Google Ads Still Linking to Misleading Info in Abortion Searches

The Tech Transparency Project says the ads are pointing people to "fake clinics" in violation of Google's policies.

Imad Khan Senior Reporter
Imad is a senior reporter covering Google and internet culture. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with The New York Times, The Washington Post, ESPN, Tom's Guide and Wired, among others.
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Imad Khan
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Google ads continue to link to so-called crisis pregnancy centers, violating the company's policies.

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Google ads continue to link to anti-abortion centers when users search for information on how to obtain an abortion, violating the company's own policies on misrepresentation in advertising, according to a report by the Tech Transparency Project Thursday.

When searching for "free abortion pill" and "first trimester abortion," the TTP found ads would instead link to so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which aim to persuade people not to seek abortion care. Many are often religiously affiliated, and Planned Parenthood calls them "fake clinics." The ads do state, in small text that might be missed, "Does not provide abortions." 

Screenshot of Google Search results for abortion care

Google Search results found by the Tech Transparency Project show ads for centers that don't provide abortions.

Tech Transparency Project

Google's own policy on misrepresentation in ads says advertisements can't "deceive users" by "providing misleading information about products, services, or businesses." Google also bars ads that pretend to "provide critical services that result in a delay to the user receiving treatment or medical help." Google does allow for ads from anti-abortion centers, but it's a violation of its policies to have those centers use language that says they actually provide abortion access or medication.

"We require any organization that wants to advertise to people seeking information about abortion services to be certified and prominently disclose whether they do or do not offer abortions," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. Google also said it has policies on abortion-related ads, applying them consistently to all advertisers, and that it removes ads misrepresenting products or services.

The sensitivity over online information regarding abortion care comes after the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in June. That decision eliminated the precedent set 50 years ago by Roe v. Wade, taking away the federally protected right to an abortion. Since then, a number of states have moved to impose greater restrictions on access to abortions or have banned them. Google says it's taken down the ads that violated its policies. 

See also: Abortion Laws in Every State: What Are the Newest State Restrictions?

In Georgia, for instance, abortions are illegal after around the six-week mark, when most people aren't yet aware that they're pregnant. Going to an anti-abortion center could take time that otherwise might have been spent at a clinic that does provide abortion care. 

The TTP says that it's wary of Google's internal system of vetting ads, noting that it's missed scams related to stimulus checks, voter registration and student loan debt relief.