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

Sex During A Global Pandemic: What Do The Experts Say?

Things That Matter

Sex During A Global Pandemic: What Do The Experts Say?

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We’re all social distancing right now. And that begs the question: how do you have sex in the era of COVID-19 self-isolation? Is it even safe to have sex during the pandemic?

According to several public health agencies, the answer really depends.

Let’s start off with the facts about Coronavirus and sex.

Coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, is spread by direct person-to-person contact or by people who are close to (within six feet) each other—as it’s believed that the virus is expelled in respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also pick it up from contaminated surfaces if you then touch your face without washing your hands properly first and therefore introduce the pathogen into your body.

So, yes, sex can contribute to spreading the coronavirus. You’re clearly close enough to someone when you’re naked on top of each other, and you are also probably kissing, or at least breathing heavily. (

But let’s be clear: Covid-19 is not contracted directly from sex – it’s not an STI. That distinction matters, because safe sex during the pandemic depends on your current relationship situation and, well, why you’re having sex in the first place.

So what are some best practices according to experts? Start with some self-love.

Since the start of the pandemic, online sales of sex toys have skyrocketed. So you can take solace in the fact that you’re definitely not the only one enjoying a bit of self-pleasure.

According to EDC Retail, which calls itself Europe’s market leader in erotic toys, the sales of vibrators, dildos and other sex toys were 162 percent higher than in the same period last year. In fact, sales have been so strong that the supply of toys and accessories from factories in China threatened to dry up – leaving consumers high and dry. EDC Retail even warned of a possible shortage of sex toys in February.

Masturbation also ensures that you’ll be safe from contracting the virus as you’re following social distancing guidelines.

Some public health agencies have even suggested making sex a little more ‘kinky’ to make it safer.

Most public health agencies have released safe sex guidelines for the pandemic. In fact, just this week, “glory holes” was trending in Canada because the BC Centre for Disease Control listed it among the tips for safer sex during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their guidelines say to “choose sexual positions that limit face-to-face contact. Use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes) that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.”

And “glory holes” aren’t only recommended in British Columbia. In New York, health officials suggest to make sex “a little kinky.” The city’s public health agency suggests getting “creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.”

Folks on social media are having a field day tweeting creative ways to use walls and barriers, even suggesting things like plexiglas shields (like those in grocery stores), holes in sheets, mail slots, doggy doors and donuts.

But if glory holes sound a little too raunchy for you, don’t worry, experts also recommend sexual positions that limit face-to-face contact, such as as doggy style.

And if you’re single or dating – you should definitely not be having sex right now.

Because of social distancing and state-mandated shelter-in-place guidelines, it’s not okay to go out on dates right now—unless those dates are over FaceTime or some other video chat app.

The New York City Health Department recently issued guidelines on Covid-19 safe sex practices, recommending against having sex with anyone outside of your household. (In other words, someone you already live with.)

And sorry but having a “quarantine sex buddy,” where you and they only have sex with each other during the pandemic, is not recommended, First of all, the idea goes against social distancing, and you don’t actually know how closely (if at all) they’re staying away from other people.

Or maybe, like so many others, you’re just not having much sex these days – and that’s totally normal.

According to an NBC News poll of roughly 11,000 people, at least 50% said that the coronavirus has negatively impacted their love life. That’s a lot of people not dating, not being intimate with others, and most likely not having sex.

According to Ian Kerner, PhD, a psychotherapist and sex counselor, “A lot of people in quarantine aren’t feeling their best, or feeling as sexy. If you’re home all day and you’re not changing out of your pajamas or applying as much self-care or going to the gym, your sexual self-esteem can start to go down.”

But that’s OK. You’re not the only person feeling this way. Between being stuck in tiny apartments or around family, working longer hours and feeling the mental and financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, on top of anti-racism uprisings, our libidos have had way more lows than highs.

But if you do decide to engage in sexual activity, make sure you follow these expert tips on how to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 along with following all other safer sex practices.

Alex Trebek Says That He Will No Longer Seek Cancer Treatment If His Latest Round Is Unsuccessful

Entertainment

Alex Trebek Says That He Will No Longer Seek Cancer Treatment If His Latest Round Is Unsuccessful

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Last year in March of 2019, the legendary “Jeopardy!” game show host Alex Trebek revealed to fans that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.

At the time, Trebek was honest about his prognosis admitting that his chances of survival were poor but that he would fight the cancer and attempt to beat the odds. According to John Hopkins Medical Center, Stage IV pancreatic cancer has a “five-year survival rate of 1 percent.” While updates about his treatments since then have been optimistic at times, Trebek revealed last September that follow-up immunotherapy had been ineffective.

After one year of cancer treatment, Trebek has announced that his diagnosis has worsened over time.

According to a recent report by The New York Times, if Trebek’s current cancer operation fails he has made the decision to no longer seek further treatment. “After some encouraging news from doctors last year, Trebek’s prognosis has worsened. If his current course of cancer treatment fails, he plans to stop treatment.”

Explaining his decision, Trebek said that his quality of life during his treatment has been difficult. “Yesterday morning my wife came to me and said, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I want to die.’ It was that bad,” he told NYT. “There comes a time where you have to make a decision as to whether you want to continue with such a low quality of life, or whether you want to just ease yourself into the next level. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”

Despite his decision, Trebek says that he will stick around for “Jeopardy!” for as long as possible.

While still intending to work for the show (which he has hosted for 36 years) Trebek told NYT that he wants to ensure it continues to be of “quality.” “It’s a quality program, and I think I do a good job hosting it,” Trebek explained. “And when I start slipping, I’ll stop hosting.”