For women considering terminating their pregnancies, a new chatbot called Charley aims to help them start the process of have an abortion.
The chatbot, launched September 12, is available on Charley’s website and greets visitors with the message “Need an abortion?” Let’s get started.”
On its website, Charley is described as “designed by abortion experts, made for abortion seekers.”
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One of its co-founders is Cécile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood. Richards “oversees legal, policy and policy matters and leads fundraising efforts” for Charley, according to the chatbot’s website.
Another co-founder is Tom Subak, former chief strategy officer at Planned Parenthood.
Charley is not an application: it exists online, on its own website.
If individuals can freely visit the site, the company is also looking for medical providers who will agree to embed the chatbot directly on their own websites, “to meet abortion seekers wherever they are online,” said Nicole Cushman, Charley’s New York content manager, in an interview with Fox NewsDigital.
Cushman, who held leadership positions at Planned Parenthood, said the idea for the chatbot was born after the overturning of Roe v. Wade – with the aim of “improving people’s online search experience”.
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“Our research showed that people primarily turned to Google for information about abortion options in the post-Roe landscape, and that it was very difficult for abortion seekers to connect to available options” , she said.
People were “finding themselves in an endless Google loop.”
“This was especially the case if they lived in a state where abortion was banned or restricted – they found themselves in an endless Google loop.”
Charley’s creators envisioned a “simple, effective way to bring together information from a range of sources” and “clear up confusion,” Cushman told Fox News Digital.
How Charley works
Unlike large language models like ChatGPT, Charley does not allow users to enter questions. Instead, the chatbot uses a “decision tree” format that guides visitors through a series of pre-written messages, including the type of abortion desired and the date of their last period.
It also asks for a zip code to determine specific abortion laws in the visitor’s state of residence.
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For example, when Fox News Digital entered a zip code in Ohio, the response was: “Currently, abortion care is legal in Ohio, but only up to 22 weeks.” This means that if you act quickly, you will be able to get abortion care in your state. If you need more time or can’t get an appointment before then, you may still have options in another state.
For abortion seekers under 18, Charley tells them whether state law requires a parent’s permission to have an abortion — and also offers help for minors to ask a judge for permission to undergo the procedure by themselves.
At the end of the series of questions, the chatbot provides a summary of expected costs, alternative financing options, and a directory of resources for finding an abortion provider.
“These resources may include a link to a directory to locate the nearest clinic, a link to telehealth providers – or helplines for legal, medical, financial or emotional support,” Cushman told Fox NewsDigital.
“Our research showed that people primarily turned to Google for information about abortion options.”
The pre-defined information provided by the chatbot was developed by a team of “medical and legal experts,” she added.
Potential risks of the abortion chatbot
Charley is designed as a “triage solution” to provide information and education so people can make “an informed decision” about next steps, Cushman said.
“For some people, the best step may be to make an appointment with a provider in person or call a helpline for more direct assistance,” she noted.
“There’s nothing wrong with chatting with Charley, but it’s not the end of their journey,” she also said.
At certain points in the conversation, Charley may quickly refer the visitor to an external resource, such as if she is experiencing a medical emergency or potentially experiencing a medical emergency. pregnancy complicationsCushman noted.
She also said, however, that not all pregnant women need in-person care before seeking an abortion.
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“A lot of research shows that telehealth is a safe and effective way to access medical abortion,” Cushman told Fox News Digital.
“If there are no extenuating circumstances – especially if a person is earlier in the pregnancy – they can navigate through Charley to access additional resources or other hotlines.”
Security and privacy are an area of “increased concern” among people seeking abortion care online, Cushman said.
The chatbot doesn’t ask for any identifying information, she emphasized — just the person’s ZIP code and the date of their last period.
“We put fear of surveillance and criminalization at the forefront when designing Charley,” she noted. “We do not use any tracking tools, cookies or pixels, and we do not share any information with third parties.”
All conversations are deleted from their system “regularly,” Cushman said.
Experts insist on face-to-face discussions
Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and director of maternal fetal medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx, described Charley as a “brilliant tool to help women in areas where breeding options are either restricted or prohibited. »
“Given that nearly half of the United States has banned or restricted reproductive options, Charley will likely serve as a lifeline for many women,” she told Fox News Digital.
“Compassionate and comprehensive care is essential, especially during something as personal as an abortion.”
Gaither said there are a “multitude of reasons why reproductive options are needed,” pointing to scenarios such as “congenital fetal abnormalities” or issues in which childbirth could “compromise the health of the mother, or even kill her.
The doctor added, however, that a face-to-face discussion with a healthcare provider is always recommended as a first course of action for any woman seeking reproductive options.
Dr. Laura Purdy, board-certified family physician at Brentwood, Tennesseesaid she values in-person interaction to ensure women considering abortion are aware of the emotional implications of their decision, which can range from anxiety to grief.
“Chatbots are a great way to give advice, and I can understand their appeal,” she told Fox News Digital.
“However, the women’s health is a very personal matter that requires a lot of attention.”
“I would recommend thoroughly researching the side effects an abortion can have on a woman’s body and seeing a doctor after this decision to ensure your mental state is taken care of.”
“I think compassionate and more comprehensive care is essential, especially during something as personal as an abortion.”
Purdy, who practices telemedicine herself, said she “places a strong emphasis on technology to improve women’s health care.”
But with telehealth, she said, “you’re still talking to a real human being, who’s offering empathy and one-on-one care.”
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“Ultimately, it’s a preference, but I would recommend doing thorough research into the side effects an abortion can have on a woman’s body and consulting a doctor after this decision to make sure that your mental state is taken care of,” she recommended.
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at Langone Medical Center of New York and Fox News medical contributor, said that while he strongly believes in applications of AI in healthcare, “I don’t think this one works.”
To test the robot, Siegel entered information as if it were a person in early pregnancy, he told Fox News Digital.
“It has basic information about where and how, and (offers) options, but it’s less interactive than I expected,” he said. “It’s also a bit clunky, which is particularly problematic in a field where sensitivity and empathy are required.”
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The doctor also noted that the chatbot has the orientation “to subtly lead people towards abortion by not proposing any other objective of valuing life that could result from it”.
Dr. Siegel added: “Imagine if the robot started by asking, ‘Do you know how many women wish they were in your shoes? Do you know how many have tried to get pregnant but couldn’t? Here are those statistics.’ “
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