April 13, 2024

‘Uber for birth control’ creates new ethical challenges

The anonymity of telemedicine troubles some critics

Contraception is another area where logistics is outpacing regulation in the United States. A new smartphone app, Nurx (pronounced new Rx) promises to prescribe and deliver all kinds of contraception plus the morning-after pill. Since there are no consultation or delivery fees, for women with health insurance their contraception will effectively be free. For those who don’t, the service costs US$15 a month.

It’s “Uber for birth control” – a logical development of telemedicine and new business methods.

The app is designed to make obtaining contraception as simple as possible. A woman selects a prescription, answers a few health and demographic questions, and a doctor will write a prescription. The medication arrives within 3 to 5 days. Nurx automatically refills the prescription, as well.

There is a political side to the app, too. As the Trump Administration works to dismantle Obamacare and do away with mandatory contraceptive coverage, Nurx is well placed to supply the Pill discreetly and efficiently.

More disturbingly for opponents of teen contraception, it accepts applications from girls as young as 12 and anyone who might be ordering the Pill for the first time – without seeing a doctor face-to-face – although Nurx does offer the option of a video chat over the phone.

The impersonality of the Nurx app bothers some critics. However, Jessica Knox, the San Francisco-based full-time doctor for NURX has a response: “Look, people are going to have sex. And if we put barriers in place for them to get contraceptives, they may become afraid of even going to their own doctor to get preventative healthcare, which can lead to unintended outcomes.” 

Since Nurx has to comply with state laws, it is available in only 15 states plus Washington DC at the moment, but it is pushing to roll out its coverage across the US. 

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