he wants to double down on funding startups focused on reproductive health.

Theodora Lau, the founder of Unconventional Ventures, said she believes more venture investors should take political stances on issues. “Access to healthcare is a right; it’s not politics,” she said. “These are existential issues that should concern all of us, regardless of our role.”

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“Where legislation continues to lag, it’s important for technology to take a proactive stance to bring transparency to current and future innovations and mitigate the kinds of risks we see today.” Hessie Jones, partner, MATR Ventures

Meanwhile, Hessie Jones, a partner at MATR Ventures, said the due diligence process needs to go deeper to identify the risks of developing new technology. “Due diligence needs to expand past the point of founder ‘intentions.’ We have to ask ourselves: What is the potential that this technology can be used for other use cases beyond its current intention? What is the impending risk to people or groups?”

Finally, nearly everyone we spoke to is keeping an eye out for change that could come in November. “Vote,” Lau said. “With your voice, with your action and with your wallet.”

We spoke with:

Hessie Jones, partner, MATR Ventures

What was your initial response to the overturn of Roe? What are other impacts the overturn of Roe has had on your firm and investment strategy?

I grew up in the Catholic system, which vehemently opposed abortion and the right of women to decide what to do with their own body. I am also a Canadian, and our laws regarding abortion and the rights of the mother are very different than the U.S.

The Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health decision implies the rights referenced under the 14th Amendment — specifically, a woman’s right to privacy under the “due process clause,” which affirmed her right to choose whether to have an abortion — leaves all civil right precedents vulnerable to being overturned.

The assumed misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment in this opinion turns back the clock when it comes to the rights women have been fighting for years.

Where legislation continues to lag, it’s important for technology to take a proactive stance to bring transparency to current and future innovations and mitigate the kinds of risks we see today: Exposure of personal information, data surveillance and the use of personal information that will ultimately inflict harm on individuals and groups.

This is already happening, and now it has found its way into communities where reproductive data is leveraged against the data subjects.

Will the Dobbs decision affect the criteria you use to conduct due diligence?

Absolutely! Apps that have been used to help women, like Flow, Glowing and Cue, can be weaponized with warrants to identify those who are or may be seeking abortions. The data collected by these apps and Big Tech can be sold, breached or acquired via government warrants without taking into consideration the rights of the subject.

Due diligence needs to expand past the point of founder “intentions.” We have to ask ourselves: What is the potential that this technology can be used for other use cases beyond its current intention? What is the impending risk to people or groups? As well, we must, at the very least, demand privacy-by-design standards and the security of the infrastructure acquiring any personal data.

We must scrutinize founders’ intentions, how the data will be used, who the partners are, to what extent data will be shared and for what purposes. We’ve come to a perilous crossroads where technology has contributed to harms, and we now must put the onus on founders to be more accountable for what they’re building.

8 investors discuss what’s ahead for reproductive health startups in a post-Roe world by Dominic-Madori Davis originally published on TechCrunch

8 VCs discuss the overturning of Roe v. Wade, venture and the midterm elections

The overturning of Roe v. Wade sent a huge shockwave through the U.S., and while the nation recovers slowly, the venture community is already beginning to act. Founders are reassessing where they open their businesses, not wanting to lure employees to a state that doesn’t support reproductive rights, and investors are considering adding healthcare to environmental, social and governance criteria to help spur innovation in the space.

And as the midterm elections approach, the stakes are only getting higher for people who advocate for reproductive access, equality for the LGBTQ+ community, and, in some cases, just overall equality. It’s imperative to look at the role venture plays. Billions stand to be deployed throughout the year, and a show of economic prowess remains one of the few ways to capture the nation’s attention.

So, we decided to poll eight investors regarding the toppling of Roe, the Dobbs decision’s impact on the overall venture community and what they think about activism via investing.

Hessie Jones, a partner at MATR Ventures, said the right to abortion access, for example, strikes at the heart of human rights, privacy and poverty. As a result, it will impact how she conducts due diligence on companies in the future.

“What is clear is that apps that have been used to help women manage their menstrual cycles can be weaponized at the state level with warrants to identify those who may be seeking abortions,” she told TechCrunch. “Due diligence needs to expand past the point of founder ‘intentions’ and to look at the current customers using the technology.”

Like many investors we spoke to, McKeever Conwell, the founder of RareBreed Ventures, said his initial response to Roe’s reversal was a feeling of “utter disgust.” He worried it could set a precedent in terms of other cases that could be easily toppled.

“That is a very, very dangerous thing because now we have a group of lifetime appointees who have the ability to set a precedent that could basically overturn or set agendas that are not voted on by the public,” Conwell said.

However, he also noted that these political decisions have a tenuous relationship with the overall mantra of venture investing: “Our job is to make money for folks, and a lot of folks that we’re making money for are the folks who don’t care about these rights. That is the reality of the situation.”

Read the full survey here to learn how these VCs are thinking about investing in reproductive tech, which issues they are watching out for and the best way to pitch them.

8 VCs discuss the overturning of Roe v. Wade, venture and the midterm elections by Dominic-Madori Davis originally published on TechCrunch

Google Search and Maps will now clearly label if a healthcare facility provides abortions

Google will start adding clear labels to Search and Map listings for healthcare facilities that provide abortions. The change comes in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strip federal abortion rights. The company said on Thursday that if it has received confirmation that a healthcare facility provides abortions, the label for the center will say “Provides abortions.” In cases where Google doesn’t have that confirmation, the label for relevant searches will say “Might not provide abortions.”

Today’s announcement comes as U.S. lawmakers have urged Google to fix abortion searches that navigate people to fake clinics and crisis pregnancy centers that steer people away from abortions.

The company says the change is rolling out as part of a series of improvements to how Google displays and labels search results for certain places in Search and Maps. A spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch that the improvements will give users additional context about the search results that they’re seeing.

The company says that just like when you search for a specific COVID vaccine brand or EV charging facilities, and the initial local results that you see show places that offer that service, it will now show this for veterans hospitals and healthcare facilities that offer abortions. The company plans to expand these labels to more places and facilities in the future.

Google says it gets confirmation that a place provides a particular service in a number of ways, including regularly calling businesses directly and working with authoritative data sources.


Image Credits: Google

“When people turn to Google to find local information, we aim to help them easily explore the range of places available so they can determine which are most helpful to them,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “For a number of categories where we’ve received confirmation that places offer specific services, we’ve been working for many months on more useful ways to display those results. We’re now rolling out an update that makes it easier for people to find places that offer the services they’ve searched for, or broaden their results to see more options. We followed our standard testing and evaluation process to confirm that these updates are more helpful for people.”

When asked if Google will specifically label crisis pregnancy centers with the “Might not provide abortions” label or if it will only use that label in instances where it’s unsure of the services provided, the company said the update is not about categorizing the places themselves or labeling specific types of organizations. It notes that the label “Might not provide abortions” could appear on a range of different places that are available in an area, but don’t provide that service.

A recent report from Bloomberg found that Google regularly misleads people searching for abortion clinics. The report found that crisis pregnancy centers make up around a fourth of the top 10 search results on average in all 50 states and Washington, DC. Another report from The Guardian found that Google misdirects one in 10 searches for abortion to pregnancy crisis centers.

Google’s latest move follows a somewhat similar one from Yelp. The company announced this week that it will add a consumer notice to crisis pregnancy centers to differentiate them from abortion clinics. The new label will notify users that these centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”

As part of the changes announced today, Google is also making it easier to expand your search if you didn’t find what you’re looking for initially. The company notes that in some cases, you might be looking for a type of place or service where there aren’t any relevant results near you. In these instances, Google will now provide an option to “search father away.” This change will apply to places like health clinics, physiotherapy centers and travel clinics. Google plans to expand this feature to additional types of places in the future where the most relevant result might not be nearby.

Although Google didn’t say this explicitly, it’s possible that this update could be beneficial for people looking for abortion clinics in a state where the procedure has been outlawed. In theory, the feature could be used to find the nearest abortion clinic near you in a nearby state where the procedure isn’t limited.

Google’s updates around searches for abortion come as a group of more than 600 Google employees is pressing the company to expand worker health benefits, divest itself of some political ties and bolster user privacy in light of the Supreme Court decision to strip federal abortion rights.