Bumble lost a third of its Texas workforce after state passed restrictive ‘Heartbeat Act’ abortion bill

Bumble has lost a third of its Texas workforce in the months since the state passed the controversial abortion SB 8 (Senate Bill 8), also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, over a year ago. This new data point was shared by Bumble’s Interim General Counsel, Elizabeth Monteleone, speaking on a panel this afternoon at […]

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Suspending access to medication abortions will threaten telehealth access

Telehealth has revolutionized the way healthcare services are delivered, becoming an increasingly popular means of providing remote medical care to patients. This was particularly true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when telehealth was a crucial part of combating a public health crisis.

We are now facing another public health crisis: the ongoing erosion of access to abortion in a post-Roe world and the resulting impact to our health systems. While many people don’t know it, telehealth can once again be part of the solution.

However, frivolous lawsuits led by extremists, including the recent federal court decision out of Texas ordering the national ban of mifepristone (the first of two medications used in the FDA-approved regimen for medication abortion care), threaten this very safe and effective abortion method.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, expanding telehealth access to abortion is essential to helping people get the care they need. As someone who has worked extensively on solutions for expanding reproductive health access, I know that telehealth is perfectly suited for abortion care.

As someone who has worked extensively on solutions for expanding reproductive health access, I know that telehealth is perfectly suited for abortion care.

Not only has it been shown to be just as safe and effective as in-person care, it also reduces waiting times, increases privacy, and can reach patients in remote and rural areas — things that have always been needed for abortion provision and are even more important today.

Recent data from #WeCount show that telehealth has played an increasingly crucial role in meeting the needs of those seeking abortions since Roe was struck down. Telehealth abortion provided by virtual-only clinics increased by 137% in the six months following the Dobbs decision.

If you consider the providers who work in brick-and-mortar clinics who also offer telehealth services, the numbers become even more impactful. It is important to note that while telehealth has increasingly become a linchpin in the ability to access abortion, there are still tens of thousands of people being denied abortion care.

Right now, abortion is banned or severely restricted in nearly half the states, leaving large portions of the country without an abortion provider who can even give an in-person consultation.

Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure. This is especially true for medication abortion care, which is safe and effective in terminating a pregnancy up to the first 10 to 12 weeks. Finding the means to travel across the state, let alone across state lines, can lead to delays and push this care out of reach, especially for BIPOC populations or those struggling to make ends meet.

Like with other healthcare, video conferencing or phone consultations have the potential to obliterate these barriers, enabling providers to screen and counsel patients, remotely prescribe medication, and have it delivered to the patient’s home.

Telehealth has expanded the ability of healthcare to reach more and more people. The privacy it affords patients can also reduce the stigma and shame people feel when accessing healthcare.

While this is especially important for those who live in areas where they may be concerned about facing judgment, receiving confidential medical attention in a private space of our choosing is something that everyone can benefit from.

But when we say “everyone,” we must truly mean everyone. Those who have been and will continue to be most impacted by restrictions on abortion care are the same as those who encounter racism, poverty, and the myriad social determinants of health that negatively impact the lives of people of color and those struggling to make ends meet.

We have an opportunity to center equity in healthcare solutions. Bans on medications like mifepristone will exacerbate inequities. When we talk about telehealth delivery of care, we must ensure it reaches communities that lack broadband and smartphone access and provide resources that address language needs and different levels of health literacy. We must center racial justice and provide culturally competent care.

The time is now to continue the expansion and availability of telehealth, including for abortion care, not to go backward. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a crisis, but there is also no doubt that we can meet that crisis with innovative solutions.

By bringing advocates, providers, businesses, and innovators together, we can forge partnerships to expand healthcare, including the abortion care ecosystem.

Teen and mom plead guilty to abortion charges based on Facebook data

A Nebraska woman has pleaded guilty to helping her daughter have a medication abortion last year. The legal proceeding against her hinged on Facebook’s decision to provide authorities with private messages between that mother and her 17-year-old daughter discussing the latter’s plans to terminate her pregnancy.

The case is a telling example of how Big Tech can be tapped to help prosecute abortion in the United States, where the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Experts have warned that location data, search histories, emails, text messages and even period- and ovulation-tracking apps can now be used in the prosecution of people who seek an abortion and those who assist them, and this case shows they are right to worry.

Meta, which owns Facebook, could have challenged the legal order to hand over private messages to police, as it and other tech companies sometimes do on various grounds, but it didn’t. The private messages on Facebook Messenger show how the two discussed plans to terminate the pregnancy and destroy the evidence, including instructions from the mother on how to use the pills to end the pregnancy. Those messages directly led law enforcement to acquire a search warrant.

Police raided the family’s home and seized six smartphones and seven laptops, with data like internet history and emails totaling 24 gigabytes.

Meta did not respond in time to TechCrunch, but last year, the company issued a statement which reads in part:

Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion. The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.

TechCrunch has repeatedly asked for more information on what police specifically shared with Meta, and what their suspicions were. Police had initially begun investigating “concerns that a juvenile female…had given birth prematurely supposedly to a stillborn child.”

As we wrote in 2022: “A 17-year-old girl and a hastily hidden stillborn seem like something that might deserve closer inspection than a blanket grant to all that kid’s data.” Particularly given the contentious conversation in the U.S. at the time around the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Meta has been loath to take a stance on abortion, but as Irish philosopher Edmund Burke apparently didn’t say, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The passive stance from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reminiscent of his position against turning Facebook into an “arbiter of truth” in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. Zuckerberg at the time acknowledged the importance of not censoring political speech, even when it bordered on misinformation that could impact the democratic process.

Under her plea agreement, the mother, Jessica Burgess, admitted to providing an illegal abortion pill to her daughter after 20 weeks’ gestation, which was at the time illegal. In May, Republican Nebraska governor Jim Pillen signed a bill that bans abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy, which went into effect immediately.

Burgess also pleaded guilty to false reporting and tampering with human skeletal remains. According to court documents, the mother helped her daughter burn and bury the aborted fetus, which authorities later exhumed from a field north of Norfolk. The court dismissed charges of concealing the death of another person and abortion by someone other than a licensed doctor.

Madison County attorney Joe Smith said this case was the first time he charged anyone with illegally performing an abortion after 20 weeks.

Jessica Burgess is scheduled for sentencing September 22, and she’s looking at two Class IV felony charges and one Class I misdemeanor. In Nebraska, Class IV felonies typically involve a sentencing of up to two years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. Class I misdemeanors are sentenced with up to one year in prison, a $10,000, or both.

Celeste Burgess, now 18, was charged last year as an adult and pleaded guilty in May to removing, concealing or abandoning a dead body. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20, and she faces up to two years in prison.

Last summer a man was sentenced to probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor for helping the women bury the fetus on his parents’ land.

Teen and mom plead guilty to abortion charges based on Facebook data by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

Yelp update to warn consumers Crisis Pregnancy Centers aren’t abortion care providers

Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, companies have been bolstering efforts and navigating the legal landscape to provide care to birthing people. Yelp is now following suit. 

The company announced, in an exclusive first shared with Axios, that it will add a consumer notice to crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) to differentiate them from abortion clinics. The notice will notify users and read that these centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.” According to Planned Parenthood, these centers do not provide abortion services and attempt to convince birthing people to not get an abortion. 

The change will apply to religious and nonreligious centers in the U.S. and Canada. 

“It has always felt unjust to me that there are clinics in the U.S. that provide misleading information or conduct deceptive tactics to steer pregnant people away from abortion care if that’s the path they choose to take,” said Noorie Malik, Yelp’s VP, to Axios.

Yelp is probably most commonly known for restaurant reviews but is also a source of information for all types of businesses. According to Axios, Yelp began distinguishing CPCs from abortion centers in 2018. Additionally, a Yelp spokesperson told TechCrunch that “businesses that do not offer actual abortion services and explicitly mention being faith-based or having some type of religious affiliation are categorized as ‘Faith-based Crisis Pregnancy Centers.’” Businesses that explicitly state that they are anti-abortion or pro-life, but without any public-facing information about being faith-based, are categorized as “Crisis Pregnancy Centers.”

Users will see the notice at the top of a company’s profile after clicking on its profile to get more information. Though, it must be noted that not everyone going to a CPC is seeking abortion services. 

Image Credits: Yelp

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion advocacy group, there were close to 2,500 CPCs across the country and 23 states have laws supporting CPCs in 2015. Additionally, some states provide public funding to CPCs. 

Yelp’s move is just one in the search engine world. Google, in 2019, updated its advertisement policy so companies that want to run ads with a focus on anti-abortion-related keywords have to disclose whether they provide abortion services or not. 

Additionally, Google Maps also labels if a clinic provides abortion services or is a “pregnancy care center.” However, there has been scrutiny around the CPC results on the platform that led Congress members to ask Google’s CEO to limit those results. 

Although the move by Yelp is meant to better aid those seeking pregnancy services, according to Malik, the company has not explicitly stated how they plan to better serve those individuals other than the notice. 

“For people specifically searching for abortion services, we’ve increased our efforts to better match them with reproductive health services that actually offer abortions and make it less likely they will see crisis pregnancy centers in their search results,” a Yelp spokesperson told TechCrunch.

This year, alone, the company has evaluated 33,500 businesses and recategorized 470 of them as CPCs. The company plans on further evaluating over 55,000 businesses across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

Google workers call on the company to expand abortion and privacy protections

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.

The Google workers demanded the changes in a petition led by the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), a labor union that formed last year at the company and now has around 1,100 members. The AWU advocates on behalf of both full-time employees and temporary workers, vendors and contractors (“TVCs”) at Google — a less visible slice of the company’s workforce that’s estimated to be more than 100,000 workers.

In the petition, the group of Google workers asks the company to broaden its reproductive healthcare travel assistance to cover its non-full-time workforce and to add additional sick days and more generous reimbursement stipends for that travel. The workers also request that the company expand its support and language around reproductive healthcare to include transgender and non-binary workers who aren’t women but might need the same services.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a number of companies announced that they would pay the costs associated with traveling across state lines to obtain an abortion. In an internal letter in late June, Google reaffirmed that its U.S. health benefits would cover out-of-state medical procedures not available to an employee in the state where they live.

“The conversation I’ve had, personally, with coworkers is definitely one of concern,” AWU member and Google Data Center Technician Bambi Okugawa told TechCrunch. “Many are anxious about their own wellbeing and financial hardships they may endure if they need to seek out reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare in other states without having the same safety net that full-time employees are offered.”

The petition also calls on Google to make a transparency report detailing how well the vendors that directly employ its contract workers comply with a set of enhanced standards for wages and benefits that include a provision for reproductive healthcare.

Beyond worker protections, the signees ask Google to take additional steps to protect the people who use its products “from having their data used against them,” like in the recent case of law enforcement wielding Facebook data to prosecute a Nebraska teen and her mother. The petition calls for Google to immediately implement new data privacy protections for any activity on the company’s products and platforms related to health.

“… For example, searching for reproductive justice, gender-affirming care, and abortion access information on Google must never be saved, handed over to law enforcement, or treated as a crime,” the petition states. It also calls on Google to prevent further instances of Maps search results pointing users toward anti-abortion centers instead of abortion providers after Bloomberg reported on the phenomenon.

“I feel if any tech company, be it Google, Facebook, Apple, etc., chooses to pride themselves on user privacy then they should back that up with actions aligned with that cause,” Okugawa told TechCrunch. “I feel this is a wonderful opportunity for Google to take initiative and be a role model to other tech companies to take user privacy seriously and really set the bar on superb user experience and relations.”

To implement the changes, the signees ask that Google form a dedicated task force akin to the team the company assembled to address the COVID-19 crisis.

The full text of the petition the AWU sent to Google executives is embedded below.

Protect our worker’s rights
We, the undersigned, recognize that all Alphabet workers, of all genders, are impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and are disappointed in Alphabet’s response and influence on this ruling.

Alphabet has continued to make access to reproductive and gender affirming healthcare a “women’s issue” by only providing women@ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with listening sessions, and using gendered language in their communication with workers when this is an issue that affects all of us.

In order to align with Google’s core values (go/3-google-values), we demand that Alphabet acknowledges the impact this Supreme Court ruling has on all its workers and to immediately do the following:

1. Protect all workers’ access to reproductive healthcare by setting a reproductive healthcare standard in the US Wages and Benefits Standards (go/alphabet-tvc-benefits-standards) including:

a. Extending the same travel-for-healthcare benefits offered to FTEs to TVCs.

b. Adding minimum of 7 days of additional sick time because workers will need to travel for significant periods to obtain health services.

c. Increasing FTE & TVC reimbursement amounts for travel to $150 per night. $50 is NOT a viable reimbursement for a hotel stay in most states, and does not address childcare or lost wages.

d. Publishing a TVC transparency report, detailing vendors’ compliance to the Alphabet/Google US Wages and Benefits Standards. For example, details on why certain roles are exempt, and timelines for vendors to come into compliance.

2. Protect our government from corporate influence. Alphabet must stop lobbying politicians and any political organizations, through NetPAC or any other means because these politicians were responsible for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and continue to infringe on other human rights issues related to voting access and gun control.

3. Protect our users and customers from having their data used against them and addressing the disinformation and misleading information as it pertains to abortion services and other reproductive healthcare services on all Alphabet platforms and products by:

a. Instituting immediate user data privacy controls for all health-related activity, for example, searching for reproductive justice, gender-affirming care, and abortion access information on Google must never be saved, handed over to law enforcement, or treated as a crime.

b. Fixing misleading search results related to abortion services by removing results for fake abortion providers.

c. No longer working with publishers of disinformation related to abortion services who violate AdSense’s publishers policies related to unreliable and harmful claims about a major health crisis.

d. Providing transparency into ad revenue sharing with Google custom search so that abortion services that pay for Google ads don’t inadvertently have their ad revenue go to organizations that are actively working against them.

In order to meet these demands, we call on Alphabet to create a dedicated task-force with 50% employee representation, responsible for implementing changes across all products and our company, just like Alphabet did for handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

How digital health startups are navigating the post-Roe legal landscape

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year, digital health and reproductive care startups bolstered their efforts to make abortion pills and emergency contraceptives more accessible. Now, as state laws shift and abortion bans go into effect across the United States, companies are still trying to find ways to provide care while reimagining what healthcare should include.

Following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe, many leading organizations focused on reproductive medicine have spoken out against the ruling. “Decisions about healthcare, particularly reproductive healthcare, should be made by patients and physicians, not by interest groups, religious organizations, politicians, pundits, or Supreme Court justices,” said Marcelle Cedars, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Nationally, the situation is proving tricky to navigate as each state can begin implementing individualized abortion laws. By November, 26 states are expected to face near-total abortion bans.

For that reason, TechCrunch checked in with digital health startups to learn how they intend to continue to offer reproductive care despite an increasingly hostile legal environment.

What do demand and restrictions look like?

In wake of the decision, there has been a national surge in demand for emergency contraception like Plan B, also known as the “morning after pill.”

In Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee, a pharmacist can refuse to dispense an emergency contraceptive if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. In some states, the medication is also excluded from what is considered mandatory contraceptive coverage, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

But digital health companies, which provide care virtually, claim they are better able to avoid these limitations.

Facebook helps cops prosecute 17-year-old for abortion

Meta provided user information to police in Nebraska that led directly to the prosecution of a 17-year-old girl for alleged crimes relating to an abortion, court documents show. The company could have challenged the legal order, but instead provided the teenager’s direct messages to cops, who are now charging the girl with three felonies for using a mail-order abortion pill and burying the miscarried fetus.

According to court documents first published by Motherboard (the case itself was first reported by the Lincoln Journal-Star), a Nebraska detective was investigating “concerns that a juvenile female… had given birth prematurely supposedly to a stillborn child.”

He apparently did not believe that the child was stillborn, though an autopsy (after exhuming the body seemingly without reason) was consistent with the story, showing that the fetus had never had air in its lungs. But because it was in a plastic bag, he asked Meta to provide all the girl’s Facebook messages, photos and other data for “statements that might indicate whether the baby was stillborn or asphyxiated.”

This information was duly provided, and messages appear to show the girl discussing taking an abortifacient medication. Based on this information, police raided the family’s home, seizing six smartphones and seven laptops, with data like internet history and emails totaling 24 gigabytes. Among this trove the investigators hope to find the evidence of a teenager ordering abortion pills.

Now the 17-year-old is being tried as an adult for performing an abortion after week 20 of pregnancy, performing an abortion without a license, concealing a dead body, concealing the death of a person and false reporting.

It must be pointed out that at no point before they received the messages from Facebook was there any evidence of a crime beyond improperly disposing of a miscarried fetus. The detective’s asphyxiation theory, based solely on the presence of a plastic bag, was incompatible with the autopsy evidence, which supported the girl’s account. Generally speaking, it seems cruel and unusual to conduct a multi-day investigation into a miscarriage and panicked disposal of remains.

Officially, the request for information pertained to “Prohibited Acts with Skeletal Remains,” though this was clearly a smokescreen for an investigation presupposing another crime without any evidence. One wonders whether other improper burials receive a similar level of care from the Norfolk police.

Facebook/Meta has challenged court orders for user information before. Facebook’s policy on challenging a request for user data is that if the request is not consistent with applicable law or their policies, or if it is legally deficient or overly broad, the company will challenge it or tailor the information it provides. (That’s why there are a lot of requests where “some data” is produced.)

Whether the data request authorities at Facebook were aware of these circumstances is unclear. I have asked the company for comment on its decision to hand over the data, as well as its intentions around other cases where its data may incriminate someone in states where abortion is illegal, and I will update this post if I hear back.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this kind of data request can and now has led directly to prosecution of people for abortion. Some tech companies have taken measures to protect the privacy of those seeking the procedure, though most have carefully avoided taking a strong stance, and will not rule out complying with requests for such data. Apparently Facebook placed itself in the latter camp.

After Roe’s reversal, founders of women’s health startups prepare for battle

Advocates and organizers had been preparing for Roe v. Wade to be overturned since the U.S. Supreme Court draft decision leaked in early May. But Nadya Okamoto, co-founder of period care company August, still felt heartbroken when the decision became official in late June.

“One of the things that always made me passionate about policy and legislative action was that it always felt so permanent,” she told TechCrunch. “For Roe to be rolled back went against many of the beliefs I had about change and social progress.”

Activists like Okamoto are now on the front lines of once again protesting for an individual’s right to an abortion. As a startup founder, Okamoto said she’s ready to use her platform and position to help educate and influence others — and she’s not alone.

Many women founders running reproductive health companies are taking battle stances as the U.S. slips into a reality worse than what existed pre-Roe. Come November, 26 states face a near-total abortion ban.

The decision to reverse Roe also paves the way for the erosion of other rights, such as those that gave the right to interracial and gay marriage.

For this reason, TechCrunch conducted another vibe check, this time with the women founders taking themselves and their companies to the front lines of the fight for abortion. Okamoto and some of the others admit they never thought they would see themselves here; at the same time, it feels as if they’ve been preparing their whole life to take up this fight.

“It’s a privilege to have a platform,” Okamoto said. “That privilege should be reconciled by using said platform to do something important.”

Roe’s reversal will shake up how startups are built

Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

This is our Wednesday show, where we niche down to a single topic, think about a question and unpack the rest. This week, Natasha asked: How does Roe’s reversal impact the ways that companies are built?

The question was inspired by a recent TechCrunch+ column, “Roe reversal weighs heavily on emerging tech cities in red states.” The reporters behind the piece, Dominic-Madori Davis and Becca Szkutak, joined Equity to talk about the story and help us get more of the nuance behind this huge setback.

We chatted about the reappearance of geographic boundaries, selective silence from the money behind the money, and how founders need to rethink their growth strategy if they’re coming from red states. We also chatted about how some founders have already started to react to the overturn of Roe vs. Wade and their sentiments revolving the legality of what happens next.

Equity drops every Monday at 7 a.m. PDT and Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.

Lawmakers ask Facebook and Instagram to explain why they removed abortion posts

In a letter to Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren expressed alarm that abortion-related content is receiving strange treatment on Meta’s platforms.

Just after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, Motherboard found that posts offering to provide abortion pills were being removed from Facebook within seconds of being posted. The Associated Press observed similar posts about abortion pills vanishing from Instagram “within moments.” Instagram also hid some abortion-related content behind warning screens, behavior that the company described as a “bug” but didn’t explain further.

The senators went into some detail about the abortion-related posts and accounts Meta removed:

“Reports indicate that multiple posts providing accurate information about how to legally access abortion services were removed, often within minutes after the information was posted. Others reported that posts mentioning abortion were taken down or were tagged with “sensitivity screens” and warnings, including a post promoting an abortion documentary, a posting entitled “Abortion in America How You Can Help,” and a post from a healthcare worker describing how people were already being harmed by laws banning abortion. One organization dedicated to informing people in the United States about their abortion rights temporarily had its account suspended. Users reported similar issues last fall when Texas’s law banning abortions after six weeks went into effect.”

In a Twitter reply, Meta Policy Communications Director Andy Stone noted that the company’s policies do not allow transactions of prescription drugs, but did not explain the enforcement discrepancy between the abortion pill posts and posts offering to provide other prescription drugs.

Klobuchar and Warren are requesting “additional information about what Meta is doing to address problems applying company policies” — information that could explain Meta’s conspicuously aggressive handling of the abortion-related content.

The senators are asking Meta for answers to a number of questions that the company hasn’t been transparent about on the topic, including how many abortion-related posts it has removed since June 24, how many of those posts have been reinstated and what training materials about abortion the company provides to its content moderators. The requests have a deadline of July 15.