Google has blocked an anti-abortion group from using advertisements on its search engine that encourage women to visit their rogue crisis pregnancy agency.
Last year The Times exposed how The Women’s Centre on Berkeley Street in Dublin was advising women that abortion caused breast cancer and could turn them into child abusers.
Despite claiming to be an objective source of information, The Women’s Centre is linked to The Good Counsel Network, an extreme Catholic group that has compared abortion to terrorism. The group paid Google so that its website, abortionadvice.ie, was the first or second result when a woman searched for information on how to access a legal abortion abroad. Women who call its “national helpline” are offered appointments at The Women’s Centre or one of the other clinics it claims to run across the country.
Google offers paid advertisements which can present a website as the first result under certain search terms. This week the company blocked The Women’s Centre from using its adverts because it had been found to be deceptive.
“We have a set of strict policies which govern what ads we do and do not allow on Google. We do not allow fraudulent or misrepresentative ads and when we discover ads that break our policies, we quickly take action,” a spokesman for Google said.
The site had specifically targeted women using Irish IP addresses who were entering search terms indicating that they were looking for information about how to access an abortion in the UK. Since the site’s removal from the top search results it has been replaced by a HSE website and the British Pregnancy Advisory service.
The Women’s Centre is facing closure after Simon Harris, the health minister, committed to pass legislation to regulate crisis pregnancy agencies that were offering misinformation. Mr Harris said that he was hoping to pass the law this summer.
Other anti-abortion groups and campaigners have also sought to use Google adverts to campaign ahead of a possible referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Over the course of the last meeting of the citizens assembly, a website alleging bias on the part of the forum paid to be the top search result.
Citizensassembly.info is a site registered through a proxy. On the site it is stated that it was set up by Josiah Burke, a business student from NUI Galway. Mr Burke is one of ten children in the Burke family in Castlebar. Members of the family are well-known as anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality campaigners. The family linked homosexuality to paedophilia during the marriage equality campaign, sparking a protest at the NUIG campus.
The website claims that the citizens’ assembly, which is considering the need to change Ireland’s abortion laws, is biased in favour of a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. At its last meeting, members of the assembly reacted angrily when Family and Life, an anti-abortion campaign group, used its presentation to claim that the assembly was biased and hearing evidence from “the abortion industry”. The 99 citizens had requested to hear from healthcare professionals who offered legal abortions to Irish women in the UK.
Family and Life has since sponsored its social media posts on sites like Facebook to claim that the assembly is biased.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, the assembly’s chair, has repeatedly defended the forum as being balanced and fair. At its next meeting in April the assembly members will ballot on what change, if any, should be made to Ireland’s constitutional near-ban on abortion. The assembly has considered leaving the Eighth Amendment as it is, amending it or replacing it with new legislation.
Source: The Times