Google has agreed to remove deceptive advertising for “crisis pregnancy centers,” or CPCs, from the search results that come up when users are seeking information about where to access abortion services. The move comes after mounting pressure from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which identified several CPC ads that violate Google’s terms of service.
According to Google’s advertising policy, “factual claims and offers should always be credible and accurate” and “misleading, inaccurate, and deceitful ads hurt everyone.” NARAL — which is conducting a larger campaign to hold CPCs accountable for their tactics targeting women considering having an abortion — identified several examples of CPC ads that don’t meet those terms.
According to the group’s analysis, 79 percent of the CPCs that advertised on Google indicated that they provide abortion services, even though they’re actually in the business of dissuading women from choosing an abortion. After NARAL presented its findings to Google, the company took down those ads, confirming to the Washington Post that it was simply following its normal procedures for reviewing advertisements.
“Google’s leadership in removing the majority of these ads is a victory for truth in advertising and for the women who have been targeted by a deliberate misinformation campaign by crisis pregnancy centers,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “The action taken by Google to address this pressing problem raises the bar for other search engines to monitor and enforce their own advertising policies.”
CPCs, which are essentially front groups for the anti-abortion agenda, are notorious for using deceptive tactics to confuse emotionally vulnerable women. These right-wing groups typically advertise their services as if they’re a full spectrum reproductive health clinic, and their staff members often wear white coats even though they’re not actually medical professionals. It’s not uncommon for CPCs to set up shop right next to abortion clinics to attempt to intercept the clinic’s potential patients. They often advertise their free ultrasound services as a way to convince low-income women to patronize their clinics — but, in states where women need to prove that they’ve had an ultrasound before proceeding with an abortion, CPC employees sometimes refuse to hand over the sonogram.
Some CPCs have been forthright about the fact that they’re attempting to use Google to misdirect women who might be thinking about ending a pregnancy. The anti-abortion group Online for Life has been buying up Google ad space for years, explaining that they want women to see their ads when they use Google to search for “abortion.”
In 2006, a congressional report into crisis pregnancy centers found that nearly 90 percent of them spread blatant misinformation about the potential mental health risks of ending a pregnancy, as well as greatly exaggerate the medical risks of abortion. Last year, several Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation to crack down on CPCs’ misleading advertising, but that bill hasn’t been able to go anywhere. Although a few cities have attempted to enact their own ordinances in this area, most have been overturned.