Activists use Google keywords as tools to access abortions, services and questions

Google searches for information began immediately after the fall of Roe v. to rise calf.

In the four weeks since the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, searches for “medicated abortion pills” have increased by 70 percent; “do abortion pills expire” is up 350 percent; “Abortion pills Amazon” are up 80 percent. People who google “map of states where abortion is illegal” are up over 1,050 percent in the past month.

As more people seek information about abortion access in a post-Roe world, anti-abortion organizations have a head start in the digital space because of their longstanding investments and expertise. And as the search for information about abortion increases, abortion clinics and other services are trying to get accurate information in front of people.

Crisis pregnancy centers, largely non-medical facilities aimed at discouraging people from abortions, have been very effective in getting people desiring abortions through their doors, in part by masquerading as medical clinics, although they often offer little to none have medical staff. Many offer free ultrasound scans, but then present misleading or outright false information to pregnant women.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers have invested heavily in Google Ads, a service that allows businesses to pay to have sponsored search results appear at the top. Their parent organizations often hire outside specialized anti-abortion digital marketing agencies or use your own staff for this purpose Searches for abortion-related terms show their content.

Emily Loen co-founded the Abortion Access Hackathon—a group that uses technology to advance reproductive justice—five years ago while doing educational work at an abortion clinic in California. The group is now working with a coalition of partners including the Abortion Access Frontand created #ExposeFakeClinics, a movement that leaves honest reviews of crisis pregnancy centers on Yelp, Facebook, and Google, documenting what services they actually offer and what they don’t. Because of the work of grassroots digital activists like Loen, Yelp no longer classifies the centers as medical clinics, and Google uses a small banner at the bottom of each search result that uses “abortion” as a keyword, indicating whether this company actually offers abortions.

“Google is now doing some of the heavy lifting that activists have been doing for years,” Loen told The 19th. “It doesn’t solve the problem, but it does add a level of protection and awareness.”

A recent Abortion Access Front project that Loen worked on involved volunteers simply clicking on the website of Plan C, a company that provides information on how people in the United States can access abortion pills online. Organic traffic can help improve a website’s ranking for search engine optimization (SEO). As of this writing, the top search result is for “abortion pills online”. Plan C. It’s the first time this has happened for the six-year-old company — and it’s no coincidence.

Amy Merrill, Plan C’s co-founder and digital director, told The 19th that one reason is that post-Roe, the group “is paying a lot more attention to the ecosystem”: keywords, how people use search. They also invest heavily in informative Google ads.

“We’re actively thinking about the future of search and what people are searching for and how tools like Google will respond or repeat,” Merrill said. She added that there has already been a documented shift in search trends, away from things like “abortion clinic near me” to “medicated abortion” and “abortion management.”

Silhouette of a person standing in front of a web search bar reading
(Clarice Bajkowski for The 19th)

power to decidethe Campaign to Prevent Unwanted Pregnancy, launched hers resource two years ago. Lauren Kernan, the company’s head of content and UX strategy, said that given the newness of her site, it’s already an uphill battle when it comes to SEO.

“We don’t have the same established site authority as other well-known sites in this space, and we’ve had to build our search value over time with search engines like Google,” she said.

Kernan said that’s social accounts are also often reported to the hosting platforms, resulting in those accounts “going dark for a period of time” during review, reducing their ability to be easily found online. further restricted.

“When a social account is disabled or temporarily disabled, the links back to also disappear. This drop in backlinks can also affect our SEO rankings as backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in search.”

Another complicating factor is that how people consume information doesn’t always align with what content SEO prioritizes, Kernan said. “Long-form content traditionally ranks better in search engines, but users searching for abortion information may be stressed and overwhelmed when they’re looking for short, simple, clear information that’s easy to scan. Long-form content is not appropriate for these users.”

In the days following the Dobbs ruling, Meta – Facebook’s parent company – faced criticism Removal of posts by individual users about accessing medical abortions online from Facebook and Instagram. A spokesman for Meta told The 19th the company wants its “platforms to be a place where people can access reliable information about healthcare services.”

While the meta spokesperson says the company allows posts and ads promoting health services like abortion, as well as discussions and debates around this time, “all content about abortion, regardless of political perspective, must follow our rules” — including rules on prescription content medication. While Meta allows discussions related to mifepristone and misoprostol, including providing search results from hashtags using those terms, the company “restricts search terms for mifepristone and misoprostol in our commercial products to prevent abuse.” The company also continues to ban “the direct sale of prescription drugs [like misoprostol and mifepristone] everywhere on Meta’s platforms.”

Silhouette of a person standing in front of a web search bar reading
(Clarice Bajkowski for The 19th)

Jessica Ensley, director of digital outreach and opposition research at the reproductive justice group ReproAction, told The 19th that her organization has seen “a pretty big boost in engagement across platforms and through organic search” after Dobbs. Traffic has particularly increased on the organization’s pages dealing with self-administered abortion resources and your Fake clinic database, a resource the group is constantly updating to track crisis pregnancy center locations. The group’s focus on SEO is now greater than ever.

“We want people to be able to easily access our resources through search when they are looking for content related to abortion, abortion pills, medicines and fake clinics – we want people to be able to access this information on our site and we are seeing a big one Increase Look for these terms now that Roe has fallen.

As more people look for information to verify that a clinic is actually performing abortions or has entered a crisis pregnancy, Ensley said resources like ReproAction’s fake clinic database must be methodical about the language they use to describe them Describe places, optimize search results.

Kernan also spoke about the challenge that exists between what people need to find and the search terms they use. “Some SEO best practices aren’t always the best for user experience or user understanding. As such, SEO and user experience sometimes require different headlines, keywords, and/or content,” Kernan said. “For example, the most searched term for users searching for abortions is ‘abortion clinic near me.’ But not all abortion providers are [physical] clinics such as B. Telemedicine providers that we really want our users to know and understand.”

Silhouette of a person standing in front of a web search bar reading
(Clarice Bajkowski for The 19th)

Kernan said that many people are not only looking for abortion treatments, but are also looking to see if abortion is currently legal in their state. This type of search then often leads people to the Abortion Finder state-by-state guide, which provides up-to-date information about the legality and accessibility of abortion in each state, as well as resources that abortion seekers might have available. These guides are optimized to answer user queries that include country-specific requirements and obstacles.

Within two days of the Dobbs ruling, the anti-abortion group drafted the National Right to Life Committee model legislation that would criminalize those who help people self-administer abortions, including by providing information online. “I expect the National Right to Life Committee and other anti-choice politicians and activists to do so [attempt] to criminalize factual information about abortion that is shared online or digitally,” Ensley said. “It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we won’t stop because not only is it our First Amendment right, it’s everyone’s right to have the information they need to best take care of their health.”

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