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Yelp Targets Misleading Medical Information in Abortion Access

Yelp gives notice to users seeking abortion access when they are looking at a business that is, in fact, a crisis pregnancy center unlikely to provide abortion or other medical services.

Yelp will be posting new consumer-facing notifications on its business pages meant to quell medical misinformation or misleading medical information about crisis pregnancy centers and abortion access, the company has announced.

The notifications will inform Yelp users seeking abortion care access if the facility users are looking at are crisis pregnancy centers or faith-based crisis pregnancy centers that usually do not provide abortion care. Yelp said such notifications are integral to assuring patient access to care and access to accurate medical information.

According to a 2018 article published in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, crisis pregnancy centers “are organizations that seek to intercept women with unintended pregnancies who might be considering abortion. Their mission is to prevent abortions by persuading women that adoption or parenting is a better option.”

“They strive to give the impression that they are clinical centers, offering legitimate medical services and advice, yet they are exempt from regulatory, licensure, and credentialing oversight that apply to health care facilities,” the article added.

In the leadup to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, abortion rights advocates rang the bell on crisis pregnancy centers, stating that these centers obscure the services they realistically offer.

For its part, Yelp said it has made clarifying this medical misinformation a priority.

“Over the past several months, 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 said in a statement.

The notifications will appear when a user visits a Yelp page for a crisis pregnancy center or a faith-based crisis pregnancy center. Particularly, the notifications are designed to clarify which services are typically offered at these types of facilities, with Yelp saying it will specifically explain to users that crisis pregnancy centers usually “provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”

In addition to the notifications, Yelp said it is cracking down on page categorization. The company said its moderators routinely recategorize businesses by assessing businesses’ websites, social media pages, “About the Business” information self-contributed to Yelp, Yelp consumer reviews, and other sources.

As of August 8, 2022, Yelp had analyzed 33,500 U.S. business pages and recategorized nearly 470 business pages as Crisis Pregnancy Centers or Faith-based Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

These actions come as Yelp, and other online platforms like Google, become omnipresent in the patient experience. Patients are increasingly looking for healthcare through an online search, and Yelp serves as just one gateway by which patients may make decisions about their healthcare access.

The company said it is therefore integral to combat misleading medical information and overt medical misinformation.

“We take transparency seriously, especially around sensitive healthcare decisions,” the company said. “These updates further demonstrate Yelp’s commitment to maintain the trust and safety of our users, and quality and integrity of the information we provide them.”

Abortion rights advocates have had crisis pregnancy centers on their radar since the weeks leading up to the Dobbs decision. Armed with the understanding that many patients search for medical care online, advocates have worked to target misleading or inaccurate information.

“It'll be important that we can clarify to people: Where can you go? Who might have appointments available? How far along in a pregnancy do they actually provide care? How do you get there and can the funds help me?” Melissa Grant, the chief operating officer of FemHealth USA, which runs reproductive health provider carafem, said in an interview before the SCOTUS decision dropped.

“They oftentimes present as a legitimate abortion provider,” Grant said of crisis pregnancy centers. “If you end up going to one of those and you've traveled a hundred miles and you walk into an office that does not even provide and care, you've got another potential real crisis, or at least a big delay in providing service.”

carafem and other advocates suggested the creation of abortion search engine tools. Grant said these tools are agnostic, so they are not connected a single provider, but rather serve as one clearinghouse for independent clinics, Planned Parenthood clinics, and hospital-based clinics.

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