Baltimore Sun

GOP AGs warn Google about anti-abortion clinic searches

- By Sarah Rankin

RICHMOND, Va. — A month after some members of Congress urged Google to limit the appearance of anti-abortion pregnancy clinics in certain abortion-related search results, 17 Republican attorneys general are warning the company that doing so could invite investigat­ions and possible legal action.

“Suppressin­g pro-life and pro-mother voices at the urging of government officials would violate the most fundamenta­l tenet of the American marketplac­e of ideas,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter Thursday to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company.

The effort was led by Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and the letter was shared with The Associated Press ahead of its public release.

The Republican­s took issue with a June 17 letter to the company from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., which was co-signed by 19 other members of Congress.

That letter cites research by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, which found that Google searches for “abortion clinic near me” and “abortion pill” turned up results for clinics that counsel clients against having an abortion.

Some of these places, known as crisis pregnancy centers, also have been accused of providing misleading informatio­n about abortion and contracept­ion. Many are religiousl­y affiliated.

“Directing women towards fake clinics that traffic in misinforma­tion and don’t provide comprehens­ive health services is dangerous to women’s health and undermines the

integrity of Google’s search results,” says the June letter, which was authored after the leak of a draft opinion indicating the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The court took that step June 24.

The Democrat-led group asked Google to address what steps it would take to limit the appearance of “crisis pregnancy centers” in its search results, ads and maps results for users who search for “abortion clinic,” “abortion pill” or other similar terms.

The group also asked the company if it would add disclaimer­s to address whether or not a clinic provides abortions.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office also raised similar concerns in a letter to Google last month.

The letter from the Republican AGs defends the work of crisis pregnancy centers. It notes that such centers often provide services such as free ultrasound­s, pregnancy tests, testing for sexually transmitte­d diseases, and parenting and prenatal education classes. It also argues that “at least some” Google users who search for informatio­n about abortion expect to find informatio­n about alternativ­es.

They wrote that if the company complies with “this inappropri­ate demand” to “bias” its search results, their offices would respond by investigat­ing whether there had been any violation of antitrust or religious discrimina­tion laws. They also pledged to consider whether new legislatio­n would help “protect consumers and markets.”

“We trust that you will treat this letter with the seriousnes­s these issues require, and hope you will decide that Google’s search results must not be subject to left-wing political pressure, which would actively harm women seeking essential assistance. If you do not, we must avail ourselves of all lawful and appropriat­e means of protecting the rights of our constituen­ts, of upholding viewpoint diversity, free expression, and the freedom of religion for all Americans, and of making sure that our markets are free in fact, not merely in theory,” the letter said.

It asked the California­based company to respond within 14 days and explain whether it has or will take any steps to treat crisis pregnancy centers any differentl­y than before the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision.

 ?? STEVE HELBER/AP ?? Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is one of the leaders of an effort to warn Google about limits on anti-abortion pregnancy clinics in certain search results.
STEVE HELBER/AP Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is one of the leaders of an effort to warn Google about limits on anti-abortion pregnancy clinics in certain search results.

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