As originally reported by Reuters, a group of US politicians has signed a letter to Google urging the corporation to reconsider its treatment of search results that send people to anti-abortion crisis centers rather than legal clinics. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) are spearheading the effort, which has received backing from a number of other Democratic politicians.
The letter cites data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which focuses on Google search results in “trigger law states” — the 13 states where abortion will become illegal if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. According to research, 11% of Google searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” in trigger law states go to “fake” clinics that aim to discourage women from getting abortions. The situation is considerably worse on Google Maps, according to the CCDH, which discovered that 37% of abortion-related map queries led to bogus clinics.
In a letter to Google, legislators question if the company will limit or flag these kind of results in the future. “Directing women to phony clinics that deal in misinformation and don’t provide full health care is detrimental to women’s health and undermines Google’s search results,” the letter states. “If Google must continue to display these false results in search results and Google Maps, at the very least, the results should be clearly labeled.”
According to the CCDH, over 28 percent of advertising showing at the top of search result pages for abortion-related inquiries were for anti-choice facilities. Google began requiring firms that run abortion ads to confirm whether or not they provide abortions in 2019. Google adds a “Does not provide abortions” statement beneath the ad for organizations that don’t actually perform the operation, but the CCDH cautions that some people may not notice it.
In an emailed response to the media, Google spokesperson Nicolas Lopez said, “Any organization that wishes to advertise to anyone seeking information about abortion services on Google must be certified and include in-ad disclaimers that clearly specify whether they do or do not offer abortions.” “We’re continuously searching for methods to enhance our results so that we can assist consumers locate what they’re looking for or understand why it might not be accessible.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on Roe v. Wade in the coming days, but a leaked draft judgment acquired by Politico might indicate that the Court intends to reverse the landmark decision. Another group of Democratic senators is pressing Google to stop collecting location data from Android users in advance of the impending ruling, arguing that this information might be used to punish someone who has had an abortion in a state that opposes the operation.