One in 10 Google search results for abortion services lead to ‘fake clinics’ in ‘Trigger Law’ states


A shocking study has revealed that one in ten Google search results for abortion services made in ‘Trigger Law’ states in the USA lead to ‘fake clinics’ pushing anti-abortion messages.

These clinics, also known as ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ or ‘pregnancy resource centres’, are often associated with American anti-abortion organisations.

The study was conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a British non-profit.

The campaigners made Google searches using a Chrome browser extension to change their digital location to the 13 so-called Trigger Law states.

These are the states that have passed laws which will effectively ban abortions as soon as the Roe v. Wade court decision of 1973 is overturned.

Google map results for 'abortion clinic near me' in Jackson, Mississippi, USA

Google results after searching for abortion services in Jackson, Mississippi, USA. Left – an advert for ‘fake’ clinic The Cline Centers that appeared after searching ‘abortion pill’. Right -Google Maps results for ‘abortion clinic near me’ that shows The Cline Centers

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington after a document was leaked revealing that they were poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington after a document was leaked revealing that they were poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision

TYPES OF SEARCH RESULTS THAT YIELDED ANTI-ABORTION CLINICS 
Result Type No   Yes  Total
Ad  47  18  65 
Map  44  26  70 
News  90    90 
Organic  210  217 
Videos   
Total  394 (88.54%)  51 (11.46%)  445 (100.00%) 

During the case of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution in the United States will protect a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

However, last month, a leaked initial draft majority opinion revealed that the United States Supreme Court was poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

If this happens, the Trigger Law states will have the laws in place to automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters.  

The 13 states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. 

CCDH researchers made Google searches for ‘abortion clinic near me’ and ‘abortion pill’ using the extension Location Guard to change their location to each of the 13 Trigger Law states.

They then analysed the first page of results for each search — encompassing paid search results, organic results, and results in the Maps, News and Video functions which appeared on the main search page. 

They found that 11 per cent of general results led to anti-abortion fake clinics, including 37 per cent of Google Maps results.

Pro-choice organisations have warned that these ‘anti-abortion fake clinics’ claim to offer impartial advice – but in reality aim to dissuade individuals from having abortions or shame abortion care.

Some advertise so-called abortion ‘reversal’ which is an unproven and potentially dangerous procedure. 

The website for ‘Allied Women’s Center’ that appeared as a Google search result for abortion sercies,  claims that ‘unborn black baby lives don’t matter to Planned Parenthood!’

Pro-choice organisations have warned that 'anti-abortion fake clinics' claim to offer impartial advice, but in reality aim to dissuade individuals from having abortions or shame abortion care

Pro-choice organisations have warned that ‘anti-abortion fake clinics’ claim to offer impartial advice, but in reality aim to dissuade individuals from having abortions or shame abortion care

NUMBER OF SEARCH RESULTS IN EACH STATE THAT LED TO ANTI-ABORTION CLINICS 
State No   Yes  Total
Arkansas  28  30 
Idaho  27  30 
Kentucky  30  35 
Louisiana  28  31 
Mississippi  29  37 
Missouri  30  32 
North Dakota  34  38 
Oklahoma  29  37 
South Dakota  33  40 
Tennessee  29  31 
Texas  30  34 
Utah  33  35 
Wyoming  34  35 
Total  394  51  445 

Of the total 445 recorded results, 51 directed users to anti-abortion fake clinics, that have a record of disseminating misinformation on the health risks of abortion.

On Google Maps, 26 of the 70 results disturbingly presented anti-choice providers as if they were local abortion clinics. 

Nearly 28 per cent of Google ads displayed at the top of search result pages were found to be for anti-abortion fake clinics. 

One advert from the Cline Centers even appeared to offer free abortion consultations, but further inspection of their website revealed that the clinic neither performs nor provides referrals for abortion procedures. 

This was corroborated by a Google review, alleging that the ‘fake clinic’ does not ‘provide medical care’ and ‘exaggerate[s]’ the risks of abortion. 

While Google labels anti-choice adverts with a disclaimer reading ‘Does not provide abortions’, some appeared as the first result for searches seeking abortion services.

The CCDH found that some users overlooked this notice and contacted the fake clinics to enquire about an abortion regardless. 

A Google review for The Cline Centers alleging that the 'fake clinic' does not 'provide medical care' and 'exaggerate[s]' the risks association with abortion

A Google review for The Cline Centers alleging that the ‘fake clinic’ does not ‘provide medical care’ and ‘exaggerate[s]’ the risks association with abortion

Google searches for abortion services in Mississippi yield the website for The Cline Centers, which states they do not 'perform or provide referrals for abortion procedures'

Google searches for abortion services in Mississippi yield the website for The Cline Centers, which states they do not ‘perform or provide referrals for abortion procedures’

Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the CCDH said: ‘When people search for information or services relating to their sexual and reproductive health, Google is sending them to sites that users expect to contain robust, scientific, evidence-driven healthcare information – but they actually contain ideologically-driven opinion and misinformation. 

‘We have a right to expect that safety by design is a key consideration for any tech platform. 

‘If Google refuses to guarantee users’ right to good information, it will be up to lawmakers to step in to ensure that people aren’t harmed by Google’s negligence and greed.’ 

One anti-abortion centre falsely claims that an abortion pill reversal treatment has a 65% success rate. This is an unproven and potentially dangerous procedure

One anti-abortion centre falsely claims that an abortion pill reversal treatment has a 65% success rate. This is an unproven and potentially dangerous procedure

The website 'Bside U for life' falsely claims 'suicidal impulses' are 'common' following abortion

The website ‘Bside U for life’ falsely claims ‘suicidal impulses’ are ‘common’ following abortion

According to The Alliance, a union of state advocates for women’s rights, crisis pregnancy centres now outnumber real abortion clinics in the US three to one.

They say there are approximately 2,600 operating in the US, and are run by nonprofit organisations established to advise pregnant people against having an abortion.

The centres have been criticised for deceptive practices, and for disseminating false medical advice and misinformation about the potential risks of abortions, like breast cancer or infertility.  

Some other concerning, untrue claims include that ‘suicidal impulses’ are ‘common’ following an abortion and that abortions are necessary as 20 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

In actuality, research from the Turnaway Study concluded that women are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders as a result of being denied abortions. 

These fake clinics are often affiliated with larger anti-abortion, faith-based networks.

Erin Matson, Co-Founder of US abortion rights campaign group Reproaction, said: ‘Anti-abortion fake clinics are the conversion therapy wing of an anti-abortion movement that is hell-bent on sending people to jail for abortion, miscarriage, and pregnancy.

‘Misleading online advertising targeting abortion seekers is not a new concern, although it becomes more urgent as constitutional protections for abortion disappear. 

‘Google has known for a long time that it needs to get serious about anti-abortion disinformation and hate. 

‘Now is the time to stop prioritising big bucks from the haters over public health and basic human rights.’

The 26 states where abortion will likely become illegal if SCOTUS overturns Roe vs Wade

The 26 states where abortion will likely become illegal if SCOTUS overturns Roe vs Wade after leaked draft opinion showed a majority of justices supported the move

The 26 states where abortion will likely become illegal if SCOTUS overturns Roe vs Wade after leaked draft opinion showed a majority of justices supported the move

More than half of all US states have some kind of abortion ban law likely to take effect if Roe v Wade is overturned by the United States Supreme Court. 

According to the pro-reproductive rights group The Guttmacher Institute, there are 26 states that will likely make abortions illegal if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 ruling.

18 have existing abortion bans that have previously been ruled unconstitutional, four have time limit bans and four are likely to pass laws if Roe v Wade is overturned, the organization found.

The 18 states that have near-total bans on abortion already on the books are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

In addition, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina all have laws that ban abortions after the six-week mark. 

Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska, are likely to pass bills when Roe v Wade is overturned, the Guttmacher Institute said.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin’s bans all have pre-Roe v Wade laws that became unenforceable after the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision – that would kick into effect if the federal legal precedent established in Roe were overturned.

Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas have further bans that will come into effect if the law was overturned. These were passed post-Roe v Wade.

They’re joined by Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming, in passing such laws. 

The states that will limit abortions based on the length of time a patient has been pregnant are Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio.

There are four states that have laws that state abortion is not a constitutionally protected right: Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and West Virginia. 

On May 2, a leaked draft opinion revealed The Supreme Court voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalised abortion in the United States.

Written by Justice Samuel Alito, one of the six justices appointed by a Republican president who sit on the court, it repudiated both Roe v Wade and the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs Casey Decision. 

If and when the draft is made final, the decision removes the federal right to abortion in America, leaving it up to elected officials in each state to decide whether or not women should have access to abortions. 

Twenty-six states are likely to ban it if Roe v. Wade is formally overturned, essentially outlawing abortion in more than half of the country. 

Eighteen states already have restrictive abortion laws in place. 

The news sent shock waves throughout Washington D.C. with Democrats vowing to codify the legal right to an abortion into law and Republicans demanding an investigation into the leak, claiming it was done to try and influence the high court ahead of its formal ruling. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court added to its calendar an additional release of opinions scheduled for this week, including potentially the decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

With 30 opinions still not issued in the final weeks of the term, several will now drop on Wednesday, according to an update on the high court’s website.

The upcoming Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, due this month, is expected to come with a rise in politically motivated violence

The beginning of the original leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito

The beginning of the original leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito

Roe v. Wade: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America 

Norma McCorvey, known as 'Jane Roe', is pictured in January 1983. A decade earlier she had won a landmark abortion case - but the baby she wished to abort, Shelley Lynn Thornton, was born before the case concluded

Norma McCorvey, known as ‘Jane Roe’, is pictured in January 1983. A decade earlier she had won a landmark abortion case – but the baby she wished to abort, Shelley Lynn Thornton, was born before the case concluded

The original Roe v. Wade case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy.

She married at the age of 16, but separated shortly after while she was pregnant. She gave custody of her daughter to her mother.

She gave a second child up for adoption, but when she got pregnant a third time she decided to have an abortion.

She said she couldn’t afford to travel to one of the handful of states where it would have been legal.

Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.

So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.

Sarah Weddington and a former classmate, Linda Coffee, brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman challenging a state law that largely banned abortions.

She had been among only five women out of a class of 1,600 to graduate with a law degree from the University of Texas in 1967.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since.

The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks).

Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.

However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.

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