New online chatbot helps abortion-seekers in restricted states find options for care
The makers of Charley aim to help patients navigate the complexity of abortion care information and find the resources they need.
A new online chatbot launched on Sept. 12 is designed to connect those seeking abortions with resources about how and where they can obtain the procedures, particularly those living in abortion-restrictive states.
The bot, a website containing an interface that “chats” automatically with the user, is called Charley and was co-created by veteran reproductive rights organizations such as ineedana.com, the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, and Plan C.
“What’s unique about Charley, first and foremost, is the format. It’s a chatbot, and chatbots are really simple, effective ways to cut through confusion when there’s a lot of information to bring together in one place,” Nicole Cushman, the subject matter lead on Charley, told the American Independent Foundation.
Twenty-two states have banned or restricted abortion care since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Charley, a nonprofit platform, uses information collected from ineedana.com’s database of abortion care resources and directs patients to their options, such as abortion medication via telehealth, clinics, or financial support services.
The bot also warns patients about so-called crisis pregnancy centers, facilities that purport to be clinics that provide reproductive health care but discourage patients from obtaining abortions.
“What we’re seeing is kind of a perfect storm. There are drastically fewer options for abortion-seekers in those states; there’s confusion about what those options are and how to find them. And then this threat of digital surveillance, of data tracking and of criminalization has led to so much fear and mistrust of the systems that are out there to support abortion-seekers,” Cushman said.
Cushman said Charley is especially helpful for patients who don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to people but prefer to get their questions answered digitally.
She explained that members of Gen Z and younger folks go to the internet first and often bypass search engines such as Google, instead heading to social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube for information.
“The story of Charley is a story of trying to meet abortion-seekers where they are and address each of those pieces one by one, addressing the confusion, through clear, accurate, up-to-date information, addressing the fear through real serious attention to privacy, and ensuring that we built this tool in the right way,” Cushman said.
Even though Charley often refers abortion-seekers to sites where they have to speak or text with a human, Cushman said she hopes the bot will help them by letting them be “armed with a lot more information by the time they get to those resources.”
“Charley is a game-changer for people in all states because it offers discreet, user-friendly information, effectively bridging gaps in knowledge and breaking down obstacles like uncertainty and misinformation,” Dr. April Lockley, the medical director of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, said in a statement. “People in every state deserve to know they have abortion care options and support.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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