Pro choice supporters have been abuzz and aghast over a piece making the viral rounds, that Siri (Apple’s voice activated system to answer everything we 21rst century technophiles are apparently too lazy to Google ourselves) is curiously silent over women’s reproductive health questions concerning emergency contraception (the morning after pill) and abortion, but replete with replies over Viagra.
I don’t know much about the tech side of things, but the idea that Apple is fronting some massive anti-choice conspiracy just doesn’t seem right. My understanding of Siri is that she’s just a voice activated Google search and keep in mind that most doctors and clinics that perform abortions don’t call themselves abortion clinic. They often use euphemisms such as “Comprehensive gynecologic care.” If you provided abortions in your place of business would you be buying Google ads? Many providers are discrete, although women still find them. I’m not saying it is a positive reflection of the state of reproductive rights that this happens, just that it is our reality.
I decided to put Siri to the test. To make it quasi-experimental I asked questions about both women and men’s reproductive health needs.
I first asked, “Where is the closest gynecologist.” A list popped up with several starting 4.8 miles away from my house. If I wanted an abortion and didn’t have my own GYNO, I might start looking for a gynecologist on Google, check a few web sites, and go from there. So check, Siri knows about gynecologists. I also asked, “Where is the closest urologist,” and Siri could answer that equally as well.
Then I asked, “Where can I get the morning after pill?” A google search popped up about the morning after pill (definitions etc.). So I rephrased the question, “Which pharmacy sells the morning after pill.” 15 drug stores fairly close to you popped up, in reply.
Then I asked Siri, “Where can I get Viagra?,” and she gave me 16 drug stores. Basically the same response as the morning after pill.
I asked Siri, “What is an abortion?” and she got it right. Termination of pregnancy.
Then I asked, “Where is the closest Planned Parenthood Clinic.” She gave me a Google search and the 1rst link was “Find a health center,” the search tool on the Planned Parenthood web site to locate the clinic closest to you. (BTW, Planned Parenthood does advertise that they provide abortion services as part of their comprehensive health care for women).
Finally I asked, “Where is the closest clinic where I can get an abortion?” She asked if I wanted to search the web and I replied in the affirmative. The 1rst site was Planned Parenthood and the second was http://www.abortion.com. Both excellent places to start if you do not have your own gynecologist and need an abortion.
And for the final part of the experiment (again using men’s reproductive health as a control), I got the same kind of answer as I did for abortion when I asked, “Where is the closest clinic where I can get a vasectomy.” Siri again asked if I wanted to search the web. The 1rst link was for http://www.thevasectomyclinic.com and the 2nd for Planned Parenthood.
What Siri couldn’t find for me was the closest Trader Joe’s. While in Berkley on the weekend I needed to stop by one for a particular item and I must have asked, “Where is the closest Trader Joe’s” 20 damn times. I got the annoying, “I can’t answer that right now.” Fortunately, MapQuest was interested.
I don’t think there is any great reproductive health, women’s health, or abortion conspiracy. If Siri couldn’t directly answer my question she gave me web search on the subject. She gave me pharmacies when I asked for the morning after pill and Viagra, and Google search results when I wanted an abortion and a vasectomy. That seems pretty equal.
There does not appear to be any great abortion conspiracy any more than there is a great Trader Joe’s conspiracy.
Let’s move on to the real issue. Why abortion must be shrouded in euphemisms and why providers are hesitant to advertise.