Soon after Google caved to NARAL Pro-Choice America’s persistent prod to remove pro-life crisis pregnancy center (CPC) advertisements from its search engine, NARAL emailed a victory hurrah to its subscribers: One battle won, but still a war against “deceptive” ads left to win. The message urged fellow “activists” to sign a petition demanding Yahoo do the same. Last week, Yahoo joined Google in pulling at least some CPC ads from its “abortion clinics” search results.
Unlike Google, Yahoo confirmed it had removed the ads, although a company representative wouldn’t say how many. “We have found at least some of the ads to be out of compliance with our policies, and we are taking them down,” a Yahoo representative told The Hill and CNET in a statement. “We’re in the process of reviewing the other ads and will take similar action if any are found to not be in compliance with our policies.”
This time, women’s rights group UltraViolet joined forces with NARAL in its petition to Yahoo. According to a press release, UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary said, “Yahoo is throwing women to the wolves on this issue. Desperate women seeking help are being directed by Yahoo to predatory centers where they will face harassment, aggression, and outright lies about their health and safety, and that is unacceptable.”
The groups’ chief complaint is that CPCs—which they call “anti-choice groups”— are posting ads that use “vague language” that masks their “true motives” to “target women before they even leave their homes.” These women are being “tricked” and “lied to” about whether they are entering a facility that provides abortion services, NARAL said. And that’s a violation of Yahoo’s ad policy, which says ad offers “cannot misrepresent the true nature of the offer” and must be “clearly and accurately substantiated on the landing page.” NARAL claims about two-thirds of CPC ads are misleading.
It is still unclear whether this new push by major search engines to remove CPC ads will significantly damage the centers’ work. A quick search for “abortion clinics” on Yahoo still shows several ads that lead to clearly pro-life websites, in addition to ads for pro-abortion facilities such as Planned Parenthood. And pro-life groups could start fighting back. Searches for terms like “pregnancy help” serve up ads for abortion centers, which could be considered deceptive advertising.