Gizmodo: How Google Maps Leads Women Seeking Abortions Astray
Crisis Pregnancy Centers pop up when you ask Google where you can receive abortion care. While there are nearly 3,000 CPCs in America and only 800 abortion clinics, this is absurd. Women seeking abortion care via Google should not have to worry about being led astray to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. This is yet another way CPCs are manipulative and deceptive.
If you are pregnant and looking for an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, you might initially think you are in luck. A quick trip to Google on your phone and typing in, “Where can I get an abortion near me?” brings up a Google map with eight different pins, all located within 10 miles of your location.
It’s once you click on the map itself and see the list—including their names, distances from you and customer reviews—that you learn that your real choices are far, far fewer. Your first result is Birthright of Jackson, a local crisis pregnancy center [CPC] that doesn’t do terminations. The third result is Center for Pregnancy Choices, which is the same story. The fourth result is CPC Fondren, yet another crisis pregnancy center. The fifth is Dr. Beverly McMillan, a former abortion provider turned anti-abortion activist, and whose late husband was a frequent protester on the sidewalks in front Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the only actual place in the listings (or in the state itself) where a person can actually obtain a legal abortion. That’s better than usual, said Derenda Hancock, a clinic escort for JWHO. “In the past JWHO was at the bottom of the list, like eight CPC’s and then us,” she said. “Nice to know the only abortion clinic in the state has made it to the top five!”
Google has a complicated relationship with crisis pregnancy centers. In 2014, NARAL Pro-Choice America pressured Google to stop accepting advertising for the entities—which are often religiously affiliated, do not always have licensed medical staff on site and never provide abortions or refer patients to clinics that do—saying that the advertisements violated Google’s service terms against “misleading, inaccurate and deceitful ads.”
Anti-abortion pregnancy centers were purchasing advertising on Google in order to insert links to their own clinics as top results based on keyword searches for terms involving abortion. The ads would be marked with a small “ad” next to them to show that they were paid results, but otherwise looked like organic results. They also often used ambiguous phrases like “Think you are pregnant? Get answers,” or “Considering abortion?” to lead people to click on them and draw them away from abortion providers and to their anti-abortion pregnancy centers instead. According to NARAL’s research, using the search engine to find “abortion clinics” led users to a crisis pregnancy center about 79 percent of the time, creating mass confusion considering the CPC’s often deliberate use of names similar to existing abortion clinics. Google agreed to remove the ads, but that just left CPC’s looking for an alternative way to promote themselves online and reach out to their “abortion-vulnerable” clients, as they refer to pregnant people seeking terminations.