Google targets low-income women more with ads for anti-abortion pregnancy centres, says study

Contrary to popular belief abortion is healthcare; which should be available to all women irrespective of their social and economic status. However, a study has found that Google ads promoting anti-abortion have been targeting low-income women. 

Researchers at the Tech Transparency Project have claimed that low-income women in some cities are more likely to be targeted for anti-abortion centre ads when searching for abortion care, Guardian reported. 

Katie Paul, the director of the transparency project said, “by pointing low-income women to crisis pregnancy centres more frequently than higher-income women in states with restrictive laws, Google may delay these women from finding an actual abortion clinic to get a legal and safe abortion.”

This research is based on previous findings that gave a brief on how Google directs users searching for abortion services to so-called abortion crisis pregnancy centres that pose as abortion clinics to steer women away from accessing abortion centres.

The results are based on the test that was set up in Atlanta, Miami and Phoenix targeting women of three income groups suggested by the tech giant which included: average or low-income rate, moderately high-income rate and high-income rate. 

Women were asked to search terms like “abortion clinic near me” or “I want an abortion.” 

In Phoneix, 56 per cent of the search ads shown to low-to-moderate income were of crisis centres, 41 per cent of ads served moderately high-income and 7 per cent for high income. 

In Atlanta, 42 per cent of the ads were shown to lower-income women, compared to 18 per cent and 29 per cent for moderately high-income women and high-income women respectively. 

However, the results were inverse in the case of Miami. Researchers found that high-income women were more likely to get ads from crisis centres than lower-income women. 

Researchers are not certain as to why results in Miami are different from Atlanta and Phoenix but suspect that crisis pregnancy centres might be more active in abortion-restrictive states. Both Florida and Arizona have banned abortion after 15 weeks. 

Paul said that many users don’t realise that they are being targeted by Google. 

“Google has a large share of influence, particularly in the United States when people are trying to search for authoritative information. And people generally tend to consider Google’s search engine as an equaliser. They think the results they get are the results that everyone’s going to get. But that’s just not the case.”

The tech giant has been under fire since last year over its search engine and has been repeatedly asked to make changes. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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