Tuesday Tip: 6 Ways to Fight for Reproductive Rights

It’s a frightening thought: Republicans have never been closer to overturning Roe v. Wade.

Donald Trump used his stage at the State of the Union address to repeat anti-abortion advocates’ lies. His administration is working to implement the Title X gag rule, which will ban federal funding to health clinics that provide or refer patients to abortion services, with the goal of defunding Planned Parenthood and similar providers.

With Brett Kavanaugh now sitting on the Supreme Court and Donald Trump playing to his base on abortion, the court’s solidly conservative 5-4 majority has a real opportunity to overturn the landmark case protecting a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would leave more than 25 million women in 20 states – more than one-third of women of reproductive age – without access to legal abortion. That includes “more than 4.3 million Hispanic or Latina women, nearly 3.5 million Black or African American women, more than 800,000 Asian women, and nearly 300,000 American Indian or Alaska Native women.”

In the 46 years since the court handed down this monumental decision, conservatives have tried to overturn Roe v. Wade and restrict access to abortion through legal battles, unconstitutional legislation at the state and federal levels, and intimidation and violence against women and providers. But never have they had a chance like now to truly overturn women’s protected right to a safe and legal abortion nationwide.

What can we do to stand up for a woman’s right to an abortion?

There are ways activists, allies and progressive lawmakers can protect women’s rights if states begin banning abortion or if the court agrees to take up and rules unfavorably on one of the many abortion cases making their way through the court system.

Our friends at Planned Parenthood have released a 3-part plan to fight back against any attempts to restrict women’s health and access to reproductive services now that Kavanaugh has been installed on the Supreme Court.

They include:

  1. Expanding access to reproductive services in states where abortion remains legal and increasing support for women in states where abortion is restricted
  2. Increasing pressure on state lawmakers to strengthen good laws protecting access and oppose bad laws restricting women’s health, and
  3. Fighting the negative stigma of abortion that continues to pervade politics and popular culture.

And here are three more ways you can take action right now:

  1. Push back on the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule. This gag rule is another blatant attempt by Trump and Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, take away reproductive health care from women living in poverty and end access to abortion nationwide. Learn more and join Planned Parenthood’s fight Stand up for abortion rightsto overturn it.
  2. Sign our petition calling on the House of Representatives to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. This legislation, if passed, would bar federal and state lawmakers from advancing laws that would ban abortion or make it extremely difficult for a woman to access abortion services. You can add your name here.
  3. Join CREDO (or tell your friends to join!). We are one of Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donors and have a long history of donating to other organizations standing up for women’s rights, so you know that you will be supporting reproductive rights every day by just using our products and services.

By taking these actions, we can generate massive public pressure at both the state and national levels to create an environment where conservative lawmakers and right-wing hate groups feel the pressure to back off their attacks on women and where advocates have the support to continue standing up for women’s rights.

In the coming months and years, we hope you will continue to help us in the fight to protect reproductive freedom, no matter what Trump does or what happens at the state level or at the Supreme Court.

Victory: House votes to block Trump’s illegal emergency declaration

After massive public pressure, including from more than 150,000 CREDO members who signed an urgent petition, the House of Representatives voted to revoke Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wasteful and racist wall on the southern border.

Donald Trump is the real emergency, and this House vote shows that our nation is sick and tired of Trump’s racist attempts to divide us and shows his emergency declaration for what it is: an ugly attempt to grab power in service of ramping up the administration’s attacks on communities of color.

Now it’s up to Senate Democrats to follow the lead of their colleagues in the House and vote to revoke Donald Trump’s national emergency. The progressive community is watching closely and expects Senate Democrats to present a united front in the fight against bigotry, hate and authoritarianism. Senate Republicans, especially those in battleground states, also have an important choice to make: they can continue to be spineless lackeys for Trump or finally stand up to his threats to our democracy.

Thank you to all who have signed our petition. If you haven’t yet added your name, click here to tell Congress to revoke Trump’s national emergency declaration.

How CREDO members’ support helped the ACLU, Amazon Watch and other progressive groups

Since our founding, CREDO has supported progressive nonprofits on the front lines of the most important fights for civil rights, climate justice, equality and more. The donations we make to these organizations – $150,000 each month – wouldn’t be possible without our members. And that’s why we want to share with you what our recent grantees have accomplished with their CREDO funding. You helped make the following possible:

The ACLU’s recent July 2018 $64,140 CREDO grant helped the organization win a victory in court to keep Kentucky’s only abortion clinic open, file a lawsuit against Facebook and 10 other employers for unlawful gender discrimination for targeting job ads to only male users, and launch a new voter education and mobilization program called ACLU Voter ahead of the 2018 election cycle.

After receiving its July 2018 $44,610 grant, Amazon Watch and partner organizations  launched the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign to garner public support and apply political pressure to end BlackRock’s financing of companies that destroy the climate and precious ecosystems like the Amazon. The campaign also demands that BlackRock must shift its capital out of fossil fuel companies and toward clean energy solutions.

With the support of its August 2018 $66,585 CREDO grant, Social Security Works continued to lead the  fight to expand Social Security and Medicare for All in the current Congress. SSW worked with Rep. John Larson’s office to introduce a Social Security expansion bill with 204 original co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and with Rep. Pramila Jayapal on her Medicare for All bill.

Alliance for Justice Action Campaign’s recent $43,950 CREDO grant will support the launch of a new initiative to identify, recruit and coach judicial candidates for federal court vacancies. This program will lead the progressive community’s response to the longstanding conservative pipeline of radical and unqualified judicial nominees. The goal of the program is to prepare a strong pool of qualified potential nominees to be considered by the next president.

You can learn more about how previous grantees have used CREDO’s funding here. These efforts by our partners were made possible in part by the CREDO members who use our products and services every day. Learn more about CREDO Mobile and CREDO Energy.

This International Women’s Day, it’s time to end the global gag rule

Dark grey background with text "Stand Up for Abortion Rights" for the Roe v. Wade anniversary
Editor’s note: This International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight the work of our partners at Planned Parenthood and Rewire.News on expanding women’s access to healthcare around the world.

The global gag rule doesn’t just drastically limit access to safe and legal abortion. It jeopardizes access to all health care offered by the same providers.

When we invest in global health, we save lives, transform communities, and change the trajectory for generations to come.

As a medical student, I saw the impact of U.S. foreign assistance firsthand when I worked with an NGO that provided care for women living with HIV and AIDS in Rwanda. Medical care with antiretroviral medications and wrap-around social and emotional support empowered women to better care for their families. As a physician and researcher, I have studied health systems in China, Slovenia, Nigeria, Colombia, and South Africa, among others, and I have seen the life-changing impact of global health investments. Now, as president of Planned Parenthood, I lead an organization that provides reproductive health care in the United States and partners with over 100 local organizations in 12 countries in Latin America and in Africa to provide health care and education. There is no question that access to health care, including reproductive health care, is critical to all people having control over our bodies, our rights, our lives and our futures.

For years, there has been a positive global trend toward patient-centered, comprehensive, and evidence-based health care, both in the United States and internationally. But now, President Trump’s global gag rule is systematically wiping out not only access to information and services related to abortion, but health care that people around the world count on. This policy is rolling back decades of progress—and we now have the best opportunity to stop it.

When asked, most people said health care was an important issue in determining their vote in the midterm election. The new U.S. Congress, gaveled in just weeks ago, is taking action in both the Senate and House of Representatives. By introducing the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) aim to permanently repeal the global gag rule, which blocks health-care providers from offering lifesaving services and information, silences advocates, and creates fear and confusion for millions of women around the globe. They continue their long-standing leadership today to ensure that health-care providers across the world can do their jobs. Together with over 100 diverse organizations, a pro-reproductive health majority in the House, and bipartisan support in the Senate, we must use the energy of this moment to advance the Global HER Act and stop a policy that threatens health and lives around the world.

Also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” the global gag rule was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan. It barred international organizations from receiving U.S. family planning funding if they provided, referred, or advocated for abortion services. After years of the policy going in and out of effect, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in January 2017, on his first full day in office, reinstating the gag rule—and going much further. He announced that these funding restrictions would be radically expanded to apply to all U.S. global health programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Now, if an organization wants to partner with the U.S. to fight HIV or improve maternal health, they have to give up their right to provide legal abortion services, counseling or referrals, or engage in advocacy on abortion—even with their own, non-U.S. funds. This policy is unethical, dangerous, and unacceptable.

For proof, look no further than the Family Life Association of Swaziland, which lost nearly $1 million in U.S. funding under this expanded global gag rule, forcing them to lay off a total of 56 staff members. That meant shutting down programs that provided cancer screenings, HIV services, pregnancy care, and diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections to young people and other groups who already face disproportionately difficult barriers to care. Fewer patients in need are getting critical, life-saving health care because of this policy.

In Kenya, Family Health Options was forced to close a clinic outside of Nairobi that once provided free HIV testing, antiretroviral medication, family planning, and cancer screening. The entire facility closed, all staff were terminated, and the people in the community who relied on it were left without alternatives.

Two years into the sweeping expansion of the global gag rule, there are countless examples around the world of patients losing access to health care, especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates, and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high. Planned Parenthood’s recent report builds on a growing body of evidence from global health advocates around the world, and confirms that communities are losing access to vital health services and information—from antiretrovirals for people with HIV, to nutritional support for children, to contraceptive information for women.

The global gag rule is playing politics with women’s lives around the world, and now the Trump-Pence administration is also trying to gag providers in the U.S. by preparing a similar domestic gag rule. Whether at home or abroad, the administration is pushing policies that would ask physicians like me to make an impossible choice: either be censored from providing patients with accurate, comprehensive information, or stop providing potentially lifesaving care to some of the most vulnerable patients in need. These gag rules have nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with politics. As a physician, I find it unethical and unconscionable that people could be blocked from accessing vital health care and services that are legal in their countries and in the U.S.

The global gag rule doesn’t just drastically limit access to safe and legal abortion, it jeopardizes access to all health care offered by the same providers, who are often the most qualified experts in their respective region. The policy hits hardest those populations that already face barriers to care—including people of color, families with low incomes, youth, and the LGBTQ community. It places the trust of the physician-patient relationship in jeopardy, gags advocates, violates free speech, and bucks global trends recognizing that reproductive health care is health care and health care is a human right. How can we move health care forward when physicians like me can’t even talk about it to our patients?

We will not be gagged, and we will not be silenced. This is our moment. It is time for Congress to pass the Global HER Act and end the global gag rule once and for all.

This article was originally published on Rewire.News. Subscribe to their free newsletter or follow Rewire.News on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

Sunrise Movement, American Constitution Society and Amnesty International thank CREDO members for their support

A blue image with text saying "Thank you from our grantees" next to a photo of people at a rally holding signs and a rainbow flag

Each month, CREDO members vote on how we distribute funding to three incredible organizations. Those small actions add up – with one click, they help fund groups holding Donald Trump accountable, fighting for human rights across the globe and working to stop climate change and pass a Green New Deal. In February, over 62,000 CREDO members voted to distribute $150,000 in donations to American Constitution Society, Amnesty International and Sunrise Movement.

These donations are made possible by CREDO customers and the revenue they generate by using our products and services. The distribution depends entirely on the votes of CREDO members like you. And for that, our February grant recipients thank you.

American Constitution Society

$41,625
“Thank you for your support! This is a critical time in this country. ACS is a key progressive legal voice in the fight against efforts to take away our core freedoms, but we couldn’t do it without help from CREDO members like you!” To learn more, visit acslaw.org.

Amnesty International USA

$57,735
“Amnesty International USA thanks CREDO and its members for their commitment to human rights around the world and in the United States. The ongoing support from the CREDO community is essential in the ongoing fight to globally protect and advance human rights.” To learn more, visit amnestyusa.org.

Sunrise Movement

$50,640
“We can’t thank you enough. Sunrise is working tirelessly to pass a Green New Deal and end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel billionaires over our politics – and it’s thanks to CREDO members like you that we can keep it up.” To learn more, visit sunrisemovement.org.

Now check out the three groups we are funding in March, and cast your vote to help distribute our donations.

CREDO members who use our products are the reason why we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile and CREDO Energy and join our movement.

Vote for Center for Biological Diversity, The National LGBTQ Task Force and Restaurant Opportunities Center United in March

Every month, CREDO members vote to distribute $150,000 in donations to three incredible progressive causes – and every vote makes a difference. This March, you can support groups fighting for our environment, standing up for LGBTQ rights and the rights of workers and better wages by voting for Restaurant Opportunities Center United, the National LGBTQ Task Force and Center for Biological Diversity today.

Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places that wants those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.

With constant attacks on our environment by the Trump administration, funding from CREDO members is now more important than ever. A donation from CREDO will help power the Center for Biological Diversity’s 100+ lawsuits and counting against Trump’s war on wildlife and wild places.

The National LGBTQ Task Force

The National LGBTQ Task Force is the country’s oldest national LGBTQ advocacy group. It is building a future where everyone is free to be themselves in every aspect of their lives.

Today, one of the most important battles that the Task Force is waging is to be seen, heard and counted, such as on the upcoming 2020 census, which impacts visibility and billions of dollars of resources. The LGBTQ comminuty can’t be overlooked again, that’s why CREDO funds will be used by the Task Force to ensure that every one of us is counted on the upcoming census.

Restaurant Opportunities Center United

ROC United is a national organization of 130,000 workers, employers and consumers seeking better wages and working conditions in the restaurant industry. Support from CREDO members will help fund the organization’s One Fair Wage campaign to raise wages and eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which is a major reason why the restaurant industry is our country’s lowest-paying sector and largest source of sexual harassment claims.

Your vote this month will determine how we divide $150,000 in donations among these three progressive groups. Be sure to cast your vote to support one, two or all three by March 31.

CREDO members who use our products and services everyday are the reason why we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile and CREDO Energy and join our movement.

New video: Planned Parenthood and CREDO talk reproductive rights in the Trump era

On Feb. 26, we were honored to host Dr. Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood’s new president, at CREDO headquarters for a special interview with CREDO Action Co-Director Heidi Hess, where they discussed the fight for reproductive rights in the Trump era.

If you missed the original broadcast, you can watch the recording of the event below, on our Facebook page or on YouTube.

LIVE: Special interview with Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen

Please join us for a special live interview with Planned Parenthood’s new president Dr. Leana Wen who will discuss her new role and the fight for reproductive and women’s rights in the Trump era. via act.tv

Posted by CREDO Mobile on Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday Tip: 5 Twitter accounts to follow for women’s equality

Looking to follow new progressives on Twitter? Here are five of our favorite accounts to follow for women’s rights. They’re run and managed by women and they discuss women’s equality and many other topics, including politics and Hollywood. They’re provocative, informative, often inspiring and never dull.

Five Twitter Accounts to Follow for Women’s Rights

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is a phenomenon and a force. As the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, she is, after just weeks in office, one of the most compelling people on Capitol Hill. She’s also using Twitter as a powerful tool to advance progressive values and policies.

AOC’s Twitter feed is a direct link to her thoughts at a given moment. In a January interview with Insider, she revealed that she writes all her own tweets, which is rare among today’s candor-phobic politicians – outside of the rage-tweeter in the Oval Office).

“I was sitting next to a public official and I had pulled up my Twitter feed and I was drafting a tweet and she was, like, ‘You write those?’ And I was, like, ‘Yeah,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. Her Twitter account is a captivating daily delivery from one of the nation’s most dynamic progressive figures.
https://twitter.com/aoc

Ava DuVernay

DuVernay is a film director, producer and screenwriter. She directed “Selma” and “A Wrinkle in Time,” which, she told The Washington Post, is about “a Black girl who has no superpowers but ends up doing extraordinary things that she didn’t even know she could – and I relate to that.”

DuVernay is indeed doing extraordinary things. She’s the first Black woman to win the U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic at Sundance, first to be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe Award and first to have her film nominated for an Oscar. She has achieved success in Hollywood and is now using her influence to change the system so that everyone can have a chance, not only white men.

She tweets on politics, race, intersectionality and women’s equality as well as TV and film. She is also an active critic of the “diseased” Trump regime. “It’s a different era of ineptitude and audacity and misogyny and ignorance that we haven’t experienced,” she told Vanity Fair. “My answer is not, ‘Let’s just support and wait till another four years goes by.’ My answer is to resist.”
https://twitter.com/ava

Emma Gonzalez

Gonzalez is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and co-founder of the gun-control advocacy groups Never Again MSD and March for Our Lives. Memorably, three days after the Parkland massacre, she delivered a gripping speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale in which she called “B.S.” on Donald Trump, politicians in general and the NRA, in particular for undermining stricter gun laws, which are supported by 61 percent of Americans.

Recently turned 19-years-old, Gonzalez is an openly bisexual woman of Cuban descent. She has 1.66 million Twitter followers – more than double the NRA’s 738,000. Her tweets are bold, incisive and regularly call B.S. on social injustice. She is a remarkable young person with an always-interesting perspective on Washington and the world.
https://twitter.com/Emma4Change

She the People

She the People is a national network that connects women of color with the goal of transforming our democracy. It seeks to lift the political voice and power of women of color as leaders, strategists, organizers and voters. And it succeeds. Founder Aimee Allison – author, organizer and one of the first women of color to be honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector – helped architect the electoral wins that made 2018 the “year of women of color in politics.”

Black, Latina, Asian-American, Arab-American and Native-American women together are the highest-turnout voters for the Democratic Party, but the most underrepresented group in elected leadership. This is changing, as women of color work to transform our democracy from the inside and the outside. Follow She the People’s Twitter account for daily updates on this dramatic and necessary political movement. https://twitter.com/_shethepeople

U.N. Women

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as U.N. Women, is a United Nations body that takes action to empower women and girls worldwide. It works with governments and civil groups to design laws, policies, programs and services that enhance gender equality.

When you follow the U.N. Women’s Twitter feed, you’ll learn about women making vital change globally, like Hajiya Amina Ahmed, a peacebuilder in Nigeria who reaches across religious and ethnic lines to empower women and build peaceful communities, and Apaisaria Kiwori, head matron of a safe house in the Mara region of northwestern Tanzania that takes in young girls escaping female genital mutilation, child marriage, domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Gender inequality is an ongoing crisis in regions around the world. Women don’t have access to decent jobs and face gender wage gaps everywhere. They suffer violence and discrimination. They’re prevented from going to school or to the doctor. They have no say in political and economic decision making. 

But the United Nations is making real progress in advancing gender equality, and you can read about it at the U.N. Women’s Twitter account. https://twitter.com/UN_Women

We also recommend

CREDO funds many remarkable nonprofit groups fighting for women’s equality – and most of them have Twitter accounts that are worth following. For starters, we recommend NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet and the Women’s Refugee Commission. And we hope you’ll search Twitter and discover your own favorite feeds for thought and action on the issue of women’s equality.

Tuesday Tip: 4 Oscar nominated documentaries to watch in the Trump era

Gif of movie camera with film reels animating out of it.

We consume headlines, but are we actually digesting the story? In a world where we are bombarded with one outrageous and shocking sound-bite after another, how might we fully understand the impact those headlines and tweets have on human lives?

Enter the documentary film. Passionate filmmakers make documentaries when they feel a topic is not adequately covered by the mainstream media. Documentaries provide an in-depth view of issues we often only have topical knowledge of. They provide a vehicle by which we share the human experience across cultures, countries and time.

In the Trump era of widespread bigotry and prejudice, the empathy that comes from experiencing intimate portraits of lives that we might have little knowledge of is more important than ever.

Here are four 2019 Oscar nominated documentary films we think you might enjoy.


Feature Length Oscar Nominated Documentary Films:

HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
RaMall Ross moved to Hale County, Alabama in 2009 to work as a basketball coach and photography teacher. Once there, he captured moving images of the lives around him in what could almost be described as a visual poem. The study that emerges provides an insider’s view of the lives of Black people in a rural Southern town.

The film centers around Quincy Bryant, a young father working at the local catfish plant, Mary, a woman who has worked hard at the plant for 20 years and her son Daniel, a Selma University student with big basketball dreams, but not the body to match.

Hale County doesn’t follow the narrative structure of most films. Creative visual explorations that employ repetition and confuse linear time are all used as devices to present us with real-life stories – the kind that happen in between the big moments of life and death.

Run Time: 76 mins. Where to watch: streaming on PBS.org from 2/8/19 – 2/25/19.

RBG
“RBG” opens with 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg working out at the gym with her trainer. She’s lifting weights, doing push-ups and pulling cables. By the end of the film, this will be the least impressive thing you’ll see, and that is saying something.

“RBG” is a moving film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life’s work: the fight for women’s equality. Equal parts love story, biography and history lesson, the central theme can be found in the now-famous Sarah Grimke quote Justice Ginsberg recites several times: “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Through photographs, interviews and unprecedented access to Justice Ginsberg herself, we come to know a committed leader who is methodical and specific in her approach to the law. A woman who changed the course of American history and earned her status as a cultural icon.

It’s almost impossible not to cheer for this film. Thank you, Justice Ginsberg for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do to get those feet off of our necks.

Run time: 98 mins. Where to watch: YouTube starting at $3.99

Short Oscar Nominated Documentary Films

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN
Created entirely from stock footage taken in 1939 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, “A Night at the Garden” bears witness to an aspect of American history that is practically unknown: The rise of the Nazis in the United States.

Twenty thousand Americans gathered to cheer for Hitler in the heart of the Big Apple, their hands raised high in the sickening Nazi salute. Some might be surprised this happened in the melting pot that is New York City. What’s not surprising are the familiar tactics used by the speakers – demonization of groups of people, chants to take back the country, and blatant attacks on the press. It is all too reminiscent of Trump’s rallies to “Make America Great Again” and matches the horror we saw in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Run time: 7 mins. Where to watch: streaming for free at anightatthegarden.com

LIFEBOAT
On Sept. 2, 2015, images of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body woke up the Western world to the ongoing refugee crisis on the Mediterranean Sea. European leaders offered expanded quotas and renewed plans to help.

“Lifeboat” picks up one year later. It follows the efforts of Sea-Watch, a German nonprofit organization that conducts search and rescue missions in the central Mediterranean Sea. Over three days in 2016, Sea-Watch rescued 3,200 people migrating from Libya in dangerously overcrowded rubber boats.

“Lifeboat” argues that we can’t help or even begin to solve the humanitarian crisis that we are faced with today in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Honduras and other countries across the globe if we continue to see the people at the center of the crisis as “migrants” or “caravans.” We have to look deeper. We have to see humans.

“Then your heart starts operating more than your head. And your heart tells the truth when you listen to it.” – Jon Castle, “Lifeboat.”

Run time: 34 mins. Where to watch: Free on YouTube courtesy of The Screening Room | The New Yorker

Tuesday Tip: 5 Good, Easy-to-Use Secure Messaging Apps

Illustration of a pattern made from cell phones, locks, and message bubbles on a black background

Should you be using a secure messaging app? Isn’t plain-old texting safe enough? Do you really need the privacy promised by an app like Signal or WhatsApp?

On the one hand, there is a low risk that your SMS text messages will be hacked. Americans send 26 billion texts every day, which is some serious safety in numbers. On the other hand, you’ll find dozens of text-spying apps via a quick Google search, so someone who’s determined to read your texts does have the tools available.

On the third hand, why not use a secure messaging app? They’re free, easy, and provide very strong security for communications of all sorts, from texting to photo sharing to voice and video calling.

A good, secure messaging app provides end-to-end encryption for messages you send and receive. The technology is complex – an algorithm encrypts messages you send so they can’t be read while in transit then decrypts them at the receiver’s end – but using a secure messaging app is simple. Just download and install it on your phone and you can communicate securely with anyone else who has the same app. The messages aren’t stored on company servers and can’t be read by spies or mined by advertisers.

Before we get into our list of five good, easy-to-use secure messaging apps, let’s talk about Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger

There’s a good chance you use Facebook Messenger. Over a billion people do every day. But be aware that Messenger does not provide end-to-end encryption by default (neither do Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or Skype). To enable end-to-end encryption, you have to turn on Secret Conversations in the settings. In Secret Conversations, you can send messages, photos, videos and voice files. Secret Conversations does not support group messages, payments, or voice and video calls.

Like WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook), Messenger is very convenient because so many other people use it. But if you do use it, do so with the knowledge that Facebook collects loads of data on you via Messenger, same as it does at your Facebook account. You might dislike this practice or you might not care – some like seeing Facebook’s “relevant” ads. But it’s important to be aware of this so you can make informed decisions.

Here are five good, widely used secure messaging apps that provide end-to-end encryption to protect your messages from hackers, service providers and the government.

Even these apps’ makers can’t access your messages. In addition to secure messaging, all these apps offer voice and video calling, file sharing, and (other than Apple iMessage) a self-destruct setting that allows you to make your messages disappear after a set time.

Apple iMessage

iMessage is Apple’s built-in messaging service and thus available only to users of Apple devices. But, since that’s a lot of people, it’s worth including here. iMessage provides end-to-end encryption for all messages and attachments sent and received via the app. But keep in mind that messages exchanged with Android users do not get end-to-end encryption. They’re treated as simple text messages.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, used by over 1.5 billion people every day. It’s free and available to Android and iOS users. It provides end-to-end encryption by default – you don’t have to turn it on, it’s always there. You can back-up your messages to Google Drive if you choose, so you can restore them on a new Android device.

WhatsApp is, however, owned by Facebook, which aggressively mines your data to serve you ads. And in late 2018, Facebook announced that, sometime in 2019, WhatsApp will begin showing ads alongside its popular Status feature. This breaks a promise Facebook made back in 2016, when it bought WhatsApp, to adhere to WhatsApp’s founding principles to keep it ad-free. Just Facebook being Facebook.

Signal

Signal is different from most other secure messaging apps. Its end-to-end encryption engine is open source, which means the code is continuously reviewed for bugs and loopholes. It’s sort of the Linux of the secure-messaging world. Signal is supported by grants and donations, which means the app has no ads, no affiliate marketing, and no tracking. Its security platform is used by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Signal is free and its interface is refreshingly simple. Signal is the favorite messaging app of Edward Snowden, who knows a thing or two about security. And last year, when WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton quit Facebook in protest against Facebook’s plan to put ads on WhatsApp, he joined Signal.

Viber

Viber, which is used by close to 1 billion people, provides end-to-end encryption by default. It’s free and available to Android and iOS users. Viber does come with ads and in-app purchases. It also leans toward the young user, offering a large library of stickers (some free, some not) directly on the interface. Which is cool if you’re a sticker fan but distracting if you’re not.

In addition to its Secret Chats feature (which makes messages disappear after a set time), Viber also lets you manually delete messages you’ve sent – from your own phone and also from the phones of the people you’ve sent it to. The company is owned by Japanese e-commerce and internet giant Rakuten and based in Luxembourg.

Telegram

Telegram is a cloud-based app, which brings advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, it delivers messages very quickly (faster than any other secure-messaging app, it claims) and allows you to share an unlimited number of photos, videos and files, including .doc, .zip and .mp3 – up to 1.5 GB each.

On the downside, cloud storage means Telegram does not offer end-to-end encryption by default. To get it, you have to turn on Secret Chats in the app’s settings. All Secret Chats are device-specific and never enter the Telegram cloud. Messages in Secret Chats cannot be forwarded, and when you delete messages on your end of the conversation, they will also be deleted at the receiver’s end.

Telegram’s code is open source. It’s free, serves no ads and does not push in-app purchases. Telegram is owned by its founder, Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who in 2014 imposed exile on himself when allies of Vladimir Putin took over VKontakte, his social networking site, which is also Russia’s largest. He’s now a resident of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Your mobile provider

A lot of people join CREDO Mobile because they care about their privacy – and they know CREDO is the only mobile phone company to receive a 5-star rating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s most recent “Who Has Your Back?” on privacy. If you’re not already a member of CREDO Mobile – and you care about your privacy, consider switching today. It’s easy to do.