Friday, September 29, 2023

Google results for abortion clinics are misleading and politically charged

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Google Maps will continue to show results for abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) when users search for a nearby abortion clinic. A new analysis of Bloomberg shows that CPCs average about a quarter of the top 10 search results in all 50 states and Washington, DC.

Unlike legitimate abortion clinics, CPCs don’t actually offer abortions. Instead, they try to dissuade people from going through with the procedure and often use wrong information to plead their case. For example, CPCs may falsely claim that having an abortion puts a person at a higher risk of breast cancer or may say that it will be more difficult to conceive in the future.

A separate report from the guard cites data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), indicating that one in 10 Google searches for abortion clinics returned results for CPCs in the 13 states where access to abortion has been restricted after the destruction of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade.

Bloomberg found similar results, with CPCs accounting for five or more of Google’s top 10 search results in these 13 states. Meanwhile, of the 149 Google Maps results analyzed by Bloomberg with “at least one word referring to medical health care in the Google Maps description,” a third of users referred to CPCs.

Google has faced significant political pressure from both sides over the information the Search and Maps platforms show to abortion seekers. In June, a group of US lawmakers wrote to Google urging the company to take action on search results that direct abortion seekers to CPCs. The letter also contains investigation of the CCDH, which found that 37 percent of abortion-related searches on Google Maps led to illegitimate clinics. A group Republican attorneys general responded by warning Google that the search engine should not limit the results of CPCs.

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said wrote a letter asking Google to allow users to write and read reviews for abortion clinics and CPCs. Google currently disables ratings for both legitimate and anti-abortion clinics, which Maloney said “could make it difficult for people seeking abortion care to use ratings to get accurate, useful information about the types of services they can access at these centers. “

CPCs may rank in Google search results because of the keywords they use. Penny Young Nance, the CEO and chairman of the conservative legislative action committee Concerned Women for America, explains: Bloomberg that CPCs often use keywords related to pregnancy because “they end up trying to reach an audience.”

In 2019, Google began requiring organizations that display abortion ads to certify that they actually offer the procedure. Ads for legitimate medical clinics carry a “offers abortions” disclaimer, while ads for non-medical locations have a “does not offer abortions” label. But, like Bloomberg notes, it’s unclear if Google can use this information to filter out Maps results for anti-abortion centers.

A Google spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company “has additional layers of verification” to ensure that the Maps results labeled as “abortion clinics” are legitimate medical centers. Google didn’t respond right away The edge‘s request for comment.

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