Advance Notice: Briefs
After Dems’ letter, Google says it will only show verified abortion providers in searches for clinics
Google, Detroit | Susan J. Demas
In response to questions from Democratic lawmakers, including Michigan U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), Google says it is providing an update so that only verified abortion providers will show up in local search results.
Slotkin, along with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), sent a letter to Google shortly before the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
The lawmakers urged Google that when users searched for “abortion clinic near me” or “abortion pill,” the service needed to filter out results that pointed to facilities like crisis pregnancy centers that “steer women away from certain health decisions.”
On Thursday, Google’s vice president of U.S. and Canada Government Affairs and Public Policy, Mark Isakowitz, described the updated policy for Slotkin and Warner.
“We continue to update our Local Search services for local health-related queries, including those related to abortion services, to improve the accuracy and relevance,” wrote Isakowitz. “When someone in the US searches for health care providers that provide abortions — for example, using the query ‘abortion clinics near me’ — the Local Search results box will display facilities that have been verified to provide abortions.”
However, Isakowitz said users will be able to broaden their search to show other relevant listings, including from organizations that do not provide abortions.
Calling it a “positive development,” Slotkin welcomed the update.
“With Roe’s protections gone, and with states like mine that have laws on the books that ban abortion access, it’s more important than ever that women can get accurate information from search engines like Google when they’re making critical health decisions,” she tweeted.
Slotkin added that there was a lot more that needs to be done at both the state and federal level to protect women’s rights to make their own health care choices, but concluded, “this is an important step & I’m pleased Google recognized how important it was to make these updates.”
After privacy experts raised concerns how information such as search results, text messages and location data could be used against those seeking abortions, Google said in July it would work to have location history for users visiting abortion clinics or other medical sites deleted quickly.
Slotkin, who supports abortion rights, is running for reelection in the new 7th Congressional District. She faces state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), who has sent out fundraising fliers declaring he’s “100% PRO-LIFE — NO EXCEPTIONS.”
However, the Detroit News reported Sunday that Barrett had removed the “pro-life” section from his website, following GOP U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters, who dropped most anti-abortion language on his site. Polling in Michigan and other key states has shown strong support for abortion rights and Republicans’ numbers taking a hit following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June.
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