Abortion access has been under threat for years, long before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Now, with the right to abortion governed by a patchwork of different state laws, figuring out where and how you can get abortion care has become confusing, stressful, and scary, sometimes coming with serious legal consequences.
Trustworthy abortion resources do exist, but finding them on Google — where abortion misinformation and anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers are everywhere — is no simple feat. Instead of clicking through sketchy sites, what if you could just talk to someone who knows all the answers, without fear of judgment or legal trouble? With the help of a chatbot called Charley, that might just be possible.
What Is Charley?
Charley is an abortion chatbot whose goal is to “help abortion seekers, full stop,” Kiana Tipton, Charley’s Executive Director, tells SheKnows. The chatbot, which launched earlier this month, asks users a few questions (like their zip codes, date of their last period, and the procedure they’re looking for) and points them to relevant, trustworthy resources to get the care they need. The chatbot was cofounded by Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, and the team includes experts from Plan C and M+A Hotline, plus partners like the National Abortion Hotline and Ineedana.com.
“We know that the questions folks are asking about abortion are pretty simple: How do I get care? What’s legal in my state? Where do I go?’” Richards tells SheKnows. “Charley was built to cut through the noise and provide answers that are easy to understand, responsive to abortion seekers, and — crucially — vetted by a team of medical and legal experts.”
Chats with Charley are designed to be simple, convenient, and easy to understand. The chatbot aims to help users find the best option for their needs and offer links to next action steps, which might include getting abortion pills, scheduling in-person appointments, avoiding crisis pregnancy centers, or finding further support or assistance.
According to Tipton, chatting with Charley should feel “like texting with a friend” — helpful, trustworthy, and most of all, safe.
Is It Safe to Use Charley?
Of course, the big question is whether it actually is safe to enter this kind of information into an Internet chatbot. Private chats have been used to prosecute abortion-seekers; could the same happen with the information you tell Charley?
According to its website, Charley “will never ask you for information like your name, address, email, or phone number, and it won’t share your information with any third party.” Any information you enter will be deleted as well. However, the site does recommend “removing the page from their browser history or using ‘incognito’ mode” when using the chatbot.
The need for such precautions underscores why Charley is such a vital resource right now. Abortion seekers in restricted states have “drastically fewer options for care,” Tipton says, and according to the team’s research, “top [Internet] search results did not provide a pathway to care, leaving people confused about how to find the options that are right for them.” Charley’s goal is to simplify the search “and provide a supportive, informative, and private space where anyone, regardless of their circumstances, could access the information they need.”
And while Charley might be new on the scene, the team has big goals for the chatbot, including making it as accessible as possible. Users can get in touch with Charley on its website, for example, but other sites can also host the chatbot by embedding it onto specific pages. In fact, it’s already live on the National Women’s Health Network and Abortion Access Front, and the team behind Charley hopes that’s just the start. “Imagine if every news article about abortion access had Charley embedded on that page,” Tipton says, “immediately connecting readers to up-to-date abortion options.”
It’s pretty simple, really: Charley wants to provide people with accurate information and empower them to make the best choice for their health. “Our vision is to ensure that every individual, regardless of where they live or how far along they are in their pregnancy, can access the information and support they need to make decisions about their reproductive health,” Tipton says. “We want Charley to be a trusted and empowering resource for anyone seeking information on abortion and reproductive healthcare.”
Before you go, read about these celebrities who have shared their own abortion stories:
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