CV NEWS FEED // An Iowa pregnancy resource center, Women’s Choice Center (WCC), has been censored in Google and Yelp search results for anyone researching abortion information.
WCC provides free resources for pregnant and new mothers, however they recently noticed a decrease in the typically high numbers of women they serve who are considering abortion. This did not correlate with Iowa’s abortion limitations and the recent reversal of Roe vs. Wade, which should have increased the number of women needing resources.
After researching the cause, the center discovered that their website had been hidden from Google search results, specifically for searches including the term “abortion.”
In an interview with CatholicVote, WCC Outreach Coordinator Sarah Jensen said that they noticed a sudden decrease in calls from women considering abortion.
“They censored us from coming up even though one of our search engine keywords was ‘abortion,’” Jensen said. “Because we do offer abortion education, just not abortions. So that happened and we saw a dramatic decrease in phone calls right away.”
Jensen said that Google not only censored WCC by hiding the center from search results for abortion, but later added a disclaimer to WCC’s Google Business page indicating it did not offer abortions. Google also added an option to filter by locations offering abortions.
*Screenshots of Google abortion disclaimer, provided by Women’s Choice Center
Yelp similarly added a disclaimer that “crisis pregnancy centers” do not offer abortions and may not provide medical care. Jensen said that WCC also appeared with this disclaimer on Yelp.
*photo of Yelp disclaimer provided by Axios
“There was a huge win in the Supreme Court,” said Jensen, “but then in the past several months there have been these creative strategies to dissuade women from finding us because they want to discredit us and get these women to abortion clinics.”
According to WCC call records provided to CatholicVote, the center had been receiving around 18 calls a month from women specifically considering abortion as of January 2022. However, after Roe vs. Wade was overturned in June 2022, staff noticed the call numbers began to decline. They received only 14 that month and the number of calls steadily plummeted to merely two abortion-related calls in December 2022.
Jensen said that the censorship was limited to abortion-related Google searches. Women looking with keywords such as “ultrasound” or “pregnancy testing” were not met with the disclaimers and had no problem finding the center.
This incident in Iowa is a result of Google’s recent efforts to directly suppress information about pregnancy resource centers after the tech giant was pressured by Democratic leaders. Fox News reported in August 2022 that Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, and 19 other Democrats had requested that Google begin cracking down on pregnancy resource centers.
Warner openly tweeted about his role in the censorship:
“Soon, those who search for ‘abortion clinics near me’ will only see facilities that have been verified to provide abortions in the local search box on Google,” Warner wrote in a Twitter thread, “meaning that far fewer women will be mistakenly led to ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ that often provide misinformation … Additionally, as our letter requested, Google says results for searches such as ‘abortion clinics’ will ‘be clearly labeled as to whether the facility provides abortions.'”
Yelp has also admitted to censoring results for pregnancy resource centers, according to Axios. In response, 24 Republican attorneys general issued a letter to Yelp demanding an end to its discrimination against pro-life resource providers.
Jensen said that as this censorship continues, pregnancy resource centers need to “be open to new strategies and really focus on having an initiative, a purpose, and a plan to reach women who are considering abortions but are being restricted from finding the resources they need. We have to be just as strategic and creative as Planned Parenthood.”
In response to the situation, WCC has hired a marketing agency to establish better SEO practices. The center continues to serve pregnant women as well as provide a variety of other life-affirming services, from healthy relationship education to community outreach and perinatal care.