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Re: <nettime> Abortion services censored out on Google AdWords: Sign on
Pranesh Prakash on Mon, 13 Jul 2009 13:47:33 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Abortion services censored out on Google AdWords: Sign on the letter to protest to Google


A few things to note:
1) This affects only Google AdWords, and not Google searches.  Thus
most of the access to information arguments are nullified.  It is more
likely shops/clinics that conduct abortion that would want to
advertise, rather than sites dispensing information about safe
abortions.  Many times these abortion clinics are the very same
"clandestine settings" that the letter talks about.  If one tends to
believe that illegal clinics wouldn't advertise brazenly in the open,
I'd suggest one thinks again or comes to India and looks around at
street hoardings.

2) In a country like India, sex-selective abortions are a big problem,
a natural consequence of the desire of/pressure on many to have male
progeny.  Thus, we even have a law against misuse of Pre-Natal
Diagnostic Techniques.  I'm not sure what exactly ties the countries
from Argentina to Taiwan, but I wouldn't be surprised if those
countries had strict laws on what kinds of abortions and abortion
advertisements are allowed.

3) While generally (at least in India) commercial speech is also
covered by the freedom of speech and expression, that right may be
curtailed.  Protecting the right of the unborn female foetus is as
much a concern of human rights, if not more, than protecting the right
of abortion clinics to advertise.



On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 19:54, Harsh Kapoor <aiindex {AT} gmail.com> wrote:
> A siawi.org Alert
> http://www.siawi.org/article825.html
>
> According to the Health Equity and Law Clinic of the University of
> Toronto, Google is stopping access to details of abortion clinics
> through its web system.
> ÂUnder the Revised Policy, Google AdWords will no longer accept ads
> that promote abortion services and that target any of the following
> countries: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia,
> Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Spain,
> or Taiwan. âAbortion servicesâ include, but are not limited to,
> abortion clinics and abortion counselors.
>
> This a very powerful anti-abortion gesture indeed.
> ÂIt is also an attack on secularism that reflects the lobbying power
> of religious fundamentalist forces.
>
> siawi.org calls on all secularists to join the protest and to force
> Google to come back on its new policy. Please forward these news and
> the appeal below to as many people as possible.
>
> Women on Waves have taken the lead in this struggle. The letter below
> is to protest this and as many signatories as possible are needed. If
> you wish to sign it, please write to:
> ÂRebecca Gomperts at gomperts womenonwaves.org
> Âwith your name, organisation and contact details.
>
> _____
>
> From: rebecca gomperts [ mailto:gomperts womenonwaves.org]
> ÂSent: 24 June 2009 13:36
> ÂTo: Worldbytes
> ÂSubject: [worldbytes] signatures for letter to google
>
> Dear worldbytes members,
>
> The Health Equity and Law Clinic of the University of Toronto wrote
> the following letter for Google on behalf of Women on Waves.
>
> It concerns the recent Google policy to restrict adds for abortion
> related information and services in certain countries.
>
> We are looking for reproductive rights organizations who would like to
> co-sign the letter in order to increase the impact of the letter to
> google.
>
> If you would like to sign, please email me your name, organization and country
>
> Thanks a lot
>
> Rebecca Gomperts
> ÂOn behalf of Women on Waves
> ----------------------------------------------
>
> Google Inc. Legal Department
> Â1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
> ÂMountain View, CA 94043
> ÂGoogle AdWords, Google Ann Arbor
> Â201 S. Division St., Suite 500
> ÂAnn Arbor, MI 48104
>
> To: The Google AdWords Team and the Google Inc. Legal Department
>
> Re: Google AdWords Advertising Policy Update: Restricting
> Advertisements that Promote Abortion Services
>
> We are writing on behalf of Women on Waves (âWOWâ), a non-profit
> organization providing health services and sexual education to prevent
> unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions, and the Health Equity and Law
> Clinic, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, an academic clinic
> specializing in reproductive and sexual health law and policy. This
> letter concerns a change to Google Adwords policy respecting the
> advertising of abortion services.
>
> On September 17, 2008, WOW received notice of a Google AdWords
> Advertising Policy Update (âRevised Policyâ).[ii][i] Under the Revised
> Policy, Google AdWords will:
>
> no longer accept ads that promote abortion services and that target
> any of the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany,
> Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines,
> Poland, Singapore, Spain, or Taiwan. âAbortion servicesâ include, but
> are not limited to, abortion clinics and abortion counselors.
>
> While we acknowledge much consideration was given to your decision on
> the advertising of abortion services and the potential effect of the
> Revised Policy, we request the policy be reviewed for the following
> reasons:
>
> Â 1. The effects of the Revised Policy for persons other than Adwords
> advertisers. We are concerned about the adverse effect of the Revised
> Policy for women seeking safe and lawful abortion services. By
> restricting access to information, the Revised Policy may contribute
> to unsafe abortion in a manner inconsistent with human rights
> principles.
>
> Â 1. The justification for the Revised Policy. We understand that
> Google may refuse or terminate any advertisement at any time and for
> any reason. Given the adverse impact of the Revised Policy on human
> rights to safe abortion, a reasoned justification in this instance is
> warranted but lacking.
>
> We believe these reasons merit the rescission of the Revised Policy.
>
> Google plays an important role in the protection of human rights.
> Through participation in the Global Network Initiative and other
> programs, Google has demonstrated its commitment to protect access to
> information as a human right consistent with internationally
> recognized laws and standards. These include the human rights outlined
> in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
> Rights[iii][ii] among other international treaties.
>
> Given the impact of the Revised Policy on human rights to safe
> abortion, we respectfully request the policy be reviewed and
> rescinded. If following your review, Google decides there are reasons
> to maintain the Revised Policy we request these reasons be publicly
> disclosed. Justification for the Revised Policy avoids an adverse
> inference that Google is acting without concern for the human rights
> impact of its policies.
>
> 1. The Adverse Impact of the Revised Policy on Human Rights to Safe Abortion
>
> We are concerned about the adverse effect of the Revised Policy for
> women seeking safe and lawful abortion services. By restricting access
> to information, the Revised Policy may contribute to unsafe abortion
> in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized human rights.
>
> Unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal mortality and morbidity
> worldwide. Every year an estimated seventy thousand women die and five
> million more women suffer with disability from unsafe
> abortion.[iv][iii] Many women who resort to unsafe abortion live in
> countries where abortion is lawful under certain conditions, such as
> where necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or to protect
> her physical and mental health. Women resort to unsafe abortion
> because they cannot access safe services to which they are lawfully
> entitled within the health system.[v][iv] Unsafe abortion is a
> consequence of access barriers to safe and lawful services.
>
> Access to health services without discrimination is an essential
> component of the rights to health and equality under international
> law.[vi][v] Womenâs right to health includes an entitlement to access
> services specific to their health needs. It is discriminatory under
> international law to restrict the promotion or provision of
> appropriate health services for women, including those related to
> reproductive health, and to obstruct action taken by women in pursuit
> of their health goals.[vii][vi] Given the Revised Policy restricts
> advertising on abortion services, sex-specific health care, its
> adverse impact is borne exclusively by women thereby raising equality
> concerns.
>
> Access to information â the right to seek, receive and impart
> information on health issues â is a key determinant of access to
> health care.[viii][vii] This is especially true respecting access to
> abortion services. Many women seek unsafe abortion because they lack
> access to information on the legal status of abortion and the
> availability of services.
>
> Women and health providers in many countries are uninformed about the
> legal status of abortion, the conditions under which it is
> lawful.[ix][viii] Many wrongly believe that abortion is prohibited by
> criminal law in all circumstances. Despite satisfying the conditions
> for lawful abortion, women are unfairly denied services and/or seek
> unsafe services in clandestine settings.[x][ix]
>
> The stigmatization of abortion, attributable in part to its criminal
> regulation, also deters women from inquiring about the availability of
> services. Women may be reluctant to request services for fear of
> health provider judgment or refusal, and public disclosure and
> retribution from families and communities. Many women for this reason
> do not consult their regular health providers and seek care outside
> their communities. They are without traditional sources of health
> information. Recognizing the vulnerability of women seeking
> inter-jurisdictional access to abortion services, the European Court
> of Human Rights has emphasized the right to impart and receive
> information on abortion services as essential to ensuring womenâs
> health and well-being.[xi][x]
>
> Advertisements on abortion services can be a valuable source of
> information on both the legal status of abortion and the availability
> of services, and thus a crucial measure to mitigate access barriers to
> safe and lawful abortion. International law recognizes advertisements
> as a protected media for the exchange of information.[xii][xi]
>
> The United States Supreme Court, in holding a law that restricted
> advertisements promoting abortion services as unconstitutional,
> recognized that such advertisements contained factual material of
> public interest.[xiii][xii] The advertisement did not merely inform
> readers of available commercial services, valuable information itself.
> Viewed in its entirety, the advertisement conveyed information about
> the subject matter including the law on abortion. The mere existence
> of the services, the possibility that the advertiser was typical of
> other organizations and the availability of the services, was
> important information. Recent reform in the United Kingdom on
> television advertisement of abortion services was similarly motivated
> by the public health need for access to full and complete information
> on abortion services.[xiv][xiii]
>
> The internet is a primary health information source. It is of
> particular importance to individuals who lack access to traditional
> sources of health information, require confidential and timely access
> to information and seek services outside of their communities. Online
> advertisements that promote abortion services can improve access to
> information on the legal status of abortion and the availability of
> lawful services, and can thereby reduce recourse to unsafe abortion.
>
> Vehicles such as a Google Adwords moreover increase the credibility of
> information sources, defined in terms of their expertise and
> trustworthiness. The service facilitates access to relevant
> information by isolating the advertisement and the availability of
> services from a string of search engine results, which in the case of
> a political and social issue such as abortion may be overwhelming for
> an individual woman seeking services.[xv][xiv]
>
> By restricting access to information on safe and lawful abortion, the
> Revised Policy may thus contribute to unsafe abortion in a manner
> inconsistent with human rights under international law.
>
> 2. Justification for the Revised Policy and its Adverse Human Rights Impact
>
> Given the human rights impact of the Revised Policy, we believe that a
> reasoned justification for the policy is warranted. Googleâs decision
> on the advertising of abortion services may have been informed by the
> following considerations:
>
> A. the criminal regulation of abortion,
>
> B. abortion as a high-risk health service,
>
> C. legal restrictions on the advertisement or promotion of abortion
> services, and
>
> D. government or other political pressure.
>
> Careful analysis demonstrates these considerations cannot justify the
> Revised Policy and its adverse human rights impact.
>
> A. The Criminal Regulation of Abortion
>
> The Revised Policy may have been informed by the criminal regulation
> of abortion in the target countries, and the concern that acceptance
> of advertisements promoting abortion services may be construed as
> promotion or the aiding and abetting of criminal activity.
>
> Rather than illicit activity, counseling and information about
> abortion services, even where criminally restricted, is regarded as an
> important component of harm reduction and safe abortion initiatives.
> The Ministry of Health in Uruguay, for example, has enacted guidelines
> that allow health providers to provide information and counseling
> about abortion to women ineligible to receive lawful
> services.[xvi][xv]
>
> More importantly, in all target countries of the Revised Policy
> abortion services are lawful under certain conditions.[xvii][xvi] A
> blanket restriction on advertisements that promote abortion services
> for reason of their criminal status is therefore unjustified. Women
> are entitled by law to access abortion services albeit under a set of
> regulated conditions. The target countries in this respect cannot be
> distinguished from the many countries, such as the United Kingdom, to
> which the Revised Policy does not extend. Abortion is a lawful and
> legitimate health service in all of the target countries.
>
> B. Abortion as a High-Risk Health Service
>
> The Revised Policy may have been informed by evidence of maternal
> mortality and morbidity related to unsafe abortion, and thus concern
> about accepting advertisements that promote a high-risk health
> service. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between unsafe and
> safe abortion.
>
> Unsafe abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by
> individuals without the necessary skills or in an environment that
> does not conform to minimum medical standards, or both.[xviii][xvii]
> When appropriately regulated and provided by skilled persons under
> conditions that meet medical standards, abortion is a safe, low-risk
> procedure, safer than pregnancy and childbirth.[xix][xviii]
>
> The Revised Policy may have been directed to particular concerns about
> online abortion services, the sale of abortifacients or medicines for
> use in pregnancy termination. As a non-invasive alternative to
> surgical abortion, medication abortion is widely regarded as having
> significantly improved access to safe abortion. It is safe and
> effective, with few serious complications and success rates of
> 95â98%.[xx][xix]
>
> Medication abortion, moreover, is an especially important innovation
> for safe abortion because it may be delivered by a more diverse set of
> providers in a range of health settings. Research demonstrates that
> outcomes of services provided through telemedicine (provision of
> medicines, counseling and information through the internet) are
> comparable with results reported in studies on medication abortion in
> outpatient settings.[xxi][xx]
>
> A restriction on advertisements that promote abortion services for
> reason of safety is therefore unjustified. The Revised Policy is
> over-inclusive insofar as it restricts access to information on safe
> health services. It is also under-inclusive. Safety concerns about the
> online sale of medicines is not limited to abortion services, but of
> equal relevance to all health services. Ensuring the safe provision
> and use of online health services is a legitimate concern, and we
> encourage Google to develop a tailored policy directed to this
> objective.
>
> C. Legal Restrictions on the Advertisement or Promotion of Abortion Services
>
> The Revised Policy may have been implemented because of domestic laws
> or policies respecting the advertisement of abortion services in the
> target countries. Some (e.g. Brazil and France) but not all target
> countries have laws specific to the advertisement of abortion
> services. No target country, however, absolutely prohibits the
> advertisement of abortion services. Advertisements are permissible in
> Brazil, for example, where the conditions under which abortion is
> lawful are appropriately indicated.[xxii][xxi] This policy recognizes
> that under certain conditions abortion services are lawful and should
> be treated without distinction from other health services. Rather than
> an absolute prohibition against advertisements that promote abortion
> services, the Revised Policy should reflect a similar flexible
> standard. The Revised Policy in this respect is inconsistent with
> Google Adwordsâ general policy on advertisements subject to legal
> regulation, which states that it is the responsibility of the
> advertiser to ensure that its advertisements are in full compliance
> with the applicable domestic law.[xxiii][xxii] There is no clear
> reason why the same approach cannot be applied to abortion service
> advertisements, which may be subject to different legal regulation
> across jurisdictions.
>
> D. Government or other Political Pressure
>
> The Revised Policy may have been informed by government policies that
> abortion, even when lawful, should not be promoted as a health
> service. Such policies are often based on the mistaken assumption that
> greater access to information and services will increase abortion
> rates. Evidence confirms that increased access to safe and lawful
> abortion does not increase the number of abortions nor lead women to
> use abortion as an alternative to contraception for family planning.
> Rather it ensures that a greater number of abortions are safe
> abortions.[xxiv][xxiii]
>
> Such policies are more importantly inconsistent with human rights
> principles. Individuals should not be denied access to information as
> a measure to change health-seeking behaviour. Women are entitled as of
> right to information about all safe and lawful health services,
> including those related to reproductive and sexual health. We believe
> that Google shares this conception of access to information as a
> fundamental human right.
>
> The lack of reasoned justification for the Revised Policy given its
> impact on human rights to safe abortion merits its rescission. We thus
> respectfully request in light of Googleâs demonstrated commitment to
> protect access to information as a human right that the Revised Policy
> be reviewed and rescinded. If Google decides there are reasons not
> addressed in this letter to maintain the Revised Policy, we would
> appreciate your sharing these reasons with us.
>
> We look forward to your response and appreciate your time and consideration.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Rebecca Gomperts
> Âgomperts womenonwaves.org
> ÂWomen on Waves Foundation
> ÂP.O. Box 15683, 1001 ND Amsterdam, The Netherlands
> ÂPhone: +31 20 465 0004, Fax: +31 20 465 0004
>
> Joanna Erdman
> Âjoanna.erdman (at) utoronto.ca
> ÂSusan Newell
> Âsusan.newell (at) utoronto.ca
> ÂHealth Equity and Law Clinic
> ÂFaculty of Law, University of Toronto
> Â78 Queenâs Park, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
> ÂPhone: 416-946-3755, Fax: 416-978-2648
>
> The undersigned organizations support this letter and its request that
> the Revised Policy be reviewed and rescinded.
>
> 1. Name, Organization, Contact Info
>
> 2. Name, Organization, Contact Info
>
>
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-- 
Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283


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