Two feminist organizations are pressuring Yahoo to remove advertisements for right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers” from the search results that come up when users are looking for information about abortion services. NARAL Pro-Choice America and UltraViolet argue that those right-wing ads, which target women who are thinking about ending a pregnancy, violate Yahoo’s terms of service.
According to Yahoo’s advertising policy, “ad offers and their landing page must be directly relevant to each other.” The company notes that it reserves the right to retract any ads that are deemed to be “misleading, deceptive, false or untrue.” NARAL and UltraViolet point out that CPCs are violating that.
“These ads use vague language that masks their true motives. If you click through, you’ll get connected to a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). CPCs are anti-choice fake clinics that don’t provide or refer for abortion care,” the groups explain in a new petition directed at Yahoo executives. “The trouble is, a woman might think she’s made an appointment with a real medical provider, and she won’t know what she’s gotten into until she gets to a CPC in person.”
CPCs are notorious for using deceptive tactics to dissuade women from exercising their right to choose. They typically offer free pregnancy tests and free ultrasounds, and are usually set up to look like any other reproductive health clinic — the staff even wears white coats. But women who walk into a CPC won’t receive unbiased medical guidance about their range of reproductive options. Instead, they’ll be told myths about the dangers of hormonal contraception and abortion, and shamed for thinking about getting an abortion.
Just last week, NARAL successfully pressured Google to drop CPC ads after providing the company with evidence that 79 percent of the CPCs advertising on Google falsely indicate they offer abortion services.
“We hope that Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer will follow Google’s example,” Ilyse Hogue, NARAL’s president, noted. “No search engine should allow themselves to be complicit in such a manipulative campaign to lure women into ideologically driven facilities by masquerading as actual abortion service providers.”
Anti-choice groups are open about the fact that they’re specifically trying to use search engines to reach women who may be considering an abortion. As Online for Life, a group that partners with CPCs to create ads, explains on its site, “Every month there are approximately more than 2 million internet searches for words such as abortion or abortion clinic… This is where the fight to save lives must take place.”
Last year, several Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to crack down on CPCs’ misleading advertising, citing a Congressional report that found nearly 90 percent of them spread blatant misinformation about the potential risks of ending a pregnancy. But that legislation has been stalled in committee.