Is Google Reponsible for Anti-Abortion Center Posing as Abortion Provider?

Categories: Law & Order
Be careful what you search for.
By now, we've accepted the fact that Google relies on our online searches to target advertising. But City Attorney Dennis Herrera is not: The mayoral candidate is asking one San Francisco anti-abortion counseling center to stop web advertisements that pop up when people search online for abortion providers.
Herrera wrote to pregnancy crisis center First Resort, Inc., demanding that the nonprofit registered with the state to "achieve an abortion-free world" stop buying advertising that implies it performs abortions.

The letter is paired with legislation introduced by Malia Cohen at the Board of Supervisors meeting today that would prohibit pregnancy service centers from misleading or lying to the public about the services they provide.

CEO Shari Plunkett has defended First Resort, located in the 450 Sutter medical building in San Francisco and with a second location in Oakland. In a statement in news reports, Plunkett says that the organization doesn't mislead anyone about its motives.

Well, let's see what Google has to say about that. We're guessing "abortion San Francisco" are likely the first terms a woman would type in when searching for an abortion provider.

Looky here: Lo and behold, the paid ad that appears second to the top is for First Resort. More disturbingly, it shows up as the top item in "Places for abortion near San Francisco, CA."

Let's see here ...

Herrera said today that this presents a major problem for distressed women faced with unplanned pregnancies. "It's especially problematic because the delays these centers can cause interfere with women's time-sensitive, constitutionally protected right to productive choice."

Plunkett said she looks forward to a "robust discussion" about Cohen's legislation. According to Google, she may have some explaining to do.

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Anna Bourland
Anna Bourland

I think the Internet portion and the false advertising portion should be separated. While a company shouldn't misrepresent what they actually *do*, they CAN use terms of their competitors to show up in paid search results. People do it all the time - if I type in PlayStation, I'll see ads for Wii and XBox.


When I first saw their ads on BART, I went right to their website. Even I, am old-school angry radical feminist, was misled into thinking they provided abortions, based just on their web presence. Plunkett is a plain old liar.


These places are shady and go above and beyond to pose as abortion providers. From their signs, locations, and in some instances outright lies (like booking people for appts that aren't real) they are deliberately misleading people. I have no doubt they put effort into attaining that Google spot and I hope that Google takes the time to accurately reclassify them. 

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