Yelp, the go-to site for publicly-generated reviews and business suggestions, announced it’s expanding site features to help users get informed, medically-sound abortion care.
The new consumer notice alert notifies visitors when they have accessed a Yelp business page for a Crisis Pregnancy Center (also known as a CPC). Such centers are branded as so-called “women’s health centers,” and present themselves as inclusive medical facilities but actually shame, scare, or explicitly deter pregnant people from receiving abortions. These centers, which sometimes manifest as mobile health units, claim to provide free pregnancy tests, sexual health information, ultrasounds, or other services, but are not medically-licensed facilities, Planned Parenthood explains.
“As the fate of abortion rights hung in the balance, we’ve increased our efforts to protect our users and provide them with access to the information they’re looking for, which includes better matching them with reproductive health services that actually offer abortions when they are searching for abortion services and making it less likely they will see crisis pregnancy centers that don’t,” the company wrote in its press release.
Corporate efforts like Yelp’s join organizations and reproductive justice activists who’ve actively battled against the misinformation and dangerous care proliferated by Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Faith-based Centers both on-the-ground and in digital spaces.
The Crisis Pregnancy Center Map, created in 2018 by researchers Dr. Andrea Swartzendruber and Dr. Danielle Lambert of the epidemiology and biostatistics department in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia, documents locations around the United States in a user-friendly, searchable database. Expose Fake Clinics, another online map of CPC’s around the country, was created by the Abortion Access Hackathon and Abortion Access Front (and 60 other partner organizations) to help curb the flow of people seeking abortions to these locations. Many pro-abortion websites like these work in tandem with national networks of abortion care providers and abortion funds, like the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Yelp’s update isn’t the first time the review site has attempted to address the problem of these “health centers.” In 2018, Yelp officially began recategorizing businesses that don’t offer actual abortion services as either Crisis Pregnancy Centers or Faith-based Crisis Pregnancy Centers. As the company wrote in the update’s press release, those recategorization efforts are still going strong in 2022, with 33,500 U.S. business pages evaluated for accurate information and 470 of them recategorized as CPC’s.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers have risen in public consciousness since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the privacy protections enumerated in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Google came under fire earlier this year for its search algorithm’s seeming prioritization of these centers when search engine users Googled abortion services, and that widespread problem is still happening in Google Maps searches. This is to the dismay of many, including Senate Democrats who called on Google to address the problem in June.
That same month, youth activists affiliated with digital organizing group Gen-Z for Change flooded the reviews sections of CPC and anti-abortion group pages on Google business profiles and Yelp listings — a part of the organization’s S.A.F.E.R. (Spam, Assist, Fund, Educate, and Register) campaign. Both Yelp and Google temporarily disabled reviews on the business’ page listings in response.
With this latest in-app addition, Yelp is finally articulating, on the user-facing side, the main problem with CPC’s and other centers like them: the harmful spread of misinformation and medically-inaccurate care that does nothing to support the reproductive rights of people on the ground.