Google Maps does not distinguish pro and anti-abortion centers in the United States

In the United States, a search for clinics performing abortions will not necessarily return a good answer: many anti-abortion centers are among the first results. In some states, they are in the majority.

The survey is signed Bloomberg. Published on August 15, 2022, it sends shivers down the spine: in the United States, Google Maps regularly displays anti-abortion centers when searching for clinics where to perform an abortion. In July, the American newspaper analyzed the results offered by Google Maps in each American state with the search “abortion clinic”. The first 10 results were collected and analyzed — and in 13 states, five or more of those results were misleading: they pointed to anti-abortion centers.

The results of the survey of Bloomberg are striking, but above all they underline that Google is not up to the task, and this, while the problem has been known since 2018 – and that the situation is likely to deteriorate.

For further

Because she sent messages on Facebook talking about her abortion, an underage girl will be prosecuted // Source: Canva

A quarter of the results are misleading

Unsurprisingly, the states in which the most misleading results are displayed are those that have either banned abortion or severely restricted access. According to figures from Bloombergit is in the state of Mississippi that the situation is most serious: of the first 10 results displayed by Google Maps, 9 were anti-abortion centres.

The states in red are those where the most misleading results are displayed // Source: Bloomberg

Importantly, the research done in many states was all relevant, even in some very abortion-unfriendly places, like Texas. However, out of a total of 510 results, 124 of them lead to an anti-abortion center — nearly a quarter of the results.

Abortion centers, which call themselves “pregnancy crisis centers”, are becoming more numerous in the United States, and they are generally run by religious organizations. They use medical terms and very good referencing in order to attract pregnant women wishing to have an abortion, but they do not carry out abortions: their goal is to convince patients to give birth despite everything. For this, indicate Bloombergthe members of these centers explain that abortions can increase the health risks for women – false information that has been contradicted by numerous studies, which even show that it is the ban on abortion that is dangerous .

An abortion clinic in the United States // Source: Canva

A known issue since 2018

Since June 24 and the decision of the American Supreme Court to no longer protect the right to abortion at the federal level, the States are free to introduce the legislation they wish. It is therefore completely banned in 10 states, some of which even have laws in place punishing people who help women obtain an abortion. The fact that Google Maps indicates in the top 10 of the results of anti-abortion centers therefore represents an additional risk for women wishing to have an abortion – and this is very serious.

For further

Will information on abortion remain accessible?  // Source: Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

The data collected by Bloomberg yet indicate that Google can tell the difference between real clinics and anti-abortion centers. In 2019, the search engine asks companies wishing to launch advertising campaigns using terms related to abortion to certify that they can indeed do so.

Google Maps shows misleading results when searching for abortion // Source: Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

A Google spokesperson further confirmed with Bloomberg that the company had several layers of checks in place to ensure that the results in Maps and on the search engine were real clinics. It would therefore seem that the protections put in place are not effective enough.

The problem has however been known since 2018, when Gizmodo was the first media to reveal that Google Maps indicated anti-abortion centres. At the time, the search engine said it would ” look at the problem in detail “. Obviously, it has persisted, and it may even persist: there are more than 2,500 anti-abortion centers in the United States, compared to only 800 clinics offering abortions.

Leave a Comment