During research, Google’s mapping service offered women wishing to have an abortion establishments that advocate for the continuation of pregnancies.
When it comes to abortion, the king of research loses its luster. Pregnant people seeking abortions have been surprised to be taken by Google Maps to “fake clinics”. Beyond not offering abortions, these centers have proven to be pro-life establishments.
These places are non-medical organizations called “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC) – translatable as “pregnancy emergency center”. Often religious, they do not offer abortion and do not redirect people to clinics practicing it, as Ars Technica points out. Their role is on the contrary to advocate for women to continue their pregnancy at all costs.
Up to nine out of ten incorrect results
Spotted in 2018, the problem is well identified. But while the US Supreme Court has revoked the right to abortion, the misdirection of Google’s mapping service takes on particular significance.
Since this decision, ten states have made abortion illegal and four have limited the legal duration for terminating a pregnancy. Above all, some states – such as Texas – can prosecute people who have helped women wishing to have an abortion. Creating a sense of isolation, abortion candidates often turn to Google to guide them to a center performing the operation.
The Bloomberg media has highlighted that Google offers up to nine “false establishments” in the first ten results displayed (this is the case in Mississippi). The American site has counted thirteen states where at least half of the first ten search engine results point to a center that does not perform abortions.
With misleading pictures and facility descriptions, these pro-life facilities manage to be identified as abortion venues. Moreover, their websites do everything to hide their real intentions.
A political dimension
Google itself is taking on the problem, as a spokesperson told Bloomberg. The company strives to present relevant and accurate results to its users. Through its rules, the search engine strives to remove establishments that present themselves under a false identity. It still needs to be reported or spotted.
From now on, the subject takes on a political dimension. Shortly after the abortion revocation, Democratic lawmakers pressed Google to give accurate results to people seeking abortions.
But the following month, it was Republican prosecutors who put pressure on the company. They asked that no discrimination be made against emergency pregnancy centers in search engine results. Thus ensuring good referencing for pro-life establishments, supported by many Republicans.
Caught in the crossfire, Google has so far been rather conciliatory with women seeking abortions. The company announced on July 1 that all data related to family planning visits would be deleted. At the same time, special vigilance on Youtube (owned by Google) has been put in place to remove any content spreading false information on abortion or providing dangerous methods for carrying out the operation.