Google Maps and Search get clearer labels for abortion providers

A woman in a car holding a smartphone showing Google Maps.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In response to backlash from lawmakers and the public, Google is changing how it displays health care facilities that provide abortions.

As first reported by Tech Crunch, Google will start adding labels that clearly state whether or not a facility provides abortion procedures. If a facility provides abortions, Google will label it “Provides abortions.” If Google is unable to confirm if the facility provides abortions, it will be labeled “Might not provide abortions.”

These labels leave relatively little ambiguity and will be visible in Google Search and Google Maps. However, users still need to be careful when it comes to places labeled “Might not provide abortions” — or places with no label at all. A Google spokesperson told Tech Crunch that the label is not meant to categorize places and could not confirm that crisis pregnancy centers will specifically receive the label. 

What prompted this change from Google? 

Google Maps search results showing the changes to how abortion centers are displayed in the app.

(Image credit: Future)

These changes to how Google handles labeling which places do or do not provide abortion access come on the heels of a Bloomberg report which showed that Google regularly misled people searching for abortion clinics. A quarter of the time, Google would steer people towards crisis pregnancy centers, which are considered by some to be controversial. These centers focus on discouraging women from proceeding with an abortion, and in states where abortion access is now restricted or illegal, they would often dominate Google’s search results.

This pattern of behavior from Google prompted a stern response from lawmakers. Back in June, Reuters reported that Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) wrote to Google demanding accurate results for abortion-related searches.

In addition to the media and Congress, Google also faced pressure from its competition. Yelp recently changed its policy regarding how it handles crisis pregnancy centers. It will now flag them as places that “provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”

Abortion access in the US: Other tech privacy concerns 

The Flo period tracking app

(Image credit: Flo)

Concerns about accurate search results are not the only thing currently on people’s minds when it comes to tech and abortion. Two Vice reports revealed that government organizations such as the CDC have been able to easily acquire smartphone data for sale; following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, there have been fears that private phone data could be used against women who seek an abortion and those who assist them in getting the medical procedure. 

Several period-tracking apps, including Flo and Clue, have stated that personal data will be kept safe, with Flo offering an “anonymous mode” that removes personal data, and Clue stating that it is required to be compliant with European GDPR regulations on personal data.

Unfortunately, despite these claims, there is no guarantee that personal data will remain safe and protected. Our fitness editor Jane McGuire recently broke down how personal data is handled in period-tracking apps, and we recommend reading it if you still have concerns. 

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.