Google to start labeling medical facilities that perform abortions to reduce confusion

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By Jennifer Korn

Google announced on Thursday it will begin prominently labeling health care facilities that offer abortion services in its search and mapping products to help reduce confusion for women looking for nearby clinics that perform the procedure. The move follows pressure from Democratic lawmakers to rethink its abortion-related research findings in the wake of the disappearance of Roe v. Wade.

As part of the update, Google will use labels such as “provides abortions” and “may not provide abortions” to better distinguish results from abortion clinics, which provide medical care, and centers. pregnancy in crisis. The latter does not perform abortions and generally tries to persuade people to terminate their pregnancies, in particular by trying to keep people seeking an abortion provider away.

To get confirmation that a place offers abortions, Google said it would call the companies directly or use trusted data sources. The company did not specify which data sources, but said it already does so when users search for electric vehicle charging stations or a certain brand of Covid-19 vaccine.

Google’s move comes days after Yelp, one of its main competitors, made a similar policy change. It also follows pressure from Democrats and Republicans on how Google should handle the issue.

In mid-June, a week before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, more than 20 congressional Democrats wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter urged the company to prevent searches for abortion clinics from returning results and ads that direct users to facilities that actually oppose the procedure, noting that doing so could endanger women’s health.

The following month, 17 Republican attorneys general wrote a letter to Pichai demanding otherwise. They argued that any move to suppress pro-life search results at the behest of Democratic officials would “violate the most fundamental principle of the American marketplace of ideas” and also “actively harm women seeking critical help.”

Some Democratic lawmakers welcomed Google’s announcement on Thursday. “It’s important to note that this isn’t about silencing voices or restricting speech – it’s about returning search results that accurately match a user’s query and giving users with information relevant to their research,” Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement.

In the two months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Google has come under pressure to make other changes to protect abortion seekers as well.

In July, the company announced that it would begin deleting users’ location history for visits to abortion clinics and fertility clinics, among other destinations. Google also said it would add an option for Fitbit users to bulk delete their period data. (The Google-owned fitness tracker previously offered users the option to delete period tracking data on a record-by-record basis.)

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