Google OKs Religious Groups' Abortion Ads

Facing legal action, Google agrees to anti-abortion ads by religious groups.

ByABC News
September 17, 2008, 7:54 PM

Sept. 18, 2008— -- As part of an out-of-court settlement with a British Christian organization, Google agreed Wednesday to display anti-abortion ads purchased by religious groups.

In April, The Christian Institute took legal action against the Internet search giant when Google did not approve an abortion-related ad with the text:

UK Abortion law
Key views and news on abortion law from The Christian Institute

At the time, Google said its policy did not permit the advertisement of Web sites that contain "abortion and religion-related content."

Arguing that it was being treated differently because of its religious beliefs, the institute filed a lawsuit against Google under the U.K. Equality Act 2006, a law that prohibits religious discrimination.

Instead of continuing to fight the case in the court, Google reviewed its abortion ads policy and agreed to revise its policy.

"The issue of abortion is an emotive subject and Google does not take a particular side," the company said in a statement. "Over the last few months we have been reviewing our abortion ads policy in order to make sure it was fair, up to date and consistent with local customs and practices. Following the review we have decided to amend our policy, creating a level playing field and enabling religious associations to place ads on abortion in a factual way."

In an e-mail, Google spokesman Ben Novick told that by "factual," the company meant that "ads need to aim to educate and inform, not to shock."

"The ads can refer to government legislation and existing law and the alternatives to abortion. But, they cannot link to Web sites, which show graphic images that aim to shock people into changing their minds," he continued.

The policy change is effective immediately and applies worldwide. Although Novick could not tell how many religious groups have now purchased Google ads, he said that The Christian Institute's ad is currently live in the United Kingdom.

Stateside, religious and anti-abortion rights groups are hailing Google's decision as a victory for both free speech and people of faith.