Google will begin adding clear labels to search listings and a map for health facilities that perform abortions. The change comes in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strip federal abortion rights. The company said Thursday that if it has received confirmation that a health facility performs abortions, the center’s label will say “Provides abortions.” In cases where Google does not have this confirmation, the label for relevant searches will read “May not provide abortions.”
Today’s announcement comes as US lawmakers called on Google to correct abortion searches that direct people to bogus clinics and crisis pregnancy centers that steer people away from abortions.
The company says the change is coming as part of a series of improvements to the way Google displays and labels search results for specific locations in Search and Maps. A spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch that the improvements will give users more context for the search results they see.
The company says that just like when you search for a specific brand of COVID vaccine or EV charging facilities and the initial local results you see show places that offer that service, it will now show that for veterans hospitals and health care facilities that offer abortions . The company plans to expand these labels to more locations and facilities in the future.
Google says it obtains confirmation that a location provides a particular service in a number of ways, including regularly calling businesses directly and working with authoritative data sources.
“When people turn to Google to find local information, we strive to help them easily explore the range of places available so they can determine which are most useful to them,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “For a number of categories where we’ve received confirmation that venues offer specific services, we’ve been working for many months on more useful ways to display these results. Now we’re rolling out an update that makes it easier for people to find places that offer the services they’ve been looking for or expand their results to see more options. We followed our standard testing and evaluation process to confirm that these updates are more useful for people.”
When asked whether Google would explicitly label crisis pregnancy centers with the label “May not provide abortions” or use that label only in cases where it is unsure of the services provided, the company said the update was not about categorizing the places themselves or labeling specific types of organizations. He notes that the label “May not provide abortions” can appear at a number of different locations that are available in an area but do not provide this service.
Recently Bloomberg report found that Google regularly misleads people searching for abortion clinics. The report found that crisis pregnancy centers made up about a quarter of the top 10 search results on average across all 50 states and Washington, DC. Another report from The Guardian found that Google misdirects one in 10 abortion searches to crisis pregnancy centers.
Google’s latest move follows somewhat similar to Yelp. The company announced this week that it will add user notice to crisis pregnancy centers to distinguish them from abortion clinics. The new label will notify consumers that these centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals on site.”
As part of the changes announced today, Google is also making it easier to expand your search if you didn’t initially find what you were looking for. The company notes that in some cases you may be searching for a type of location or service where there are no relevant results near you. In these cases, Google will now provide a “father search” option. This change will apply to places such as health clinics, physiotherapy centers and travel clinics. Google plans to expand this feature to additional types of locations in the future where the most relevant result may not be nearby.
Although Google didn’t specifically say so, it’s possible that this update could be useful for people looking for abortion clinics in a state where it’s prohibited. In theory, the feature could be used to find the nearest abortion clinic near you in a nearby state where the procedure is not restricted.
Google updates on abortion searches come as a group of over 600 Googlers is pressing the company to expand worker health benefits, divest itself of some political ties and strengthen consumer privacy in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strip federal abortion rights.