Who Would Actually Use Siri to Find an Abortion Provider?

Amanda MarcotteJill Filipovic, and lots of other folks are calling attention to the fact that Siri, the new iPhone voice-recognition software, can find Viagra, prostitutes, breast implants, and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers, but not abortion providers or contraception. For example:

Jill: I want a blowjob.
Siri: I found twelve escort services fairly close to you.

Jill: I want cunnilingus.
Siri: Is that so?

Jill: I’m pregnant, should I have an abortion?
Siri: I didn’t find any abortion clinics.

Jill: I’m pregnant. What do I do?
Siri: Are you?

Jill: My girlfriend is pregnant. What do I do?
Siri: Consider your alternatives.

Jill: My girlfriend is pregnant. What do I do?
Siri: First, do no harm.

Jill: My girlfriend is pregnant. What do I do?
Siri: Always do the right thing.

This is pretty hilarious for what it tells us about the puerile, male-dominated culture of the engineers at Apple and the third-party developers whose data and software run Siri. What this isn't is a crisis for women who own iPhones and are facing reproductive health challenges.

The average household income of an iPhone owner is $100,000 annually, compared to $85,000 for other smartphone users and about $50,000 for the typical American. Do we really believe that women who own iPhones–a generally privileged, educated, savvy group of people–will turn first to Siri when they are in need of a birth control prescription or information about where to obtain an abortion?

What women really need on these occasions are websites that plainly and clearly list where one can access various affordable reproductive health-care services. Here's a great page provided by the New York City Department of Health, explaining where to pick up emergency contraception. It would be wonderful if there were a similar page for abortion providers in the city, but I can't find one. Instead, when you click on "abortion" on the city's "Health Topics A-Z" site, you are told to call 311, an extra step that could dissuade many people, especially young girls hesitant to talk about their pregnancies. 

If you have money or tech expertise to donate to local women's clinics, it would be a great idea to help those organizations improve their SEO, so that when women Google for information on reproductive health services, they are directed to helpful sources, instead of to the CPC crap that so often rises to the top of searches. It would also be great if there were more local websites geared specifically toward teenagers, providing easy-to-read information on where to access birth control and abortion. 

In any case. Apple is embarrassed. It's sad and funny. But it's way more important to focus on basic web searches for this kind of information than it is to worry about Siri, a tool used by a very privileged and educated slice of the population.

3 thoughts on “Who Would Actually Use Siri to Find an Abortion Provider?

  1. Phil Perspective

    Do we really believe that women who own iPhones–a generally privileged, educated, savvy group of people–will turn first to Siri when they are in need of a birth control prescription or information about where to obtain an abortion?</em

    Once upon a time, phone books were ubiquitous. Now, they are going out of business. So where do people go for that same information instead? You obviously don't read Digby very much.

    Reply
  2. Dana Goldstein

    Thomas, I agree. I think the most disturbing thing about this is that CPCs are included, but real clinics are not.

    My point is mainly that the vast, vast majority of women, particularly low-income women, seek out this type of information via a text-based web search.

    Reply

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