A report from the tech news website Gizmodo found earlier this month that Google Maps searches for “abortion providers” or “where can I get an abortion” in certain areas of the U.S. turn up results for anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) that attempt to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies.
This is true of many areas in Colorado, including major cities like Denver and Fort Collins.
It’s even the case for Grand Junction and Pueblo, which don’t even have licensed clinics that offer abortions.
For example, searching for “abortion providers” or “where can I get an abortion” in Fort Collins turns up two results, one for a Planned Parenthood clinic, and another for a CPC called Alpha Center. Alpha Center offers pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, but not abortions, and states “Embrace Life” as a core value on its website.
And, troublingly, Alpha Center offers what it refers to as an “After Abortion Group” for women who have terminated pregnancies and are experiencing “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome,” or PASS, which abortion opponents claim is like PTSD for women who’ve had abortions.
But as this Harvard study found, there’s no such thing, medically speaking, as PASS, and research claiming to prove the existence of this phenomenon had numerous methodological flaws. Other research has determined there’s no evidence that abortion causes mental health problems, and a 2016 study even found that psychological symptoms only increased in women who were denied access to abortion.
Despite evidence to the contrary, it’s common for CPCs to claim that abortions pose psychological and other health risks to women in an attempt to convince them to carry their pregnancies to term.
A search from my desk in downtown Denver for “abortion providers near me” turned up many results, but the first one was for a CPC called Alternatives Pregnancy Center. My proximity to this particular CPC appears to have overridden results to the many licensed abortion providers that exist in Denver.
Alternatives Pregnancy Center, like the Alpha Center, offers counseling for women who have had abortions based on the falsehood that they cause mental health issues, but Alternatives goes so far as to claim that abortion results in women losing their “hopes and dreams” and “the ability to trust,” as stated here on their website.
The CPC also tells women that there’s a way to reverse the effects of the abortion pill if they change their minds about their decision to terminate a pregnancy, and helps guide them through that process.
But the abortion reversal method hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns that in addition to being completely ineffective when it comes to reversing an abortion, this scientifically baseless procedure poses a variety of health risks.
Denver has enough legitimate abortion clinics that women seeking to terminate their pregnancies are likely to have a decent variety of options near them, in spite of Google’s Map function pointing them in the wrong direction.
That’s not true of places in Colorado like Pueblo, for example, where the only Planned Parenthood clinic shut down in 2015, leaving the city of over 100,000 with no licensed abortion clinics. But if you search on Google for abortion providers in the Pueblo area, you’ll get one result for A Caring Pregnancy Center, yet another pro-life organization that seeks to convince women not to get abortions.
The same is true in Grand Junction, where there are no licensed abortion clinics, and yet Google will tell you that you have multiple options in town. The closest abortion clinic is nearly 90 miles away in Glenwood Springs, which has one Planned Parenthood clinic.
It’s reasonable to think that some Colorado women seeking abortions have wasted their time in what can already be a lengthy process by visiting pregnancy centers rather than actual abortion clinics as a result of Google’s glitch.
Google Communications Manager Liz Davidoff wouldn’t share specific information with Gizmodo about the company’s algorithm and how local rankings work, but said they’d look into the problem. And they should be able to prevent this from happening, judging from the fact that a search on the iPhone Maps app for abortion providers in Pueblo correctly turns up zero results.