Fierce

Google Maps Has Been Directing Women In Search Of Abortion Clinics To Anti-Choice Clinics

For many abortion-seekers in rural areas across the country, a search on Google Maps for a clinic where they can obtain the lawful family planning procedure could actually lead them to anti-choice centers that shame them for wanting to terminate their pregnancies. VICE News conducted an investigation into the matter, looking specifically at 55 cities across 22 states that are at risk if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

In 21 of the cities, the reporters discovered that Google directs users to centers that either do not provide abortions or would attempt to dissuade them from attaining the procedure.

In North Dakota, searching for “Where can I get an abortion in Bismarck, North Dakota” leads users to North Dakota Right to Life, an anti-abortion clinic that, as you might guess, doesn’t offer the procedure.

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Red River Women’s Clinic, which does provide abortions, does not show up in the search. In Tennessee, similar anti-choice centers also populate. However, the Google Maps search also leads to the National Memorial for the Unborn, a site “dedicated to healing generations of pain associated with the loss of aborted and miscarried children.” While it should be noted that some people do regret having an abortion, according to the American Psychological Association, a single first-trimester abortion is no riskier to a woman’s mental health than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Similarly, the search for, “Where can I get an abortion in Little Rock, Arkansas?” offers a combination of family planning centers that do provide abortions, like a Planned Parenthood location, but also generates Arkansas Right to Life, a pro-life organization that’s website states the procedure influences “society’s acceptance of infanticide.”

Additionally, through their study, VICE News found Google Maps results from crisis pregnancy centers that used misleading language about their family planning options or outright shamed abortion-seekers as well as centers that claim to “reverse” a medication abortion using the “abortion pill reversal,” a drug that has not been proven to work. 

Google’s struggle to help give abortion-seekers accurate information isn’t knew.

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In February 2018, Gizmodo found that when users search, “Where can I get an abortion near me?” Google Maps directed many of them to “crisis pregnancy centers.” These facilities, while legal, have become largely controversial because they disguise themselves as abortion centers yet shame and counsel people who think they are obtaining the procedure against it. Additionally, they fail at providing “comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information” and instead try to sway abortion-seekers into believing that becoming a parent or considering adoption are better options for them.

Since that investigation more than a year ago, VICE News notes that Google Maps has gotten better at differentiating between abortion clinics and crisis pregnancy centers, but the problem of sending abortion-seekers to pro-life clinics still remains. 

Google, which is aware of the problem, claims that it exists because pro- and anti-abortion centers usually operate on the same keywords. 

“There are situations in which it can be overt misrepresentation and the business knows what they’re doing. I mean, that’s the purpose of the business,” spokesperson Paul Pennington told the news outlet, referring to misleading crisis pregnancy centers.

He continued: “If you are picking the right business category, if you are — again — being very clear in your website and you say, ‘We do not provide these services, etc.,’ that’s on us.”

That’s why Google deploys human analysts from its fraud and spam team to physically investigate businesses that might be misrepresenting themselves on Maps.

If a business identifies as an “abortion clinic,” a protected category, an additional certification is required from these analysts. 

According to Pennington, the question is, “What is that balance of having something that’s automated and scalable but also maintaining some level of manual labor that really has people kind of going in and reviewing this?”

During its probe, VICE reached out to COPE Pregnancy Center, a clinic that appeared in a Google Maps search for abortion clinics in Montgomery, Alabama but does not provide or refer the procedure.

“That is absolutely insane. We would not do that and certainly didn’t do that, especially today — when it’s, when pregnancy centers have such a bad reputation anyway,” COPE executive director Lorie Mullins said of the inaccurate label, adding that she planned on contacting Google to correct it. “We really fight to be upfront and open about what we are and what we provide, and certainly would not lie.”

However, a Google spokesperson told VICE News that the facility continually applied to be certified as an “abortion clinic.”

They believe that a Google employee must have mistakenly approved them. After VICE flagged the miscategorization to Google, the company said it would fix the problem in 24 hours.

Despite the improvements, problems still persist, leaving some pro-abortion rights groups to take matters into their own hands. For instance, Abortion Access Front has an initiative called exposefakeclinics.com, which encourages supporters to review anti-abortion centers and abortion providers on Google Maps.

“We saw Google reviews as a tool to combat that misinformation,” Anna Bean, the nonprofit’s community engagement manager, told the outlet. “Write a completely accurate review: ‘As a consumer, I see that this place does not provide abortion services.’ As simple as that. So that when people then upvote that review — you know, give it that little thumbs-up — that rises to the top of the page.”

But even this is limited, as anti-choice groups have started their own copycat movement, using Exposefakeclinics.org — instead of .com — to defend anti-abortion centers.

“There’s an influx of these clinics. They’re more empowered than ever before by the Trump administration now,” Bean said. “Google needs to play a role in ensuring that people are getting factual information about the services in their community.”

Read: When Abortion Meets Immigration: How I Help The Undocumented Obtain An Abortion

New CDC Report Tracks Activity Levels Of Adults And Puerto Ricans Are The Second Most Sedentary

Culture

New CDC Report Tracks Activity Levels Of Adults And Puerto Ricans Are The Second Most Sedentary

Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report reveals that nearly half of Puerto Ricans get no exercise beyond walking to and from their cars and around the house. That’s more than three times the national average. The study concluded that the most significant factor in differences in the prevalence of physical inactivity was when controlled by race or ethnicity. Latinos were found to be the most sedentary (31.7 percent), marginally followed by non-Hispanic blacks (30.3 percent) with non-Hispanic whites having the lowest rate of physical inactivity at 23.4 percent. Respondents were classified as physically inactive if they responded “no” to the following question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” Every single state or territory found that more than 15 percent of adults were physically inactive.

The lack of physical activity leads to health problems that cost Americans $117 billion annually. The CDC is cautioning Americans, especially Americans of color, that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to 1 in 10 early deaths.

It’s unclear why Latinos and Black Americans are so singularly sedentary.

CREDIT: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

Some think that the cause is regional in nature. Americans concentrated in cities and urban areas are more likely to get exercise simply because of the proximity to exercise facilities and pedestrian commutes. The map above illustrates the inactivity levels of each state and territory for every American of every race and ethnicity. The South is significantly more sedentary than the North and the West regardless of one’s race or ethnicity. 

That said, when you look at the same states and factor for Latinidad, the statistics significantly worsen.

CREDIT: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

When race or ethnicity isn’t a factor, Oregon appears as one of the most active states in the country. When you look only at the Latinos living in Oregon, it becomes one of the worst in the country. That means that non-Hispanic white people either have more access to those gym memberships or faraway hiking trails or incorporate it into their culture more than Latinos living in the same area. 

It’s easy to assume the socio-economic factors at play here — that minorities are so disenfranchised that they simply don’t have the time or energy to exercise after their long or labor-intensive workdays. Latinas have the highest lifetime risk for diabetes across all demographic groups, according to non-profit Salud America! A small research study at the Fair Haven Community Health Center found that fear of injury and lack of energy were the most common barriers for Latina women. This is when the cultural trope of Latina moms being afraid for you to go too close to the freezer or you’ll catch pneumonia becomes pathological.

According to the CDC, Hispanic adults are 50 percent more likely to suffer from diabetes and liver diseases than non-Hispanic white adults. Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to diabetes meaning that the map of inactivity is bad news for Hispanics. A more sedentary lifestyle has a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes and worsening the effects if someone already has the disease.

Meanwhile, when you look at just non-Hispanic white Americans, the map brightens up just as significantly.

CREDIT: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

“Too many adults are inactive, and they may not know how much it affects their health,” said Ruth Petersen, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “Being physically active helps you sleep better, feel better and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers,” she added in a media statement. The CDC has found that engaging in such physical activity could prevent 1 in 8 cases of breast cancer and colorectal cancer. 

The CDC is working to get more Americans to engage in physical activity for 25 minutes a day by 2027. In order to do this, the Surgeon General has called on cities to consider walkability as part of their city planning process. “Individuals and families are encouraged to build physical activity into their day by going for a brisk walk or a hike, walking the dog, choosing the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, parking further away in the parking lot, walking or cycling to run errands, and getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way,” the federal agency said in a statement.

The study’s data came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing state-based, telephone interview survey conducted by CDC and state health departments. The maps used combined data from 2015 through 2018.

READ: Food, Culture, And Physical Activities Are All Factors In Latinos Being Most Likely To Develop Diabetes

A Girl In Puerto Rico Died From An Illness Because The Only Hospital In Her Area Was Destroyed During Hurricane Maria

Things That Matter

A Girl In Puerto Rico Died From An Illness Because The Only Hospital In Her Area Was Destroyed During Hurricane Maria

@ValericaCollazo / Twitter

There is sad news out of Vieques, Puerto Rico where a young teenage girl has passed away after suffering flu-like symptoms. Jaideliz Moreno Ventura, 13, died on Sunday after her condition worsened she began convulsing. Now, her family is pointing the blame on the island’s inadequate medical facilities. 

Vieques, a Caribbean island off of Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, hasn’t had a working hospital in over two years. That’s because its old primary hospital, Family Health Center Susana Centeno, was closed due to damage from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island more than two years ago.

What started out as just flu-like symptoms turned into a tragedy within the span of three days. 

It all started last Friday when Jaideliz told family members that she was experiencing flu-like symptoms. According to local media, her uncle, Carlos “Prieto” Ventura, said that she had “a fever, a sore throat, and a headache.” She was then taken to a hospital in Puerto Rico for a checkup and to be tested for influenza. While the results of the test came back negative and she returned back home to Vieques, things got worse over the weekend. 

By Sunday, Jaideliz’s symptoms only got worse as she began to have spasms and severe head pain. After the family took notice of her increasingly worse conditions, she was taken to the only health facility on the island, the Center for Diagnostics and Treatment, which was due to Hurricane Maria destroying its old hospital. According to NBC News, the clinic lacked proper medical equipment to help Jaideliz. Her cousin, José Ventura, told the news outlet that the facility didn’t have a working mechanical ventilator for oxygen, only an older manual air pump. 

By 11:30 a.m. local time Jaideliz was pronounced dead as she was being transported to Puerto Rico on an air ambulance. 

For those living on Vieques, receiving medical attention isn’t easy. Many have to take a boat to receive medical attention in Puerto Rico where trip times vary from 30 minutes to multiple hours. 

There is growing anger and blame about the teen’s death with many people pointing blame at the inadequate assistance that Puerto Rico and nearby islands have received since Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. The situation in Vieques is a perfect example of that as residents lack nearby health services and aid. 

“If we had more resources, she would be with us right now,” her cousin told NBC News. “They have forgotten about us.”

Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary, Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, says that he has ordered an immediate investigation into the death of Jaideliz and which circumstances could have caused this tragedy. Back in December, Democratic lawmakers requested an investigation into why FEMA hadn’t done anything to help rebuild Vieques’ only hospital. But lawmakers alerted FEMA about this issue in May but there was never any response. 

“In Puerto Rico, we talk a lot about how we are treated as second class citizens, but the people of Vieques and Culebra [another island off the coast of Puerto Rico] are being treated as third-class citizens,” Edgardo Román Espada, president of Puerto Rico’s Bar Association, told NBC News last May. 

Jaideliz’s family is using this tragedy as a wakeup call for health officials to do something about the deteriorating situation on the island. They are hoping for more medical supplies and equipment so this situation doesn’t happen again.

On Wednesday, a vigil was held in the girl’s honor as her family called for help. They say that they “don’t want Jai’s death to be in vain” and made the plea for more medical assistance. Her mother says the island needs to “have a dignified hospital, with medical equipment and supplies —so that no other mother will have to go through what I am dealing with now.” 

“Up to a point, the people feel abandoned, that politicians come and go, and there are no bonds of affection and our feelings are obvious. We live this problem and that is why our pain here. All this adds more regret and anguish to our people,” her uncle told local media. “This is what you live every moment on our island. We need more sensitivity. ”

This tragedy followed what has already been a tough start of the year for Puerto Rico as a 6.4 magnitude quake shook the island back on Jan.7, killing at least one person, destroying homes and leaving most utility customers in the dark. There has been an estimated $110 million in damages caused by the quake. 

READ: This Photographer Took Hundreds of Stunning Photos of the Most Endangered Indigenous Tribes Across the World