Abortion foes move to block online advertising of reproductive services

“I think what we’re going to see in the next five years and the next few years is how it’s going to play out with interstate laws,” said Kevin Grillot, chairman of the March for Life Chicago committee, noting that illegal advertising activity could be a territory . proceedings.

Legal experts agree that a fight is likely: The Supreme Court case on abortion has now been decided, but other battles over the procedure remain — including over advertising.

Google’s web hosting service could be in trouble under the National Right to Life Committee’s proposed legislation, said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University. Likewise, Facebook may be held liable for any user-generated content that promotes abortion directed at countries where these services are illegal.

While these platforms continue to host abortion-related ads, the abortion rights advocacy group Plan C said that getting ads promoting abortion services approved on them is difficult, and even more so.

The biggest concern for digital advertising platforms in the short term is laws, like the ones proposed by the National Right to Life Committee in Oklahoma and Texas, that would allow civil suits against anyone who helps someone get an abortion.

Both states allow residents to sue parties who promote or facilitate abortion for at least $10,000 in damages. Although the laws specify that paying for abortions qualifies as aid, legal experts say the laws could apply to advertising.

Advertiser Protection

Abortion advocates say advertising for the procedure is protected by free speech.

“Advocating for a person’s right to have an abortion, informing a person about how to legally obtain an abortion, encouraging a person to make their own reproductive health choices are all protected by the First Amendment,” said Vera Eidelman, staff attorney. With the ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology.

There is also Supreme Court precedent that protects advertisers. before that Roe v. Wade By ruling, some states have outright banned advertising for abortion services. In 1971, Jeffrey Cole Bigelow, editor of an underground Charlottesville-based magazine called Virginia Weekly, advertised for an abortion clinic in New York City, even though Virginia law made it a misdemeanor to “promote or encourage abortion.” Bigelow was arrested and convicted, but his case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.

In the majority opinion, then-Justice Harry Blackman wrote that the ad did not facilitate a simple commercial transaction. “It contained factual material of obvious public import” and was subject to First Amendment protection, he wrote. However, the decision came at a time when the court was sympathetic to abortion rights, granting them constitutional protection two years earlier. Roe decision. Today’s court may feel differently.

Eidelman believes that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that websites cannot be held responsible for material posted on them by users, would also protect Internet companies. But he acknowledges some legal uncertainty.

The influence of tech

For groups like the National Right to Life Committee, uncertainty helps the cause.

Ziegler predicts that laws that penalize the sharing of abortion information will have a chilling effect on the digital advertising industry, possibly leading to platforms voluntarily blocking abortion ads and abortion content in states where it is not legal. It may already be happening. last month reported by Vice that Instagram and Facebook removed posts by users who offered to share abortion pills. Meta, their corporate parent, said the posts violated its policy on regulated goods.

Facebook and Google allow abortion services to be advertised on their ad networks, but abortion advocacy groups have said the platforms’ ad approval process is opaque.

Dimitratou said she had trouble with ads using phrases like “pregnancy termination” or simple words like “pills.”

In order to advertise keywords related to the demand for abortion, advertisers must apply for Google certification and show that they are not involved in fraud. To block ads for fraudulent products, Google checks ads before they run on its site, using software and staff to flag seemingly innocuous words.

Plan C, as an advocacy group, is not always subject to the kinds of certifications that abortion providers can obtain and has not applied for them.

Several abortion clinics said they have no problem accepting approved advertising from Internet firms. They also don’t advertise in states where abortion is illegal.

According to Dimitratou, Facebook often rejects Plan C ads for “promoting the sale of unsafe substances,” which is at the discretion of the corporate parent. Like Google, Meta has a special approval processes To run advertisements about abortion and medicine. However, only online pharmacies, telehealth providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers can apply.

Google acknowledges that its advertising policies are subject to change. For example, Google recently allowed groups that distribute mail-order abortion pills to receive advertising credentials previously only given to abortion providers in person after the FDA authorized mail-order distribution in December 2021. Google bans ads related to abortion in 72 countries where it is illegal.

Michael Aciman, a Google spokesman, said it is “still evaluating the court decision and the laws around the country and will continue to monitor new developments.”

Abortion foes move to block online advertising of reproductive services

Source link Abortion foes move to block online advertising of reproductive services

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