Google will clearly label healthcare facilities that provide abortions in Search and Maps to reduce confusion among users looking for the procedure.
The change comes months after Congressional Democrats pushed the tech giant to better differentiate between abortion clinics and crisis pregnancy centers, which try to dissuade people from seeking abortions and may not offer accurate medical information.
As part of the update, Google will label facilities that are verified to offer abortions with “provides abortions” in results, while other locations will say “might not provide abortions.”
“When someone in the US searches for health care providers that provide abortions — for example, using the query ‘abortion clinics near me’ — the Local Search results box will display facilities that have been verified to provide abortions,” Mark Isakowitz, Google vice president of government affairs and public policy for the U.S. and Canada, wrote in a response letter to Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Elissa Slotkin.
“People will be able to broaden their search to show other relevant listings (including from organizations that do not provide abortions).”
WHY IT MATTERS
It’s not uncommon for patients looking for abortion services to find misleading information when searching online. According to a Bloomberg News investigation published earlier this month, people seeking abortion providers are “routinely” directed to crisis pregnancy centers on Google Maps.
Research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate earlier this summer found one in 10 Google search results for abortions in states with trigger laws led to crisis pregnancy centers.
Google’s label update comes just days after review site Yelp announced it would flag crisis pregnancy center listings to distinguish them from clinics and healthcare facilities that offer abortions.
In the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, privacy experts have raised concerns about how personal data could be used to determine if a user sought an abortion in states where the procedure is now illegal.
In July, Google said it would automatically delete location history when users visit sensitive places like abortion clinics. Period tracking apps, which analyses have noted often share data with third parties, rushed to put out statements about privacy after the Supreme Court decision. Flo launched an “anonymous mode” it said would allow people to use the app without personal email, name and technical identifiers.