NARAL Claims Victory over Pregnancy-Clinic Ads Without Winning a Victory At All

by Matt Bowman

Citing a supposed victory regarding the removal of online advertisements for pro-life pregnancy centers, the National Abortion Rights Action League has misled the mainstream media with a baseless charge that such centers “mislead.”

Several major media outlets reported April 28 that NARAL had convinced Google to remove ads for pro-life pregnancy centers. The reports lacked the basic evidence you’d expect from elite journalists covering a story: NARAL, apparently, managed to remove an unspecified number of unidentified ads, from unknown groups, which show up in undisclosed searches. 

The reason for that lack of proof appears to be that NARAL has no proof. When you look at what NARAL eventually released, you find a different story. Without any evidence, NARAL defines any pro-life view as “deceptive.”

NARAL has long misidentified as statements like “Pregnant? Scared? You’re not alone” as “misleading.” NARAL calls it a “lie” to believe abortion harms women, and “outright lying” to advertise “Free Pregnancy Tests.” NARAL New York’s report on “lying” lamented that a pro-life center helps pregnant women choose to “still continue school.”

The “evidence” accompanying NARAL’s April 28 announcement contradicted itself. It showed one ad that was supposedly removed, but that ad said “Objective info on abortion,” which pro-life centers do offer. The ad linked to a pregnancy center that actually is a clinic which offers medical services, while NARAL falsely calls such institutions “fake clinics.” And that ad wasn’t even removed — it came up in a search days later.

NARAL then reluctantly released the complaint letter it sent to Google. It contains only one example: an ad saying “Free Abortion Consultation.” But pro-life centers do offer free consultation on abortion. The ad again led to a pregnancy center in Dayton, Ohio, that has licensed medical personnel. That website says they don’t offer abortion, and the ad is still on Google. How can NARAL claim centers are “deceptive” when their ads offer consultation, their websites openly say they don’t offer abortion, and Google agrees?

The Wall Street Journal found two more examples that undermine NARAL’s charges. One was from a Savannah, Ga., pro-life center with the same wording as the Dayton ad, and Google refused to remove it. The other ad said “Free Abortion Clinic CA.” But it was not, as the Journal reported, an ad “placed by so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’” It was placed by a marketing firm.

It seems Google actually rejected NARAL’s argument. NARAL’s entire complaint letter insists that a fully truthful pregnancy-cetner ad should be censored just because it shows up in “searches using the terms ‘abortion clinic.’” This would lead to breathtaking censorship of the Internet, because people searching for information on abortion would only get pro-abortion propaganda in the ads.

Which is why courts have seen through NARAL’s charade. After a NARAL-backed law against pro-life centers passed in Montgomery County, Md., Alliance Defending Freedom got a permanent court order striking it down. The judge emphasized “the lack of any evidence that the practices of [pregnancy care centers] are causing pregnant women to be misinformed.” “All the County has brought forth,” he wrote, are “intuition and suppositions.” NARAL’s copycat laws in New York and Texas are also in court but not in effect.

And NARAL doesn’t even live by its principles: Searches for “abortion alternatives” and even “crisis pregnancy center” nearly always produce ads for abortionists, yet NARAL would scream bloody murder if abortionists’ ads were censored.

More than 2,300 pro-life pregnancy centers offer free help to women nationwide. NARAL hasn’t shown proof that even one of them does anything except speak the truth.

— Matt Bowman is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom at its Center for Life in Washington, D.C.

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