Google restricts ads for abortion services in certain countries

To be honest, I don’t envy Google’s position as a middleman in the abortion debate. They landed in some hot water a bit over a year ago when they refused some pro-life ads targeted on abortion keywords, but it seems like that was resolved quite amicably in the fall, allowing religious associations to place ads in a “factual and campaigning way.”

Now, Feministing is up in arms over a recent discovery that Google’s AdWords policy disallows ads for abortion services in some countries. The list of countries is puzzling, as it includes countries with a wide range of abortion laws, but the claims are a bit extreme. The author is “pretty disturbed by Google’s ability to withhold information about reproductive health services in these countries without justification or accountability.” Last I checked, Google isn’t “withholding” information. You can still, uh, search. These are restrictions on sponsored results.

Still, it would be interesting to see how they selected the list of countries (Germany, Poland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, France, Italy and Spain). Google just said they “conducted the review and made the change to ensure our policy was fair, up-to-date, consistent with local laws and codes of practice.” It seems obvious that Google wouldn’t accept ads for abortion services in countries where it is illegal, like Brazil, but I’m not sure what kind of advertising restrictions exist on abortion services in countries like France.

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