iPhone’s lack of abortion clinic advice not intentional, Apple says

The new iPhone 4s with the voice assistant program Credit Michael Nagle Getty Images News Getty Images CNA US Catholic News 12 1 11 The new iPhone 4s with the voice assistant program. | Michael Nagle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The failure of the iPhone’s Siri program to locate some abortion clinics drew praise from pro-lifers and criticism from pro-abortion rights advocates, but Apple said the lack of recommendations was unintentional.

“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn't always find what you want,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison told CNA on Dec. 1.

“These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone, it simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better and we will in the coming weeks.”

Siri, the voice recognition software for the iPhone 4S, helps users find nearby stores, service providers and other venues.

Users in the Manhattan area received no results for abortion clinic queries, while users in the Washington, D.C. area are directed to pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Virginia and Pennsylvania, the New York Times blog “Bits” reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America were among those who responded critically to the reports.

Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL, sent a Nov. 30 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook which repeated her organization’s charges that many crisis pregnancy centers do not provide accurate pregnancy information and are “not up front about their anti-abortion, anti-contraception agenda.”

She said women should not be “misled about their pregnancy-related options” and she offered to meet with members of the Siri team to “go over our concerns in person.”

The ACLU has launched a petition asking Apple to “fix Siri.”

One pro-life pregnancy center praised the Siri application for some of its recommendations.

Bradi Swindell, founder and president of the Boise, Idaho-based Stanton Healthcare, said that “numerous lives” will be saved because abortion clinics are not listed.

“Siri is setting the standard for all organizations -- no one should ever refer anyone to get an abortion,” she said Nov. 30.

Swindell voiced hope that Apple will not give in to pressure from the abortion industry.

The Siri program does list affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.

On Dec. 1, CNA asked Siri about abortion clinics in the Denver area. The program responded with one result for an abortion clinic.

The program has a reputation for quirky and playful pre-programmed responses to certain questions, though for other questions it relies on stock answers.

Asked if it was anti-abortion or pro-life, it replied “no comment.”

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