Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Now Using a Google Loophole to Target Pregnant Women

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Back in May, Google pledged to change its digital ad programs to prevent crisis pregnancy centers—the most evasive trick of the anti-abortion movement—from targeting pregnant people with misleading honeypot ads. Apparently there’s still a loophole these organizations can use to continue their bullshitting.

Crisis pregnancy centers are explicitly misleading anti-choice organizations, which will do anything to lure people through their doors, just short of giant “FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND HERE” signage, and then manipulate them into keeping the pregnancy. And what easier method than a cryptic, well-placed digital ad, when the first thing anybody does in any health-related situation is log onto Dr. Search Engine? Google has taken measures to prevent these organizations from misleading women via Google ads, but there are still ways. The Guardian reported:

The loophole means only users who are specifically searching under the term “abortion” will be provided information on Google’s website about whether a particular health care clinic does – or does not – offer the procedure to women.

If a user searches under other terms, like “free pregnancy test” or “pregnancy symptoms”, no such information appears under the advertisements for the same clinics. While the difference might seem semantic, there is a worry that it will confuse women who might mistake a crisis pregnancy center for an abortion clinic.

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Alice Huling, counsel at the Campaign for Accountability, told the Guardian that unless Google clamps down more, these organizations will absolutely take advantage:

Huling said many women turning to Google for information, especially about an unplanned pregnancy, might be doing a “generic” search for information about their options, and that crisis pregnancy centers were purposely targeting women who were possibly thinking about abortion.

“They are trying to locate and populate those searches so that in a face-to-face discussion they can try to convince a woman to not have an abortion, including through ultrasounds or providing false information about or health and safety concerns,” she added.

If there’s any loophole whatsoever, they’re going to swarm it like a bunch of anti-abortion ants climbing on a potato chip—something Google should keep in mind when planning how to clamp down on such activities.

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