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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

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

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Google Is Pledging $250K To Help With DACA Applications And Renewals

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not a contentious topic among Americans. The program offers young adults who entered the U.S. as children relief from deportation and a chance to live out of the shadows. Now that it has been reinstated, Google wants to help some people achieve the dream of being a DACA recipient.

Google is pledging a quarter of a million dollars to help people apply for DACA.

The Trump administration did everything in their power to end DACA. The constant uncertainty has left hundreds of thousands of young people in limbo. The war waged against Dreamers by the Trump administration came to a temporary end when a federal judge ruled that Chad Wolf was illegally installed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. It invalidated a member from Wolf stating that no new DACA applications would be approved.

Kent Walker, the SVP of Global Affairs, laid out the case for DACA in an essay.

Walker discusses the uncertainty the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients currently face after the tumultuous time for the program. He also touches on the economic hardships that has befallen so many because of the pandemic. With so many people out of work, some Dreamers do not have the money to apply or renew their DACA due to a lack of financial resources. For that reason, Google is getting involved.

“We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers,” writes Walker. “This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).”

People are celebrating Google for their decision but are calling on Congress to do more.

Congress will ultimately have to decide on what to do for the Dreamers. There has been growing pressure from both sides of the aisle calling on Congress to work towards granting them citizenship. DACA is a risk of being dismantled at any moment. It is up to Congress to come through and deliver a bill to fix the issue once and for all.

“We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms,” writes Walker. “We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.”

READ: New DACA Applications Were Processed At The End Of 2020 For The First Time In Years

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Survey Says Support For Abortion Has Risen In Mexico

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Survey Says Support For Abortion Has Risen In Mexico

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Abortion rights have been long-debated issues for countries across the globe. Always, when it comes to conversations about women’s reproductive rights, is the debate that decisions like these should be decided solely by the people directly affected. You know, the ones with uteruses. Surprisingly, the president of Mexico agrees.

Last Thursday, the president declared that he believed that the decision about whether the country should legalize abortion should be left up to women.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stressed last week that the legality of abortion should be up to Mexico’s women to decide.

While López Obrador avoided revealing his actual position on the issue, he did say that a public consultation should be considered in the decision. In Mexico, the issue of abortion remains controversial and is still rejected by many Mexicans.

“It’s a decision for women,” Lopez Obrador explained one day after the Argentine Senate voted to make abortion legal. “It’s just that matters of this nature should not be decided from above.”

Lopez Obrador’s comments came soon after the Argentine vote was made and journalists in a news conference asked him whether he thought Mexico should take similar action.

Mexico, a majority Roman Catholic nation, is changing in its perception of abortion restrictions.

According to Reuters, “At the end of November, support for abortion stood at 48% in a survey, published by the news organizations El Financiero and Nación321 – a steep rise from the 29% recorded in March. The poll, based on telephone interviews with 410 participants, asked if respondents agreed that “the law should permit a woman the right to abortion.”

While abortion is legal in Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca, it remains illegal in most of the country with the exception of special circumstances.

According to Reuters, a “nationwide poll published in September 2019 by newspaper El Financiero showed that a woman’s right to abortion only had majority support in Mexico City and Baja California state.”

Sixty-three percent of people who took part in the survey said that they were against abortion rights while 32% were in favor. Fifteen thousand adults took part in the survey.

Various nations in Latin American ban abortion in totality. El Salvador, has in the past sentenced women to up to 40 years in prison. Until recently, only Cuba and Uruguay have allowed women to recieve elective abortions.

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