A new report reveals that Google — the most widely-used search engine in the country — is directing people searching for abortion services to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which seek to dissuade people from getting abortions.
According to Bloomberg News, Google Maps is misleading people searching for abortion services by including crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in their results. These dubious quasi-health centers, often run by religious organizations with far right views, use misinformation and fearmongering to persuade people not to get abortions. False claims pushed by CPCs include wrongly telling patients that abortions are linked to breast cancer or mental health issues, or telling patients that they have missed a state deadline to get an abortion, even when they haven’t.
On average across the United States, about a quarter of the top 10 search results for a person typing in “abortion clinics” are for a CPC instead, Bloomberg notes. In many states, the rate is much higher — in 13 states, Google Maps provides five or more CPCs in their top 10 search results for “abortion clinics.” In South Carolina and Arkansas, seven of the 10 results are for CPCs, and in Mississippi, CPCs make up nine out of 10 results.
Google responded to the Bloomberg report by claiming that it tries to address listings that violate its policies by posing as organizations that provide services that they don’t actually provide. But the issue has persisted — and these search results have the potential to place people seeking abortions in dangerous situations.
The publication spoke to patients who sought abortion clinics on Google Maps and were provided with results for CPCs instead. In one horrifying example, a patient named Chey, who chose not to disclose her full name, said that staffers at a CPC not only told her false information about abortion, but encouraged her to stay in an abusive relationship, claiming that having a child would fix her abusive partner.
“When my partner left the room, I mentioned that I was in an abusive relationship,” Chey said. “They told me that carrying a pregnancy could help repair my relationship, that it would cause my partner to step up as a man, and that I would find purpose in life again.”
Since the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, many CPCs have relocated to states where abortion is still legal in order to continue peddling misinformation to unsuspecting patients who are seeking medical care.
Although several states have tightened restrictions on abortion or banned the procedure outright since Roe’s overturn, polling shows that Americans widely support the abortion protections that were recently rescinded by the Supreme Court.
A Navigator Research poll conducted from late July to early August found that 58 percent of voters want abortion to be legal, versus just 38 percent who say that it should be illegal. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that they disapproved of the Supreme Court’s ruling, with 58 percent adding that Roe’s overturn has made them more motivated to vote in the midterm elections this fall.
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.
The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.
Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.