San Francisco

Hundreds in Tech Mobilize Around Abortion Access at San Francisco Hack-A-Thon

Organizers say urgency following elections sparked the large turnout at the weekend event.

A surprising sight in an otherwise male-dominated field, women in tech came in droves for the second Abortion Access Hackathon in San Francisco over the weekend.

"If you asked anybody in this room who goes to hack-a-thons, it looks and feels very different - and in the best way," said Kate Bertash, a start-up manager and one of three co-organizers of the conference.

However, rather than put out a call for "women in tech" or "women engineers," Bertash said the issue of abortion services as well as the urgency following elections helped attract the participants.

And, in a stark contrast to the 20 to 30 who showed for a "good turnout" in its inaugural year, the second hackathon drew 647 applications with about 80 percent from those who identify as female, according to Bertash.

For a weekend straight, those teams of designers, developers and health advocates worked in the Github headquarters to develop programs that would respond to challenges abortion service providers said they faced on the job.

Rebecca Greenway
Dylan Gattey presents NetEffective at the second Abortion Access Hackathon in San Francisco Sunday. Jason Worden, Sarah Federman, Heather Rivers, Ben Buckman and Jennifer B, Yusra Ahmed also worked on the new product, developed at the multi-day conference.

Ahead of product demonstrations Sunday, teams could be found hunched over laptops, quickly typing or gulping down coffee while putting final touches on their products.

"It’s been the most amazing experience," Bertash said. "I’ve been really overwhelmed and excited, and honestly, I think there were a couple days that I looked around about once an hour, and I couldn’t believe all these people were here."

Thrilled with the progress, she says it is just the beginning.

From mapping abortion services based on how far along in pregnancy a user is to web applications utilizing social media to reach out to state legislators, attendees presented a variety of products one by one to the crowd of fellow techies.

Dylan Gattey, a participant this year said he spent the last few days at the conference developing a product called NetEffective with members Jason Worden, Sarah Federman, Heather Rivers, Ben Buckman and Jennifer B and Yusra Ahmed.

"I thought it sounded like a really cool idea, something that I could use my tech skills to give back and help a community that really needed it, especially after Trump was elected president," Gattey said.

Organizers expect to roll out some of these products to the public once security and privacy settings have been finalized.

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