World's biggest search engine makes a common search term difficult

An article that Glenn Reynolds linked about the up-and-coming search engine Bing reminded me that something is rotten in the state of Google -- especially where it comes to searches related to abortion.

If you're familiar with Google (and who isn't?) you know that most of the time when you enter a search word, you won't even have to get half way through the word before the most common suggestions appear in the search window. Now, the word "abortion" is certainly not unusual (it draws over 24 million Google hits), and it is neither right wing nor left wing, it is not a dirty word, and because no one I know of considers the word offensive, it cannot be said to be either politically correct or politically incorrect.

But try typing abortion. As soon as you type "abor" up comes a list of suggestions: aborigines, aboriginal art, aboriginal culture, and aboriginal names. And if you keep typing and add a "t," all suggestions disappear and you have to enter the word "abortion" all by itself. Now, if Google were working normally (which it obviously is not), there would be all kinds of suggestions. Like abortion, abortion clinics, etc.

To illustrate, here's what I get as a dropdown list if I search at


So what's up with Google? Surely abortion can't be among Google's censored words?

I don't know what it is, but I'm thinking it may have something to do with Google advertising.

Google has been sued for refusing to accept anti-abortion ads:

A Christian group is suing Google over the internet giant's refusal to take its anti-abortion adverts.

The Christian Institute, a "non-denominational Christian charity", wanted to pay Google so that whenever the word "abortion" was typed into the popular search engine, its link would appear on the side of the screen.

The link would have read: "UK abortion law - news and views on abortion from the Christian Institute."

But Google refused the advert because it said it had a policy of declining sites which mixed the issue of abortion with religious views.

Its Dublin-based advertising team replied: "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain 'abortion and religion-related content'."

Google does, however, accept adverts for abortion clinics, secular pro-abortion sites and secularist sites which attack religion.

The Christian Institute has now started legal proceedings against Google on the grounds that it is infringing the Equality Act 2006 by discriminating against Christian groups.

This lawsuit appears to have been settled. OTOH, there are also allegations that Google has restricted access to abortion advertisements in 15 countries, and I'm not entirely sure what that's about, although I noticed that pro-choice activists are irate.

Might the litigation explain why Google would disable the functionality of its search feature?

In the Wiki article about censorship by Google, there is some discussion of Google's attempt to censor anti-abortion advertising, but no mention of the failure of the word itself to appear as a search term.

The whole thing is baffling. After all, Google is supposed to facilitate searches, not obfuscate them.

Whatever the reason, I am beginning to think that Google has gotten too big for its britches, and I am glad there are alternatives like Bing.

posted by Eric on 10.13.09 at 07:09 PM


"Pro-life" does auto-complete, as does "Pro life".

Arthur   ·  October 14, 2009 10:37 PM

Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.

Ancient wisdom but still so so true.

Whitehall   ·  October 15, 2009 2:32 PM

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