This week Google has decided to remove at least one type of misleading ad from its search pages. And no, it's not anything involving how to increase your penis size. After a campaign by pro-choice non-profit NARAL, Google is banning ads from crisis pregnancy centers due to the fact that they violate Google's policy on misleading advertisements. So score one for reproductive health care!
Crisis pregnancy centers are pro-life "clinics" that do not provide abortions and in fact do everything within their power to convince young women not to have an abortion, up to and including lying to them about abortions. And apparently their ads don't rise to a much higher standard.
The ads for crisis pregnancy centers have long been targeted to users googling abortion clinics, even though the centers do not provide abortion services — and in fact do the opposite. Crisis pregnancy centers have been known to shame women looking to have an abortion (or even just looking for birth control), to lie to women about the risks associated with abortions (telling them that abortions cause breast cancer, make women infertile, and are often fatal) and to even reveal women's intention to have an abortion to third parties.
And yet according to NARAL, 79 percent of the ads for the search term "abortion clinic" were for crisis pregnancy centers that often advertised things like "Free Abortion Consultation," clearly trying to pass themselves off as clinics.
In a letter to Google, NARAL's president Ilyse G. Hogue wrote, "We have no qualms with CPCs engaging in paid advertising. However, we are deeply concerned with their false advertising practices." As well everyone should be. Because it should be obvious that trying to mislead women looking for an abortion into going to a non-abortion performing clinic that will only proceed to mislead them more is pretty damn sketchy.
And it seems Google agrees. They've already started removing the offending ads from the site, saying in a statement to Al Jazeera America, "We're constantly reviewing ads to ensure they comply with our AdWords policies, which include strict guidelines related to ad relevance, clarity, and accuracy." Hogue said that the move, "raises the bar for other search engines to monitor and enforce their own advertising policies," and added that NARAL will continue to work to ensure that women everywhere have access to accurate and reliable information regarding their reproductive health.
Meanwhile the president of the National Right to Life Committee Carol Tobias is calling the decision "unconscionable," saying that "Google is waging a war on women by limiting knowledge of the options and services available to women." Which seems pretty hypocritical considering that we're talking about centers that routinely mislead women as a matter of course.
Hopefully this move on Google's part will make it that much easier for women to get the information they need regarding reproductive health without inadvertently having to deal with people who would rather be judgmental and misleading than helpful. So way to go, Google. You might not be perfect, but apparently you do occasionally live up to that whole "Don't Be Evil" motto.