AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, Yelp filed a motion in federal court in an attempt to stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from prosecuting the company for its statements about crisis pregnancy centers.
In the statement, a Yelp spokesperson said “those statements were always intended to help members of the public make informed decisions about their reproductive care.”
Crisis pregnancy centers offer women and families pregnancy support. They do not provide abortions. Before abortions were banned in Texas, Yelp sought to clarify its services when these businesses were listed on its platform.
These centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite,” Yelp added as a consumer notice
In a statement provided to KXAN, the spokesperson said “it’s been well-reported that crisis pregnancy centers typically provide limited services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.” However, the business review giant said many provide misleading information in an attempt to steer people seeking abortion care to other options, which can often start with an online search.
“The First Amendment prevents government officials like Mr. Paxton from suppressing true statements they may dislike – whether that be just in Texas or, in the case of Mr. Paxton’s prosecution of Yelp, anywhere that Yelp applies the notice,” the spokesperson said.
Yelp said these online searches have demonstrated “widespread deceptive actions” from crisis pregnancy centers have confused, as well as harmed, people who are searching for sensitive healthcare information. Furthermore, the spokesperson said there was no amount of proof about attempts to divert or mislead consumers about reproductive care options by other types of healthcare facilities, like facilities that do provide abortions.
Paxton called that notice “inaccurate and misleading.”
“Yelp cannot mislead and deceive the public simply because the company disagrees with our state’s abortion laws,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday. “Major companies cannot abuse their platforms and influence to control consumers’ behavior, especially on sensitive health issues like pregnancy and abortion.”
We’ve taken several steps to protect consumers who search for reproductive health services from the potential of being misled or confused. Since 2018, Yelp’s moderators have manually evaluated business pages and recategorized them as Crisis Pregnancy Centers when we find evidence that the business offers reproductive health services, but does not offer actual abortion services or referrals to abortion service providers. The accurate description of businesses on Yelp is important because it helps consumers find the businesses they’re looking for, which also applies to crisis pregnancy centers. We’ve also invested in better matching users who search for abortion care with reproductive health services that actually offer abortions, and making it less likely they will see crisis pregnancy centers that don’t. In 2022, when the ability to access safe abortion care became more limited for millions of women across the U.S. following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, we introduced a consumer notice on Yelp business pages categorized as Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The notice currently states: “This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.”Yelp spokesperson
Furthermore, the spokesperson said Yelp will continue fighting any efforts by government officials to censor truthful information helpful to consumers.