Q&A: How PRJKT RUBY gets contraceptives to women in need in the U.S. and developing countries

Inspired by his daughters, Peter Ax started PRJKT RUBY in 2015 to help get contraceptives to women in need across the U.S. and in underprivileged nations. (Photo courtesy of PRJKT RUBY)

PHOENIX – Seven years ago, inspired by his daughters, Peter Ax created a discreet and easy way to get birth control to women in need in the U.S. and donate money toward improving reproductive care in the developing world.

PRJKT RUBY provides online consultations and oral contraceptives for $20 a month to those who may not have insurance or an existing prescription. For each month of contraceptives purchased, the organization donates 25 cents to support access to contraception in other countries.

The goal is to help prevent unintended pregnancies, said Ax, who’s the CEO of Scottsdale-based UpScript Health. According to the World Health Organization, 74 million women living in low- and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies each year, leading to an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions and 47,000 maternal deaths globally.

Ax spoke with Cronkite News about his initiative and what it’s doing for women’s health here and around the world.

What inspired PRJKT RUBY?

My daughters … had come back from travels in Asia and Africa, and they came to me … one night and they talked about how the birth rates in these really poor countries were horrifyingly high. We talked about the notion that a woman’s economic position in life and social position in life really was largely determined by when they chose to have children. In those regions of the world, there was little access to birth control. So people were having babies so young that they constantly lived in poverty, and they never got outside of the cycle of poverty.

This was really just a broad discussion with my kids and that led to them thinking, “Is there something we can do?”

That was the genesis of PRJKT RUBY. It was really this conversation for my children.

How does PRJKT RUBY work, and who are you helping?

In the initial stages of PRJKT RUBY, we basically sold generic branded oral contraceptives to young women in the U.S. We did it through a subscription model for $20 a month. Basically, a young woman could have access to oral contraceptives, and she’d see a physician of ours online and have a telemedicine visit that results in the prescription. If it did result in prescription, the young woman could then order the product from us, and we ship three months at a time.

It’s sort of this closed system of telemedicine visit online and fulfillment all in one interaction. … For every cycle of birth control that is sold to someone in the U.S., we set aside 25 cents per cycle. We store that money in a 501(c)3 that we then put out to health centers around the world. In the last few years, we started doing it in the U.S. as well.

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Why is it important for women to have access to affordable contraception?

We have given women such an opportunity to enrich their lives, take control of their lives, take control of their family planning, take control of who they partner with. …

It’s a really important thing to what I believe in personally. I believe from my own daughters that access to birth control gives them the freedom to have a wonderful life and do what they want, how they want. They can choose to have a family when they want. …

Access is critically important to young women.

What are the goals of PRJKT RUBY?

PRJKT RUBY’s just been steadily growing. … We continue to add product lines to the business. … It’s just been oral contraceptives. Now we’re getting involved in much more significant areas of women’s health. We’ll continue to generate profits, and a portion will always go to charities that we view are relevant to PRJKT RUBY’s mission. …

Part of the business mission is really, simply, to just do the right things for young women.

What does the future of PRJKT RUBY look like?

We’ll continue to expand into product lines. This year, we’ll go into urinary tract infection treatments and all sorts of women’s health treatments, including getting some skin care elements.

We’re really going to become a much broader platform for young women. We see a real opportunity there and a real need, and we’ll continue to do it from a telehealth perspective.

Kaila Mellos K-La Mel-Os (she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Kaila Mellos expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in anthropology. Mellos, who has reported for Scripps Ranch News in San Diego, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.