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Abortion rights advocates and foes weigh in on iPhone Siri controversy

This week, rumblings on the Internet that Siri,Apple’s new iPhone voice software, is “anti-choice” have garnered the attention of political advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion debate.

Reproductive rights bloggers, such as the Abortioneers, noticed recently that Siri was unable to help women who are seeking abortions, emergency contraception. and birth control, among other things. The writers on the site found it troubling, considering how helpful Siri was at helping someone looking for a place to hide a dead body or find an escort, for example.

In some cases, Siri even directed women seeking an abortion to crisis pregnancy centers. These centers have been known to mislead women seeking abortions in an effort to persuade them not to have the procedure done. They are typically religious centers that offer little to no medical services.

Since the Abortioneers’ post, the news has circulated widely on the Internet, but little is known as to why there is this exemption, or whether it is deliberate.

That hasn’t stopped anti-abortion and pro-choice groups from throwing themselves into the conversation.

Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, announced that she sent a letter to the CEO of Apple voicing concern over aspects of the software.

“In some cases, Siri is not providing your customers with accurate or complete information about women’s reproductive-health services,” Keenan wrote.

More from the letter:

It is disappointing to read that a tool like Siri is missing the mark when it comes to providing information about such personal health issues as abortion care and contraception.

News reports have documented that, in some instances, Siri responded to a question concerning where to find abortion providers by directing an individual to anti-choice organizations known as “crisis pregnancy centers”(CPCs). Anti-choice groups created CPCs to look like comprehensive health clinics, but many do not provide women with accurate pregnancy-related information. This issue is especially important to us at NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, as our state affiliates in California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have produced reports that document these deceptive practices. Many of these centers are not up front about their anti-abortion, anti-contraception agenda when advertising online or in other channels. For instance, many CPCs do not disclose their bias to women who walk through their doors or call their toll-free lines seeking information. Ultimately, many of these centers can be harmful and do nothing to help women locate the services they requested from Siri.

Although Siri is not the principal resource for women’s health care, I hope you agree that it is important that the women who are using this application not be misled about their pregnancy-related options.

On the other side of the debate, a group that advocates for CPCs says that they are “thrilled by the recent discovery that Siri does not promote or provide abortion information or referrals.”

According to their press release:

Brandi Swindell, Founder and President of Stanton Healthcare, states,

“We applaud Apple iPhone’s 4S Siri and are thrilled that Siri does not list or refer to abortion clinics. Numerous lives will be saved as a direct result. Siri is setting the standard for all organizations — no one should ever refer anyone to get an abortion.

“This reaffirms the truth that women have always been at the forefront in speaking out against the violence of abortion and embracing equality and human rights for all. As a woman I’m delighted that Siri is embracing a position that promotes the dignity of women and upholds human rights in the womb.

“It is my hope that Apple remains steadfast and does not cave under any pressure brought by the abortion industry to start marketing abortion clinics.” Swindell states. “This is a huge win for women and a significant step in the right direction.”

Again, it has not been confirmed that these omissions are the result of deliberate decisions by the software engineers or Apple.

Swindell and Stanton Healthcare were among the anti-abortion groups that are part of the “Voices From the Womb” campaign that performed live ultrasounds on Capitol Hill for the public in October.

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