Search Results on Google Maps Often Direct
Abortion-Seeking Individuals to Anti-Abortion Clinics
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today called on Google to correct search results that direct individuals seeking abortions to dangerous and misleading anti-abortion clinics in New York. In a letter to Google, Attorney General James expressed grave concerns regarding the failure of Google Maps to distinguish between facilities that offer abortion services and those that do not, which could lead individuals seeking abortions to visit crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) for care. The CPCs’ websites often misrepresent that they provide reproductive health care services — including abortion — but in reality, they do not provide abortion or any health care services, and frequently do not have any licensed medical providers on staff. Because of their misleading sites, CPCs are often included in Google Maps search results for “abortion” when in fact they exist solely to discourage pregnant individuals from having an abortion. Attorney General James’ urged Google to take immediate action to ensure that results for abortion providers in New York are accurate.
“Given the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it is more important than ever that New York stands strong in providing safe access to abortion,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers, and others traveling to the state, should trust that Google Maps will provide accurate information and direct them to real and safe care. My office will do whatever is necessary to work with Google to make these changes and ensure that people can locate the reproductive health care facilities that they need.”
Due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization laws banning abortions in states across the nation, pregnant individuals seeking abortions will be forced to travel to states where abortion remains legal, including New York. Individuals often rely on search engines like Google to find abortion providers and facilities but currently, Google Map search results don’t distinguish between clinics that offer abortion services and anti-abortion entities like CPCs. By relying on Google’s search results in these cases, individuals are unknowingly directed towards dangerous situations and harmful experiences.
Google is aware of these issues and has previously promised to address them. In 2018, Google agreed to investigate reports of CPCs included in abortion searches on Google Maps. In 2019, the company stated that human analysts were working on deciphering which facilities offer abortion and those that work to interfere with a pregnant persons’ decision. However, the issue is continuing to interfere with access to accurate abortion information in New York. For example, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) recently tested Google Maps in Binghamton, New York and found that a search for local abortion clinics generated a list which included several CPCs located in the area.
Attorney General James warned Google to immediately address the misinformation and work to provide accurate direction to abortion clinics. The OAG is requesting that Google implement measures so that abortion-related search results show local facilities that are confirmed to provide abortion services.
If New Yorkers have questions, concerns, or incidents to report on this matter they should contact OAG’s Health Care Bureau online or call 1-800-428-9071.
“All people deserve access to safe, legal abortion — regardless of where they live,” said Georgana Hanson, interim president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe, it’s critical that people seeking abortion aren’t subject to misinformation and can find the closest trusted provider for care as soon as possible. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) don’t provide abortion or offer a full range of health care, and they won’t give you honest facts about sexual health and your pregnancy options. When companies like Google don’t distinguish between CPCs and medically-licensed facilities, that harm is directly felt by patients. We are grateful that the attorney general is working to ensure that online information is accurate.”
“With the constitutional right to abortion overturned by the Supreme Court and state lawmakers in a growing number of states racing to put bans in place, being able to access timely and accurate information about abortion care has never been more important,” said Mini Timmaraju, president, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Google is the first place many people will turn to find out what care they have available to them, and the company must do everything in its power to ensure it is providing accurate information. We thank New York Attorney General James for leading this effort to ensure everybody looking to access care in the Empire State can find that information without being misled by dangerous fake health centers.”
This action is the most recent that Attorney General James has taken to support and expand access to abortion care. This week, Attorney General James’ Pro Bono Task Force on Reproductive Health launched a legal hotline that will provide legal guidance and resources to patients, healthcare providers, and supporters seeking information about their legal rights to access and provide abortions. Also this week, Attorney General James joined national coalition of 22 attorneys general in reaffirming their commitment to fighting for the rights of pregnant people nationwide.
This matter was handled by Health Care Bureau Chief Darsana Srinivasan and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Simcovitch. The Health Care Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.