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EXCLUSIVE-U.S. lawmakers urge Google to fix abortion searches that steer women to 'fake clinics'

Reuters logo Reuters 6/17/2022 By Diane Bartz

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers are urging Alphabet Inc's leading Google search engine to give accurate results to people seeking abortions rather than sometimes sending them to "crisis pregnancy centers," which steer woman away from the procedures.

The request came in a letter, whose top signatories are Senator Mark Warner and Representative Elissa Slotkin, being sent to Google on Friday.

The letter was prompted by a study released last week by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. The study found that 11% of the results for a search for an "abortion clinic near me" or "abortion pill" in some states were for centers that oppose abortion.

The research was conducted in the 13 states with laws that would ban abortion if, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized it nationwide as soon as this month.

Video: Future of reproductive rights may be digital abortion clinics (NBC News)


The letter to Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and was signed by 13 senators and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives as of midmorning Friday. All are Democrats.

Crisis pregnancy centers, which have been around in one form or another for years, reflect disagreements in the United States over the right to terminate a pregnancy. Some of the centers have been accused of giving women inaccurate information about their pregnancy, which can jeopardize their access to abortion.

"Google should not be displaying anti-abortion fake clinics or crisis pregnancy centers in search results for users that are searching for an 'abortion clinic' or 'abortion pill,'" the lawmakers wrote.

"If Google must continue showing these misleading results in search results and Google Maps, the results should, at the very least, be appropriately labeled," they wrote.

Google, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has dealt with other health concerns differently. Searches regarding suicide or sexual assault are topped by a carefully curated list of resources and trusted sources.

The research group also found that in the states that it studied that 28% of Google Ads were for the anti-abortion centers, as were 37% of the results on Google Maps. The letter that some of the centers had disclaimers but not all. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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