Facebook Vowed to Probe Shady Anti-Abortion Ads. It Just Ran More.

·3 min read
Carlos Jasso/Reuters
Carlos Jasso/Reuters

Facebook is continuing to run ads for so-called “abortion pill reversal” a week after a report showed it had raked in more than $100,000 for advertising the unproven medical procedure.

Data from the Facebook Ad library shows the tech company allowed three ads from the anti-abortion group Live Action to run in the week after the report was published; all of them claimed that “it is possible to reverse the abortion pill.” As The Daily Beast has previously reported, “abortion pill reversal” is a dubious method that has not been approved by the FDA and has been condemned by major medical groups including the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians.

A report from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published last week found Facebook had received between $115,400 and $140,667 in the last year and a half for ads promoting the unproven procedure, which had been seen between 16.2 and 18.4 million times. Twelve hours after The Daily Beast first published that report, Facebook said it had “removed many of the ads identified in the report… for violating our policies around offering adult products and services.”

But data collected by the CCDH shows Facebook continued to run ads for the procedure as recently as Sept. 17, and that these ads had the potential to reach 1 million people each. One of the ads begins with the text “The Abortion Pill Kills” and features graphic video of a woman having a miscarriage. All three link to a website for the “Abortion Pill Rescue Network,” a project of the anti-abortion, crisis-pregnancy-center operator Heartbeat International.

“It is shocking and sickening that Facebook is still happily taking cash to advertise medical misinformation which could endanger the lives of millions of women and girls,” CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said in a statement. “Despite saying they don’t allow unproven health claims on their site, once again Facebook has put profit over people. Enough is enough.”

Facebook Is Raking It in With Shady Anti-Abortion Ads

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. Live Action CEO Lila Rose responded to a request for comment by calling The Daily Beast “ anti-women, anti-choice bullies.”

“You know that APR has saved over 2,500 lives and uses FDA-approved progesterone, under the guidance of physicians,” Rose said in a statement. “Yet you don't want women to have the choice of a possible reversal after the first abortion pill. You aren’t journalists, you are dishonest pro-abortion activists.”

Abortion pill reversal has been promoted by right-wing groups to combat the growing popularity of medication abortion—a simple, two-pill regimen that effectively ends more than 95 percent of pregnancies in the first 10 weeks and has a severe complication rate of less than 0.5 percent. “Reversing” an abortion requires stopping the medication process after the first pill and ingesting a hormone called progesterone, in hopes of continuing the pregnancy. The procedure has not been tested in rigorous, randomized control trials and has been deemed “unproven and unethical” by the ACOG.

The CCDH report issued earlier this month also identified ads for the procedure being run on Google, under searches for terms related to abortion. Google responded by removing all of the ads mentioned, setting off a firestorm of backlash from anti-abortion groups like Live Action. The group’s CEO, Lila Rose, tweeted that the removal of the ads constituted a “blatant double standard & reckless disregard for human life & women's health,” and Sen. Josh Hawley even sent a letter to Google demanding to know why the ads were taken down.

In a statement, Google said it does not permit ads with unproven medical claims and noted that medical experts had raised serious concerns about abortion reversal.

“Beyond protecting users from medical harm, our policies do not distinguish between promoting pro-choice and pro-life messages,” a spokesperson said. “Live Action’s other ads continue to run and they continue to be eligible to promote their perspectives and services as long as the ads do not violate Google’s policies.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!

Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting