Google removes advertisements for 'crisis pregnancy centers'

Bowing to pressure from abortion-rights groups, Google is removing advertisements from its site for “crisis pregnancy centers” that discourage people from having abortions.

NARAL Pro-Choice America had pushed for Google to take down the ads, arguing they violated the Web giant’s advertising policy.

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“Anyone looking for abortion services should be able to depend on their search engine to provide them with accurate resources,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Anything less is aiding and abetting ideologically driven groups with a calculated campaign to lie to and shame women making one of the most important decisions of our lives.”

National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias, though, said that the resource centers are used by many pregnant women who would be hurt by Google's action.

"Google is waging a war on women by limiting knowledge of the options and services available to women," she said in an email to The Hill. "Google's decision to refuse ads by the centers is unconscionable."

Abortion-rights groups say that the crisis centers, which advertise free counseling, operate under innocuous names in order to convince women not to have an abortion.

According to NARAL, people using Google to search for “abortion clinics” got ads advertising the crisis centers about 79 percent of the time.

“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,” Hogue said. “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.”

Google’s advertising policy prohibits “misleading, inaccurate and deceitful ads,” and maintains that its ads have to be “factually supportable.”

NARAL logged a series of complaints with Google about ads that it claimed were deceptive, and spent the last month urging the company to take action. According to NARAL, more than two-thirds of the ads it passed along to Google were removed.

Among those were ads linked to groups that, NARAL said, openly acknowledge their intent to urge people not to have abortions.

Anti-abortion advocates, who say that the centers merely offer people alternatives to abortion were angry with Google’s move on Monday.

They accused the tech company of bowing to left-leaning political pressure.

“Shame on you,” media outlet LifeNews said to Google in a tweet, while urging supporters to make their complaints known.

NARAL, though, says it will work with Google to make sure that the ads don’t come back.

It’s also organizing a thank you note to CEO Larry Page, to “support your commitment to ending this manipulation of women making vital health decisions.”

A Google spokesperson said that the company is “constantly reviewing ads to ensure they comply with our AdWords policies, which include strict guidelines related to ad relevance, clarity, and accuracy."

“If we find violations, we'll take the appropriate actions — including account disablings and blacklists — as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson added.

This story was updated at 7:04 p.m.

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