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
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’