Google ad policy meant to hinder pro-life pregnancy center results hits snag

An exterior view of Google's headquarters, also known as Googleplex, in Mountain View, California, US as taken on Apr. 13, 2014. |

A policy by Google aimed at preventing ads from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers aimed at steering women away from abortion clinics has hit a snag, according to a report by The Guardian.

Earlier this year, Google announced that health organizations that advertise about abortion on the major search engine’s website must have a label indicating whether or not they actually provide abortions.

However, Stephanie Kirchgaessner of The Guardian reported Monday that Google’s policy only appeared to work when the specific term “abortion” was searched by a user.

Other search terms like “free pregnancy test” and “pregnancy symptoms” did not include a disclaimer explaining if the entity provided abortions.

“While the difference might seem semantic, there is a worry that it will confuse women who might mistake a crisis pregnancy center for an abortion clinic,” wrote Kirchgaessner.

In response to the report, Google provided the Guardian with a statement defending their current policy on disclosing whether an advertised clinic performs abortions.

“This additional transparency is meant to help users decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them,” stated Google.

“Our policies already prohibit misrepresentation in ads and if we find ads that violate our policies, we immediately remove them.”

In May, Google announced that clinics and organizations running ads through Google using keywords relating to abortion in the United States and the United Kingdom must first be “certified … as an advertiser that either provides abortions or does not provide abortions.”

“If you are not certified, you won’t be able to run ads using keywords related to getting an abortion,” stated the left-leaning tech company at the time.

“The disclosures will show on all search ad formats and help ensure that these ads transparently provide basic information users need to decide which abortion-related ads are most relevant to them.”

The change came in response to pro-choice activists arguing that Google was providing pro-life crisis pregnancy centers the ability to advertise as if they were abortion providers.

For example, Democrat Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon sent a letter to Google in advance of their decision to implement the policy.

In it, the Congresswomen demanded that the platform remove advertisements promoting what they called “fake clinics.”

“Google should be well aware of the deceptive advertising practices of these types of organizations,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Your company previously took numerous actions to remove advertisements for crisis pregnancy centers because they violate Google’s internal advertising policy.”  

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