This Tuesday, Google took down a series of ads paid by the pro-life organization Live-Action, which had been paying over $170,000 in ads since May 2021. The ads in question had the aim of promoting a treatment called abortion pill reversal (“APR”) that could reverse the so-called abortion pill. According to the head of Live Action, Lila Rose, the ads were eliminated from the platform on September 13th without any type of warning.
Google apparently suspended the ads since they were based on “unreliable claims”, an argument that is heavily disputed by pro-life activists who say that the treatment consists of providing patients with progesterone as a counter to the effects of mifepristone, the chemical name of the “abortion pill”.
Lila Rose condemned the action via Twitter, saying that Google’s decision to ban pro-life ads while keeping pro-abortion ads online is a “blatant double standard & reckless disregard for human life & women’s health”. Rose also criticized that Google had also banned the promotion of Life-Action’s video of lifelike animation of a baby in gestation.
Google bans pro-life ads after pressure from pro-abortion outlets
The move came after liberal media outlet The Daily Beast published an article criticizing Facebook and Google for allowing the ads to run in their platforms in the first place. The Daily Beast cited a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco that investigated the effectiveness of the APR treatment but was paused after three of the participants suffered heavy hemorrhages. The same article cited a statement issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists against the APR treatment.
This study has been contested by Live-Action, who quoted the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists which criticized the methodology of the UCSF, saying that two out of the three women who were taken to the hospital did not receive the APR treatment. Live-Action also accused the head of the study of having a conflict of interest as he had previously served as a consultant to Danco Laboratories, a company that had the exclusive sale rights of mifepristone until 2019.
Soon after The Daily Beast article went online, Google took down the ads. A spokesperson from Google telling the outlet that their company does not allow ads that promote harmful health claims. The article also uses a report written by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) that showed that 83% of google searches for abortion carried ads for abortion reversal treatment, the CCDH’s report also calls for Google and Facebook to permanently ban the organizations which are advertising an “unproven and potentially dangerous” treatment in the platforms while also recommending both companies to donate the revenue from these ads to “woman’s health organizations”.
The decision by Google has been heavily criticized by conservative politicians, with eleven senators calling for the company to reverse its decision. The group of lawmakers signed a letter saying that “Google’s pro-life censorship is out of step of the science and reflects an unacceptable bias against pro-life views”. They also asked Google if there was a team of science or medical experts with a “diversity of views” that was included in the decision-making or if the corporation had listened to only one side.
Both pro-life activists and Republican lawmakers have criticized Google for allowing the advertisement of the “abortion pill” saying that such a drug has caused the deaths of 24 mothers, while pro-abortion activists have claimed that the pill is safe with Planned Parenthood calling it “very safe”.
Big Tech has come under much scrutiny over its policies regarding which content to ban and which to allow, the latest move by Google will surely be another piece of the debate over the power and influence of technology companies over the public discourse.