Need to know how your state's doing when it comes to women's health? There's an app for that.

YES! Magazine
women's rights

Want to find out what your local government representatives are saying about women’s rights? A new app can help you do just that.

Under the guise of a parody app, it's surprisingly useful, too.

Released last month by Lady Parts Justice, a “reproductive justice messaging hub,” Hinder is recognizable to anyone familiar with the dating app Tinder. It’s “like a hookup app, but it focuses on all the sexist assholes tirelessly trying to crawl up into your vagina," the Ted Talk-inspired launch video announces. Users download the free app, select their state, and can instantly see which government officials in their area, and around the country, have voted to limit women’s rights.

The new app comes just in time for September’s heated House congressional debate around whether to continue providing federal funds to Planned Parenthood for the upcoming fiscal year. Although the Senate is not expected to approve the defunding, it’s become a political talking point leading up to the 2016 presidential election. On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to defend the nonprofit’s healthcare mission.

"People need to understand that this is happening. It's happening where they grew up, and it's happening to people that they purport to support," says political satire comedian and "Daily Show" cocreator Lizz Winstead. “One of the biggest threats to progressive values that's happening right now is denial of access to healthcare, especially for people with low-income and people of color … and part of that is knowing when and if having a kid is right for you, on a personal or financial level.”

Winstead is the founder of Lady Parts Justice and its sister organization and educational arm, Lady Parts Justice League. Formed a year ago, Lady Parts Justice describes itself as “a cabal of comics and writers exposing creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion. Inclusive. Intersectional. Fun as Fuck.”

On September 26, Lady Parts Justice initiated a nationwide event called V to Shining V. New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Austin, Mississippi, and Iowa all held their own large events, alongside countless smaller gatherings across the country. 

The events included fortune-tellers, NuvaRing tosses, and — the crowd favorite in Minneapolis — Dunk the Troll, where men were doused with water after reading “a compiled list of horrible things men have said to women on the internet.”

In Los Angeles, Lady Parts Justice cofounder and activist Arun Chaudhary explained why he thinks events like V to Shining V are needed. “It is so important that people feel comfortable about themselves when you have state legislators and Congress legislating against biology, legislating against people's actual bodies,” he said. “So to create a positive space in which people can talk about it, and celebrate it, is radically important.”

Also at the Los Angeles event, comedy writer Nina Bargiel shared her own unwanted pregnancy story. As a teenager, Bargiel walked into an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, and was shamed out of an abortion. Her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage when, alone and terrified, she was in her high school bathroom. "I work with Lady Parts Justice and Lady Parts Justice League because I want abortion to remain safe and legal," she says, "Access to reproductive care shouldn't be a privilege. It should be a right."

During her speech, Bargiel invited the standing room-only crowd to support the organization’s clinic outreach initiative, Adopt-A-Clinic. "The goal of Adopt-A-Clinic is pretty simple: It’s to provide comfort and assistance to abortion clinics all over the United States,” she explained. “Not only do we want to help remove shame from their work, but we want to carry their burden and let them know they’re not alone." Supporters can donate money to the on-the-ground clinic outreach program, or send clinics messages of support. "I Love Abortion Providers" postcards were scattered around the event, along with a packet of clinic addresses.

Writer, performer, and activist, Sarah Sophie Flicker echoed a similar sentiment at the L.A. event: "Having a child is the single most significant decision a woman can make in her lifetime,” said Flicker. “As the mother of an 8-year-old girl, it's hard to imagine that I'm fighting for the same rights for her that have been a given my entire life."

As for Winstead, her interest in reproductive rights began as a teenager with her own unintended pregnancy. After seeing an ad on the bus, Winstead also unknowingly walked into an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center. "I was told my options were 'mommy or murder,'" she remembers. She refocused her fight for reproductive rights years later, in 2011, during the Tea Party efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. “There was a systematic effort that we've now witnessed over the last four years of state legislature using everything in their power, and every tool in their arsenal, to reduce access to clinics and force clinics to shut down by arbitrary and unnecessary laws.”

Lady Parts Justice is comedy and community, but at its core it’s an unmistakable call to action. Yes, their videos are as hilarious and as brilliantly executed as you'd expect from a team of professional comedy writers and performers. But rather than focusing only on reasons to support the pro-choice cause, they're working state by state to encourage actions that call out particular bills and legislators.

With an impressively large database of politicians, pundits, and candidates from every state, the Hinder app puts the most egregious of their actual quotes, voting records, and bill proposals front and center. Armed with specifics regarding what their elected officials say about reproductive rights and women’s healthcare, Lady Parts Justice hopes the app will inspire users to take part in their local elections, and make some noise when it comes to prioritizing women’s healthcare issues.

Hinder debuted in September at Bumbershoot, a Seattle arts festival, but hit a snag when Apple rejected the app under the guise of its Rule 14, which bans "any App that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harm's way." Ironically, Rule 14 has an exemption for professional political satirists — "I guess creating The Daily Show isn't enough of a credit," Winstead quipped — so the Lady Parts Justice team and their supporters took to social media to throw some digital shade Apple's way. Apple reversed their decision within a day.

Winstead hopes her work with Lady Parts Justice will encourage more grassroots efforts to support clinics on a local level. “If you have a clinic in your state, I can guarantee those people would love to hear from you, and for you to tell them that they're awesome,” she says. “They are an amazing part of the community, and we need to stop acting like they're not. The more we normalize their work, the more that we show them that they're welcome, it makes their work easier.”

This story was originally published by YES! Magazine, a nonprofit publication that supports people’s active engagement in solving today’s social, political, and environmental challenges.

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