3D-printed speculum designed by GaudiLabs. Photo: Klau/Creative Commons
Access to reproductive health care is key to the wellbeing of women around the world. But for countless underserved groups—sex workers, immigrants, LGBTQ, and the uninsured, to name a few—access often doesn’t exist.
A collective of radical bio-hackers and TransHackFeminists are out to reclaim gynecological medicine for those women, and for themselves. Under the name GynePunks, they’re assembling an arsenal of open-source tools for DIY diagnosis and first-aid care—centrifuges made from old hard drive motors; microscopes from deconstructed webcams; homemade incubators; and 3D printable speculums.
Someone who’s determined enough can make a full-on DIY biolab, with all the tools needed for routine tests involving basic chemistry, fluid analysis, spectroscopy, and other techniques. The GynePunks have gathered many of those tools and techniques, along with information on how to use them to test for things like yeast infections, cervical cancer, STDs, and pregnancy.
Included with the specific tools are reams of information and history on other aspects of reproductive health, from plant-based treatments for UTIs to resources for performing less dangerous self-abortions.
So far its reach has been mostly limited to experiments in hackerspaces and workshops. But ultimately, the GynePunks hope it will be easy enough for almost anyone with an internet connection and access to commonly available parts to take control of their reproductive health.
Mounting a hacked webcam into the speculum,which can be used for cervix inspection and diagnostics using the vinegar test (see hesperian.org). Image: Paula Pin/Creative Commons
“This hacker mentality, for me, serves as a new way to understand the world around us, and gives us many tools to develop and generate our own technologies,” Paula Pin, an early GynePunk, told me over email. “We understand our body also as a technology to be hacked, from the established ideas of gender and sex, to exploring the capacity to start researching ourselves, to find our own ideas and technologies, to help us be free, autonomous and independent from the system.”