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Google Maps will label clinics that provide abortion services

The company had come under fire for sending users to crisis pregnancy centers, which do not provide abortions

A sign in support of abortions rights outside a clinic in North Miami Beach, seen in July. (Josh Ritchie for The Washington Post)
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Google will begin specifically labeling medical clinics and hospitals that provide abortion care in its Maps app and websites.

The move comes in response to years of complaints from users and abortion advocates that its search results for abortion care often return links to crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions and sometimes actively try to dissuade people from getting them.

“For a number of categories where we’ve received confirmation that places offer specific services, we’ve been working for many months on more useful ways to display those results,” Lara Levin, a Google spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We’re now rolling out an update that makes it easier for people to find places that offer the services they’ve searched for, or broaden their results to see more options.”

Google said it works with authoritative data sources and also calls locations to confirm they offer abortion care. Places that the company is unsure of but still come up in search results will also get a label saying that they may not offer abortion services. TechCrunch reported the change earlier Thursday.

Abortion is now banned in these states. See where laws have changed.

Google is often the first place people turn when seeking medical help, and crisis pregnancy centers have bought ads and structured their websites to show up in search results for abortion. Advocates have called for Google to stop showing the centers in search results or provide better labeling. An August report by Bloomberg News found Google Maps was showing results for crisis pregnancy centers about a quarter of the time when people searched for abortion care.

As more states make the procedure illegal, privacy and abortion advocates have raised concerns that the crisis centers may keep data on women who come looking for abortion care, which could be used by police in criminal investigations.

Abortion is now banned or mostly banned in 15 states, including Tennessee and Texas, whose bans went into affect Thursday. Abortion and privacy advocates have pressured tech companies to be more clear both in labeling abortion providers and in explaining how they will respond to police requests for data on their users related to abortion.

Last month, Google said it would delete its users’ location histories for visits to abortion clinics and other health-care providers.