Google and Hulu: Abortion Ads Are Like Sex Toys, Porn, Gambling Sites

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Google and Hulu: Abortion Ads Are Like Sex Toys, Porn, Gambling Sites

Nina Liss-Schultz

Abortion care, a provably safe medical procedure that affects one in three women, is an unsuitable topic for millions of people worldwide, according to Google and Hulu, which recently rejected informational advertisements that discuss abortion.

Abortion care, a provably safe medical procedure that affects one in three women, is an unsuitable topic for millions of people worldwide, according to Google and Hulu, which recently rejected informational advertisements that discuss abortion.

“Let’s pretend that life is perfect and everything happens exactly as you plan,” says the narrator of a video ad, produced by Productive Rights and paid for by UltraViolet, which uses petitions and ads to address progressive political issues. “You go on a date with the guy of your dreams. Your condom never breaks. You never make mistakes and you never need to access abortion.”

“Let’s end the pretending,” the ad continues. “Condoms break. Mistakes are made. Abortion is a part of real life.”

The video is one of three submitted by UltraViolet to a handful of media platforms. The group also submitted a number of static-image ads, all of which contain messages about the importance of abortion access.

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Adam Brink, campaign director for UltraViolet, told Rewire that the ads were accepted by Pandora and NBC.com, as well as SiteScout and Millennial Media, two advertising companies. But Google (which owns YouTube) and Hulu rejected the ads, telling UltraViolet that the focus on abortion did not meet advertising standards.

A Google ad representative, in an email to UltraViolet, wrote that abortion is considered a “non-family safe” topic, and that all ads about the procedure are rejected for showing on Google Display Network sites, which includes YouTube.

On its ad policies website, Google says it restricts “the following types of adult-oriented content: offline adult entertainment, adult merchandise, dating services, international bride services, sexually suggestive content, images containing exposed skin and nudity.”

Neither abortion care nor any other common medical procedure is listed.

The Google Display Network, which shows ads on Gmail and YouTube as well as publisher sites like NYTimes.com and to which UltraViolet submitted its proposal, “reaches 90 percent of Internet users and includes more than 2 million publisher sites,” according to Google.

UltraViolet received a similar notice from a Hulu representative, who wrote that the company doesn’t accept any ads related to abortion, whether for or against, based on its ad standards.

Though the company would not share with UltraViolet the document describing those standards, the representative wrote that abortion is not something they want to put in front of viewers.

Hulu’s webpage outlining restrictions for advertising lists a number of ad categories that are never accepted, but abortion is not one of them. Included in the list of topics never advertised by Hulu is porn, escort services, illegal activities, and sex toys.

Neither Google nor Hulu responded to a request for comment.

“Our goal with the ads is to eliminate stigma regarding abortions rights,” UltraViolet’s Adam Brink told Rewire. “It’s a common medical procedure.”

“They’ll air ads about Viagra but not about a common and constitutionally protected women’s health procedure,” he continued. “It’s this kind of attitude that promotes silence.”

Both Google and Hulu have come under fire for their ad policies related to abortion. Last October, Hulu caught flack for refusing to run an ad decrying Colorado’s radically anti-choice Amendment 67.

Google caught the attention of abortion access activists after NARAL Pro-Choice America found that the company had allowed ads from crisis pregnancy centers claiming they offered medical services such as abortion, though they do not.

Google eventually removed the ads based on the standard that ads be “factually supportable,” according to the Washington Post.

Other media platforms have similarly received criticism for censoring ads related to abortion and other reproductive health issues. Four companies in 2014 were barred from advertising on Twitter because their ads discuss sexual health issues. Two are condom companies, one is an “online birth control support network,” and the other is an STD education organization.

Though not an advertisement, Instagram recently removed the photo of a woman with a period stain on her pants, saying that it didn’t follow the sites “community guidelines.” The company apologized for removing the picture after receiving a flurry of online criticism.

UltraViolet, since having its ads rejected, has created a petition asking both companies to reverse their decisions.