Google has updated its features to better assist those using its tools to seek abortion-specific care, according to a letter released by Sen. Mark Warner that the company sent to him and Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Thursday.
The updates, which will make clear if an organization provides abortions, will apply to results in the advertising section, Search, and Maps features, Mark Isakowitz, Google’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy, wrote in the letter.
It will now be clearly marked whether an advertised listing “Provides abortions” or “Does not provide abortions,” the letter said. The label an organization gets is determined by its responses to Google’s abortion certification process. If an organization has not completed that process, it cannot run ads using keywords pertaining to getting an abortion.
Isakowitz said the company has “extra layers of verification in place to help us confirm that places labeled as ‘abortion clinics’ on Google Maps and Search offer abortions.”
“When someone in the US searches for health care providers that provide abortions — for example, using the query “abortion clinics near me” — the Local Search results box will display facilities that have been verified to provide abortions,” Isakowitz added. “People will be able to broaden their search to show other relevant listings (including from organizations that do not provide abortions).”
Isakowitz also emphasized that consumers can contribute to the accuracy of Google’s search results by flagging “problematic reviews, inappropriate content, and misleading places” for review and removal at the company’s discretion.
Warner, a Virginia Democrat, tweeted about Google’s update on Thursday, writing, “Back in June [Rep. Slotkin] and I wrote to [Google] urging them to improve their search results and prevent users that search for abortion clinics and services from being misled. Today I received a response from Google and am happy to report that they’re taking action.”
The company had previously come under fire for its search results leading people to crisis pregnancy centers, which do not offer abortions. The centers have been criticized for pretending to be abortion clinics when they do not actually offer such care, with Planned Parenthood warning that they will “scare, shame, or pressure you out of getting an abortion,” and “tell lies about abortion, birth control, and sexual health.”
This is not the first update Google has made to protect consumers seeking abortion care. In July, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned, the company that it would automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other locations that could trigger legal issues.
Cellphone data can be used to prosecute those looking for abortions in states where they are no longer legal. In states like Indiana and Mississippi, texts and search histories have been used in court in years prior as evidence against someone who sought an abortion, according to The Washington Post.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James had called upon Google in June to correct their search results, which she said were providing “both those health care providers who offer abortion services and organizations that do not provide abortion care” for those searching “abortion” and a location. James also decried the inclusion of “dangerous and misleading” CPCs in search results, which she said “exist solely to intercept and dissuade pregnant people from making fully informed decisions about their healthcare such as the choice to obtain an abortion.”
James wrote Thursday, “I applaud Google for taking steps to improve their search results to help individuals seeking abortion care.”
“These critical changes to Google search results will be lifesaving and will help individuals get the safe care they need,” James added. “As reproductive rights are under attack, it’s more important than ever for businesses to do their part to protect access to reproductive care.”
Google’s announcement comes just days after Yelp, adding a notice to crisis pregnancy center listings to inform readers that they only provide “limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”
CBS News has reached out to Google for comment, and will update this story accordingly.