NEWS: New chatbot connects abortion seekers with care options

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

New Chatbot Connects Abortion Seekers With Care Options

Mashable, September 12, 2023

A chatbot launching Tuesday aims to give users confidential, accurate information when seeking abortion care. The bot, Charley, was built specifically to reach people in states where abortion has been banned or restricted, but it does not offer legal advice. Currently, 22 states have banned or restricted abortion care in the U.S., following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Charley, which communicates in both English and Spanish, is accessible via the website Other sites, like Abortion On Our Own Terms and Abortion Access Front, also host the bot. The nonprofit platform and bot were co-created by several reproductive rights and justice organizations, including Plan C,, and the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline. Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, is a cofounder. Nicole Cushman, who oversees content development for Charley, told Mashable that the bot is designed to take the guesswork out of internet searches for abortion care that may or may not lead users to up-to-date, truthful information about what options are available to them. “The search experience online, in particular, is really mired in confusion,” Cushman said. “People wind up going on this scavenger hunt, trying to piece together all of the resources that make sense for them to get the care that they need.” Cushman said that Charley was developed to streamline that process. Users are presented with different options from which they can choose. One of the first steps is selecting between information about abortion pills or abortion procedures. Charley then informs the user that certain laws “restrict abortion past a certain point in pregnancy” and attempts to determine how far along a user might be in their pregnancy. From there, it provides relevant details based on the user’s ZIP code and preferences. Charley draws on a database of abortion providers compiled by, which is updated daily. It also collects data from the Abortion Policy API, a tool that analyzes and tracks abortion access. Charley is able to automatically pull the latest information on state gestational age limits, nearby clinics, and the distance to reach them.

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Abortion Rights Group Sues on Behalf of Women Denied Care in Emergencies

The Washington Post, September 12, 2023

The Center for Reproductive Rights on Tuesday filed legal actions in Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma on behalf of women who say they were denied abortion care in medical emergencies. The actions represent an escalation of the strategy the center used earlier this year in a Texas lawsuit arguing that exceptions to protect the life or health of the mother are unclear, jeopardizing the health of pregnant women. “What’s happening in Texas is the tip of the iceberg,” said Marc Hearron, the center’s senior counsel who is spearheading the three legal actions. The goal, Hearron said, is twofold — to demonstrate that pregnant people are being denied timely medical care wherever abortion is banned, and to give clarity to doctors whom he described as “terrified” of providing the procedure. Antiabortion groups accuse their opponents of exaggerating the risks to pregnant individuals, dismissing legal actions at the state level as “scare tactics” because abortion rights groups are losing the federal battle. What’s more, they said, broadly written exceptions could allow any abortion clinic to find a health exception to justify the procedure. In early August, in a temporary victory for abortion rights advocates, a Texas judge ruled that in cases of dangerous or complicated pregnancies, doctors must be allowed to use their “good faith judgment” to provide abortion care. The state immediately appealed the ruling, which is now on hold. Oral arguments are scheduled for late November. As in Texas, the new filings — lawsuits against the states of Idaho and Tennessee and a federal complaint lodged with the Department of Health and Human Services against a hospital in Oklahoma — do not seek to overturn the abortion bans entirely. Instead, they use personal testimony to expose the physical and mental trauma plaintiffs say they suffered because doctors failed to perform abortions for fear of liability. The lawsuits in Tennessee and Idaho, a state where there has been an exodus of obstetric specialists in the past year, include physician plaintiffs.

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Justice Department Asks Supreme Court to End Abortion Pill Legal Challenge That Threatens Widespread Access

NBC News, September 8, 2023

The Biden administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to maintain broad access to a commonly used medication abortion pill. The court filing from the Justice Department sets the stage for a possible final resolution to a contentious legal fight mounted by abortion rights opponents over federal approval of the drug mifepristone. The dispute lands at the Supreme Court in time for the justices to potentially take it up, hear oral arguments and issue a decision by next summer. In urging the Supreme Court to intervene, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote that the case marked the first time a court has ever second-guessed the “expert judgment” of the Food and Drug Administration in approving a drug. If lower court rulings were left in place, they “would impose grave harms on the government, mifepristone’s sponsors, women seeking medication abortions, and the public,” Prelogar added. Among other things, access to the pill by mail — which the FDA formally approved in 2021 — would be curtailed. Danco — the maker of Mifeprex, the brand version of mifepristone — filed a similar appeal Friday. Before making a decision on whether to hear the case, the justices will receive a response from the challengers as part of a process that can take months. The justices have already intervened once, back in April, when they blocked in full a decision by Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk that had invalidated the FDA’s original approval of the drug from more than 20 years ago. At that time, conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would have allowed part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling to go into effect. Kacsmaryk’s decision threatened access to the pill, including its availability by mail, but the Supreme Court order resulted in it remaining available as normal while the litigation continues. The challenge has been brought by a group of doctors and other medical professionals represented by the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

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All Eyes on Ohio: The Next Abortion Battleground State

Ms. Magazine, September 8, 2023

Proponents of the ballot measure to amend Ohio’s state constitution to protect the right to abortion always knew they faced an uphill battle. Yet they were energized by what voters accomplished in Kansas in summer 2022 and what they gained in California, Vermont, Montana, Michigan and to a small extent in Kentucky a few months later in the midterms. In fact, every effort to protect the right to abortion—or to enshrine the right in the state constitution—was successful, and by respectable margins. Spearheaded by Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, they mounted a successful grassroots campaign; garnered endorsements from a diverse, broad-based coalition; amassed thousands of volunteers; and successfully gathered 710,000 valid signatures—far more than the required number. Lauren Blauvelt, a member of the executive committee of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and a vice president at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said getting the necessary signatures to place the abortion amendment on the November 2023 ballot was a huge grassroots-led effort, and it showed that Ohioans want the opportunity to vote to protect abortion access and reproductive freedom. “We had organizations—large and small—from around the state reaching out to their members about wanting to do a citizen-led ballot initiative,” Blauvelt told Ms. “So we were able to use that energy and momentum to really invest in the research and the polling to help craft the language … which made it through the [state] attorney general and the ballot board more quickly than anticipated.” However, abortion-rights advocates were not just challenged to get valid signatures quickly enough to qualify the measure for the 2023 general election; they also had to face another obstacle. The GOP-dominated legislature, determined to thwart all efforts to guarantee abortion access in Ohio, moved just as quickly to try to change the rules, devising a ballot measure to make it more difficult for voters to amend the state constitution: Instead of the 50-percent-plus-one vote requirement (a simple majority), any future citizen-led initiative would require a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

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GOP, Kneecapped on Abortion Politics, Struggles to Find a Message

The Hill, September 14, 2023

Republicans are struggling over how to craft their message on abortion, an issue that has repeatedly kneecapped GOP candidates and that is seen as a huge problem next November. No consistent message has emerged from the GOP presidential field, which has been all over the map with its strategies for winning over voters on the issue. At one end stand hard-line abortion opponents such as former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), who have argued for stiff bans on abortion across the nation. Meanwhile, candidates such as former President Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have urged restraint, warning that Republicans risk losing suburban women voters and others over the issue. Yet even Haley and Trump have tough stances on abortion. Trump is directly responsible for the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision; three of his Supreme Court nominees made up the majority decision. Haley, during her time as South Carolina governor, also backed legislation that would severely limit abortion rights. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not said whether he supports a federal ban on the procedure but signed a six-week ban on the procedures with exceptions in his state. “We did not talk about the issue, and I will tell you why,” Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, said when discussing last year’s midterms. “I was personally sitting there with all men and a pollster and I said, this is going to be a huge issue,” she continued. “[They said], ‘No, no, women are going to vote with their pocketbooks.’ I said no they’re not; I said they’re absolutely not. And they didn’t.” Abortion was largely seen as the key issue that tempered the GOP’s wins in the House and stopped the party from taking back the majority in the Senate in last year’s midterms. This time around, Senate Republicans are pushing back against calls for a national ban.

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