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Google Called on to Be Neutral in Pregnancy Center Ad Policy

Brion V

Catholic News Agency - published on 05/01/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates battle over Google's ad policy.

Google is being asked to maintain neutrality and fairness in implementing its advertising policy after an abortion advocacy group convinced it to remove a number of ads from pro-life pregnancy centers.

“This represents the next round of NARAL’s attacks on the work of grassroots organizations offering life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” said Joe Young, vice president of operations and strategic initiatives for Heroic Media, which works to connect pregnant women with support and resources.

On April 28, a Washington Post article stated that Google was removing some ads for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers after abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America complained that the ads were deceptive.

NARAL said that some of the ads used misleading language suggesting that they perform abortions, when they actually offer counseling and resources that encourage and promote life.

According to an article in The Hill, “NARAL logged a series of complaints with Google” and “spent the last month urging the company to take action.”

Google policy does not allow advertisements that are “misleading, inaccurate and deceitful.” It requires ads to be “factually supportable,” the article stated.

NARAL claims that advertisements from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers appeared 79 percent of the time when the phrase “abortion clinic” was searched on Google.

In an email to supporters, NARAL president Illyse Hogue said the organization had gotten Google to remove “the majority of these ads,” labeling them as “deceptive.”

According to The Hill, a Google spokesperson said that the company “constantly reviewing ads to ensure they comply with our AdWords policies, which include strict guidelines related to ad relevance, clarity, and accuracy.”

“If we find violations, we’ll take the appropriate actions – including account disablings and blacklists – as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

CNA contacted a Google representative, who said that he was “not able to comment on AdWords policies,” but “would defer to the spokesperson’s quote from the article (in The Hill), implying that no policy changes have been made, they’re simply abiding by existing AdWords policy.”

NARAL is now organizing a letter thanking Google for the move, which it hailed as “a significant victory.”

However, several major pro-life groups say that their ads already meet Google’s standards for honesty. They urged the internet search giant to implement its policy fairly and without bias.

Heartbeat International, an organization that works with a network of crisis pregnancy ministries and runs the Option Line call center, noted that “Google’s advertising policy has always prohibited ‘misleading, inaccurate and deceitful ads.’”

In an April 29 statement, the group said that these regulations align with “the Commitment of Care and Competence (CCC), the ethical guidelines promulgated by Heartbeat International and every other national pregnancy center organization.”

The Commitment of Care and Competence states, “All of our advertising and communication are truthful and honest and accurately describe the services we offer.”

“When an organization with the clout of NARAL sets its sights on a grassroots movement like ours, and tries to strip a tool like Google out of our hands, we know we’re onto something good,” Heartbeat International said.

“The fact the majority of Americans now hold a pro-life stance that is, I’m sure, troubling to an abortion industry leader like NARAL, so we can expect these attacks to continue.”

“Heartbeat International is well-versed in using Google AdWords effectively with honesty and integrity, and we are thankful for every life saved because of our Option Line’s reach through Google,” the organization continued.

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