On September 12th, a new chatbot called Charley was released to the internet. I have to admit, it sounds very friendly. However, this chatbot has been designed to do a very specific job. The purpose of Charley is to help people understand abortion options in their area. To quote a section of the purpose statement on Charley’s website, “It’s a user-friendly, judgment-free, and confidential tool designed by abortion experts for abortion seekers.” It’s very straightforward in its message and doesn’t try to hide it. When you first open the website you are greeted with the phrase:
“Need an abortion? Let’s get started.”
Charley takes no time in trying to convince a woman to get an abortion. Surprisingly, the website doesn’t even take the time to explain what an abortion is. Charley is only a messenger and doesn’t even take into account the ramifications of what it says. Sure, it’s only a robot that can’t think for itself or determine what is right or wrong. It can only do what it is programmed to do. However, the creators who made this messenger designed Charley to only push a single message. We can see Charley is a tool designed to help sell abortion and related products to women– nothing more. It’s designed to “help” women in all 50 states, even including those that have banned abortion, like Texas. Further, it’s not even trying to provide women with alternatives to abortion. This article explores this new technological development in society that’s pushing an agenda.
What is Abortion?
To start, I think we need to define abortion. Merriam-Webster defines abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.”
Charley can specifically aid in finding abortion pills. This form of abortion has medical side effects such as the potential for infections, if the abortion is incomplete, which can lead to serious health issues if not detected. Hemorrhaging can occur with a significant risk of death if it happens. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and mental health complications are potential consequences, along with increased infertility due to infections and uterine scarring.
It is worth noting that, after abortion, women can go through a depressive state and often regret their decision to terminate their pregnancy. A study from the National Library of Medicine found that 44% of women who had an abortion regretted it. Another study from the Medical Science Monitor studied almost 2,000 women who had an abortion. After eight years, 65% of these women were scored in the “high-risk” range for clinical depression compared to those who just gave birth. Now we have a chatbot that is pushing a source that could potentially harm women more than help them. Of course, the chatbot doesn’t have a choice in the matter, but the creators do.
Who is Charley?
Charley isn’t your stereotypical chatbot like ChatGPT, where you type any question you want. Instead, it is more structured like a choose-your-own-adventure game. Charley asks you questions and you have only limited choices to choose from that will hopefully guide you on your journey to find an abortion. It doesn’t deter you from anything else and the website does exactly what it wants. It provides you with a bunch of different abortion-related sources based on the choices you make. From what I found, it only provides you with abortion-related sources who subsequently also have partnered with the founders to create this chatbot. Charley isn’t just made to be a messenger to “help” people find abortion-related products. It is also a salesman to the companies who created it.
What can it do?
Being the wonderful guinea pig that I am, I temporarily identified as a woman to test out Charley. However, in this day and age, it turns out you don’t need to identify as a woman to get an abortion. In fact, as I understand, men, too, can get pregnant and therefore have abortions. In all seriousness, though, I played with the chatbot to see what I could find. Here, I want to show you how Charley works by listing a couple of questions I asked alongside Charley’s unedited responses.
“🤫 Anything you tell me here is private, secure, and anonymous. If you close this chat window, the conversation will restart from the beginning.”
“Where would you like to search? Please type in the city and state, or zip code.🤫 This information is private and secure.”
It asks you for your zip code to find resources near you and takes into account whether your state allows abortions. It also tries to find ways to work around state laws. I first typed in a zip code from Colorado, a state that allows abortion through all stages of pregnancy. This is what Charley had to say.
“You have in-state options for getting an abortion procedure. I’ll link you to a resource at the end that will show you available providers, but here are some things to consider so you can plan.
“📍 The closest provider to you is less than 1 hour away in Arvada, Colorado.”
“⚠️ If you’re under 18, Colorado law requires providers to tell 1 of your parents and/or get their permission before you can get an abortion. But if you cannot or do not want to involve a parent, you can ask a judge for permission to decide on your own. I can show you how to get help with that at the end of the conversation.”
“🗓 If you’re more than 16 weeks pregnant by the time you get an appointment, the process may take multiple days. On day 1 you might have a minor procedure and/or take medication, then return to finish the abortion on day 2.”
“⏳ Due to high demand, you may have to contact multiple clinics to find an appointment.”
“👬 If you need help managing your appointment, talk to your provider about it. They may be able to connect you to a practical support organization that can help with things like food, coordinating and paying for travel, medicine, child care, and a place to stay.”
“Does that sound doable for you? Or would you like to go back?”
I have to admit, it’s kind of terrifying that it is trying to push women to get an abortion and not even asking or mentioning another resource to make sure an abortion is the right choice for the woman. It’s more concerned with minimizing legal liability.
Now, if you use an Austin Texas zip code, you will find a shorter response from Charley.
“Currently, there aren’t any abortion clinics in Texas, and providers are not allowed to provide abortion care in the state. But you may still have options.”
Then, you can either change the location or continue, where you will promptly receive the following text.
“Some states make exceptions to abortion restrictions based on medical necessity, emergencies, or some legal circumstances. These cases are rare, but if you believe they apply to you, I can tell you more.”
You can either choose “learn more” or “it doesn’t apply to me.” If you continue on the “it doesn’t apply to me” route, you get the following text.
“🌎 In addition to traveling to another state, you can also consider traveling outside the United States if you have a passport and can afford to do so. Depending on where you’re located, this could include Canada or Mexico. Puerto Rico may also be an option that doesn’t require a passport.”
“Details vary from provider to provider, but many people travel to these places for abortions because of cost, privacy, and convenience.”
“Would you like me to include these providers as we explore your options? Or would you prefer only US state-based providers?”
You are then presented with the choice of finding locations in other states or “Intl. Puerto Rico.”
Who is controlling the screens?
Who designed Charley to promote abortion? Charley’s leadership includes individuals with ties to the abortion industry, such as Amy Merrill, co-founder and digital director of Plan C; Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood; Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Plan C; and Lillian Tamayo, former President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. Given these connections and the chatbot’s open stance, it’s unsurprising that it’s pushing abortion.
Should Charley Exist?
Charley is in many ways just another tool that is a salesman pushing a product. That product is abortion, and this focus on promoting abortion raises moral and ethical questions. While Charley is permitted to exist, the broader consideration is whether it should exist. Its primary function is to direct users toward resources related to abortion, aligning with its intended purpose. However, does it genuinely aid women in need? Does it help society?
The chatbot gives instructions on how to find or obtain an abortion to young women. The site provides suggestions on how to work around the laws of the state you live in. Charley is programmed to help you get an abortion as soon as possible and not even consider whether or not that choice is the best for the woman. Is it looking out for what’s best for women?
Earlier I mentioned a few studies revealing a significant percentage of women who regret their abortion. These women have a higher risk of clinical depression. If this platform’s true aim is to provide the best support for women facing pregnancy-related decisions, should it not offer a broader spectrum of options and resources beyond abortion services and pills? The pursuit of genuinely helping individuals might require a more comprehensive approach. Charley, simply, does not do this. It pushes a destructive agenda that kills children, destroys women, and funds a destructive abortion industry.