Women seek­ing abor­tion clin­ics sent by Google to ‘pro-life’ cam­paign sites

Search en­gine di­rects users to ‘cri­sis cen­tres’ linked to re­li­gious groups op­posed to ter­mi­na­tions

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Margi Mur­phy Olivia Rudgard

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BRI­TISH women seek­ing an abor­tion are be­ing di­rected by Google to cen­tres that try and per­suade them not to have a ter­mi­na­tion, a Sun­day Tele­graph in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found.

Search re­sults for abor­tion clin­ics across the coun­try sug­gest ad­dresses and phone num­bers to make ap­point­ments at “preg­nancy cri­sis cen­tres”, which are of­ten linked to re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions.

One link di­rect­ing women to a Pen­te­costal church in Llanelli, Wales, has been taken down af­ter the church was con­tacted by this news­pa­per. An­other cen­tre linked to the same church re­mains on Google Maps.

Other cen­tres also ap­pear in searches for clin­ics in Aberdeen, Lough­bor­ough, Brid­gend, Burgess Gate and Hor­sham.

The trend ap­pears to have come from the United States, where a net­work of cen­tres, funded by pri­vate donors and re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions, are in­creas­ingly us­ing tech­nol­ogy to tar­get women look­ing for med­i­cal help in or­der to fur­ther the anti-abor­tion cause.

We found “pro-life” cen­tres had cat­e­gorised them­selves as abor­tion clin­ics. Their web­sites are pep­pered with key words and phrases such as “abor­tion ad­vice” and “abor­tion help” and the names of le­git­i­mate clin­ics to ap- pear higher in Google’s search en­gine. The Sun­day Tele­graph also found more than 50 cri­sis cen­tres that ap­peared as abor­tion clin­ics on the dig­i­tal map in the US. Many web­sites give the im­pres­sion they of­fer ter­mi­na­tions, but sev­eral are linked to adop­tion agen­cies and will try to con­vince women to carry their chil­dren to full term.

Kather­ine O’Brien, of the Bri­tish Preg­nancy Ad­vi­sory Ser­vice, said it could be­come more com­mon in Britain. “Pro-life or­gan­i­sa­tions in the UK see what works in the US and then they adopt those tac­tics,” she said. Ms O’Brien called on search en­gines to do the “morally right thing” and make a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween real abor­tion providers and the cri­sis cen­tres.

She said: “They tell women com­pletely in­ac­cu­rate, un­sci­en­tific non­sense, that hav­ing an abor­tion will cause breast can­cer, can lead to eat­ing dis­or­ders, will leave them un­able to love or look af­ter their cur­rent chil­dren.”

Bill Chap­man, se­nior pas­tor of Myr­tle House Elim Pen­te­costal Church in Llanelli, which has since re­moved the cri­sis cen­tre’s Google Maps list­ing, said it had been closed for a decade.

“The cen­tre’s core aim was to sup­port women and their part­ners with the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with un­planned preg­nancy – help­ing them to weigh up all the op­tions and make an in­formed de­ci­sion, while sup­port­ing them at all stages of the process, re­gard­less of the out­come,” he said.

A cen­tre in Lough­bor­ough also founded by Elim, a na­tional net­work of Pen­te­costal churches, is still ac­tive.

Olivia Amartey, Elim’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the ser­vice was “small and low-key” and did not de­scribe it­self as an abor­tion clinic. “It is not the cen­tre’s pol­icy to per­suade any­one to keep an un­wanted baby, but sim­ply to pro­vide a lis­ten­ing ser­vice and sup­port for those who are in cri­sis, strug­gling, or need a safe place to talk,” she said.

Emily Loen, di­rec­tor of cam­paigns at the Abor­tion Ac­cess Hackathon, which uses tech­nol­ogy to help abor­tion providers and pro-choice or­gan­i­sa­tions, said search en­gines were be­hav­ing in a “negligent” way. “They need to have teams to work on this spe­cific is­sue, be­cause it re­ally is af­fect­ing peo­ple’s health across the coun­try,” she said.

A Google spokesman said: “If some­one be­lieves a busi­ness on Google is mis­rep­re­sent­ing it­self or its ser­vices, they can re­port the list­ing for cor­rec­tion or re­moval.”

The So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Un­born Chil­dren said: “Abor­tion is a path that many women feel is their only op­tion and it can only be right that they learn that al­ter­na­tives are avail­able – so­ci­ety is do­ing a grave dis­ser­vice to women oth­er­wise.”

Nola Leach, of Chris­tian Ac­tion Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion, said the cen­tres “help to counter the nar­ra­tive that when faced with a cri­sis preg­nancy that abor­tion is the only op­tion”.

‘The cen­tre’s core aim was to sup­port women and their part­ners with the chal­lenges [of an] un­wanted preg­nancy’

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