Google Maps and search to label clinics providing abortion care amid widespread criticism

Move comes after lawmakers urged Google to block misleading search results

Vishwam Sankaran
Friday 26 August 2022 07:34 BST
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Google has announced it will clearly label clinics offering abortion services on its Map service and search listings weeks after lawmakers urged the search giant to block misleading results leading users to “fake” centres.

The company said on Thursday that it would promptly label medical facilities offering abortion services as “provides abortions” and those that do not as “might not provide abortions”.

It said it would verify the facilities either by directly calling the centres or by using other reliable data sources.

The move comes after 20 lawmakers wrote a letter in June to Google chief Sundar Pichai highlighting that over a third of Google Maps results and more than a tenth of search results on the platform for prompts such as “abortion clinic near me” directed users towards anti-abortion clinics.

The letter noted that about 30 per cent of Google ads at the top of the results for such search prompts were for anti-abortion clinics.

This was following the US Supreme Court’s decision to strip federal abortion rights, overturning 50-year-old abortion care protections affirmed in the US constitution in Roe v Wade.

“Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinformation and don’t provide comprehensive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the integrity of Google’s search results,” lawmakers noted in the letter.

“Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centres in search results for users that are searching for an ‘abortion clinic’ or ‘abortion pill’,” they said.

The new move could help women seeking abortions find actual centres offering the service compared to crisis pregnancy centres that attempt to persuade them against terminating pregnancies.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company has been working “for many months on more useful ways to display those results”, adding it was planning to expand the labeling to more places in the future.

Earlier this week, online reviews site Yelp also rolled out a new feature to protect users seeking abortions from being misled to anti-abortion pregnancy centres.

It said its listings would now inform users that such centres “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite”.

“It’s well-reported that crisis pregnancy centres do not offer abortion services, and it’s been shown that many provide misleading information in an attempt to steer people seeking abortion care to other options,” said the company.

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