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Why the (mis)labeling of pregnancy resource centers on Yelp needs to be corrected

Combatting lack of information with misinformation 

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August 29, 2022

Yelp announced last week that, in light of the historic Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Woman’s Health case at the U.S. Supreme Court and the continued push by many in society for greater access to abortion services, they would begin to recategorize crisis pregnancy centers (also known as pregnancy resource centers) and other faith-based clinics on their platforms to distinguish them from abortion clinics. They also have placed user warnings on these listings, indicating that crisis pregnancy centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite,” regardless of the reality of what these clinics might offer or the qualifications of those onsite. This announcement was framed in light of Yelp’s ongoing commitment to support “access to reproductive healthcare for our employees, underserved communities, and our users,” as vice president of User Operations, Noorie Malik, wrote.

This relabeling and the user warnings being applied to pregnancy care and resource centers by Yelp comes on the heels of other technology companies such as Alphabet’s Google being pressured by Congressional Democrats to limit the appearance of pregnancy resource centers in certain abortion-related search terms and results. In addition, there are calls to delete location data for those visiting abortion clinics, especially in states where abortion services may be severely limited due to the number of pro-life laws taking affect after Dobbs. In response to the push by Congressional Democrats in June, a number of Republican attorneys general sent a letter in July warning Google not to censor or suppress information about these clinics in search or map results. On Aug. 25, Google announced that it would alter how abortion clinics and pregnancy care centers appear in search results, ads, and on maps.

This particular issue is shaped by a number of significant current debates over content moderation, digital governance, and access to information in our increasingly digital public square. Dobbs has resulted in an unprecedented time of debate, and the predatory abortion industry continues in its long-established efforts to lead women to believe that the only option during an unplanned pregnancy is abortion—at times, even celebrating the practice of the abortion. Now, more than ever, technology companies must not bow to the pressure of abortion advocates, government leaders, and the abortion industry in limiting access to life-altering information for women in crisis. Access to accurate information in order to make life-and-death decisions should be at the very core of these businesses’ values. 

Lack of information

One of the primary reasons that the technology industry has thrived — especially companies like Yelp, Google, and others — is that they give people access to nearly limitless information about things that matter (as well as a host of things that don’t) and help people make informed decisions. Accessing information can range from reading the breaking news to research about various topics to the details about a local restaurant, but it can also be life-saving as mothers in crisis are frantically searching for help with an unplanned pregnancy. One aspect usually left out of these conversations about vulnerable women searching for abortion facilities is that they are routinely under extreme duress and pressure from others to have an abortion regardless of their own choice. Whether it is an abusive or pressuring boyfriend or an embarrassed parent urging the woman to end the developing baby’s life, women in crisis pregnancies need to know where to turn.

Countless users, including women and their families, depend on these services to provide the right information in the midst of these often unplanned and emotional searches for help. This truth is clear, especially in light of the fact many women choose life for their preborn baby if they have access to an ultrasound image of the child in the womb. A vast amount of women have been led to believe by a deceptive pro-abortion industry that killing the baby in the womb is the primary solution in these types of situations. But with advances in technology, especially ultrasound machines, women can now see what they typically already know subconsciously—that there is a living human being growing inside of them for whom they are their only source of support, love, and protection.

While more information does not immediately solve the crisis at hand, nor is information all that is needed, pregnancy resource centers and faith-based clinics are ready and able to assist far more than abortion clinics in caring for women with prenatal, postnatal, and even postpartum services — including options like adoption. These services often include provision of clothes, food, diapers, strollers, and countless other items for women in need so that they can raise their family and care for their children, regardless of financial or material circumstances. On top of this level of holistic care, many of these life-saving clinics are also staffed with trained medical professionals, including technicians with limited OB-training that is required in order to maintain, use, and interpret the results of ultrasound machines.

The real cost of pro-abortion misinformation

Some abortion proponents, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are actively promoting misinformation that these clinics are ill-equipped, lacking medical training, and simply exist to manipulate women into not having the desired abortion. But, as mentioned above, many of these clinics actually do employ medical professionals and offer a host of healthcare services as well as holistic care, as opposed to their pro-abortion counterparts.

For example, Hope Resource Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, offers free pregnancy testing, ultrasound imaging, STD testing, well-woman exams, and pap testing. In addition, the center employs seven medical professionals. But this clinic is currently labeled by Yelp with a consumer notice reading “This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.” While some will argue that this simply indicates the clinic MAY not have licensed medical professionals onsite, it is misleading to apply such a broad label that is designed to introduce doubt in the minds of users, especially if those same notices are not applied to abortion clinics offering substandard care. In an ironic twist, it has been long documented that not all abortion clinics have adequately licensed medical professionals or a full range of medical services outside of abortion. Some clinics employ doctors who lack admitting privileges at local hospitals in case an abortion goes wrong or a woman is in need of further medical treatment after the procedure. This is one reason that Google’s recent announcement about labeling ads and locations as “providing abortions” and not providing abortions is better suited than overly broad labels utilized by Yelp that introduce doubt and confusion rather than provide accurate information.

It is clear that this labeling is one-sided and meant to ensure easy access to abortion while introducing friction for obtaining life-saving information and services.

It is true that pregnancy resource centers and faith-based clinics operate from a particular ideological and religious perspective, just as any clinic or medical professional, including abortion providers themselves. It is a myth to assume that anyone can truly be neutral and simply present information without their beliefs interfering. Our beliefs will always drive our actions, no matter the perspective we come from. And it should be noted that it is abortion clinics who are actually limiting the information available to women and pushing abortion services as the best option for women in crisis. This illustrates that just as Christians ought to unapologetically celebrate the Dobbs ruling and the passing of major pro-life legislation across states, we also must acknowledge that this ruling simply represents the first step among many in combating the abortion industry.

If Yelp and other information providers actually want to provide reliable information and assist vulnerable women, they would not apply misleading labels, delist, or remove this life-saving information from those who need it most. YouTube, for example, decided in late July to update its policies and remove certain abortion-related content and misinformation from its platform, but it appears it did so without pushing a particular view of abortion. Google, likewise followed suit with labeling that brings clarity, not introducing confusion or misleading the public about what clinics may or may not offer. 

Limiting access to information based on partisan and ideological beliefs is the complete opposite of what these companies claim to stand for and support. Given that abortion is on the ballot in many states with mid-term elections coming this November, technology companies must resist the partisan push to remove information and limit the options of women facing these unplanned and crisis pregnancies. Women and their children deserve accurate and honest information, especially as Christians and other pro-life groups seek to push back against the lies and misleading information promoted by the abortion industry in the digital public square today.

Jason Thacker

Jason Thacker serves as a research fellow focusing on Christian ethics, human dignity, public theology, and technology. He also leads the ERLC Research Institute. He is the author or editor of several books including The Age of AI, Following Jesus in a Digital Age, and The Digital Public Square. In addition to his … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24