Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Google will start labeling medical centers that provide abortions to reduce confusion

New York
CNN Business

Google said Thursday will begin prominently labeling health care facilities that offer abortion services in its search and mapping products to help reduce confusion for women searching for nearby clinics that perform the procedure. The move follows pressure from Democratic lawmakers to reconsider their abortion-related search results in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s death.

As part of the update, Google will use labels like “provides abortions” and “may not provide abortions” to better distinguish results from abortion clinics, which provide medical care, and crisis pregnancy centers. The latter does not perform abortions and typically tries to persuade people not to terminate pregnancies, including trying to steer people seeking an abortion provider away from one.

To get confirmation that a place offers abortions, Google said it will either call businesses directly or use trusted data sources. The company did not explain what 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 dueling pressure from Democrats and Republicans over 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 are genuinely opposed to the procedure, noting that it could put women’s health at risk.

The following month, 17 Republican attorneys general wrote a letter to Pichai urging 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 would also “actively harm women seeking essential assistance.”

Some Democratic lawmakers praised Google’s announcement on Thursday. “Importantly, this is not about silencing voices or restricting speech, this is about returning search results that accurately address a user’s query and provide them with information relevant to their searches,” Senator Mark Warner said in a statement.

In the two months since the Supreme Court struck down Roe, Google has also been pressured to make other changes to protect women seeking abortions.

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


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