Planned Parenthood is already the largest abortion provider in the U.S., and its new web tool aims to direct more women to its abortion clinics.
The “Abortion Care Finder” tool, located on the abortion provider’s website, shows the nearest Planned Parenthood abortion clinics who are able to perform legal abortions based on the user’s self-reported age, ZIP code, and last menstrual cycle.
It then shows users the nearest Planned Parenthood clinics, explains any relevant state laws and abortion methods, and describes the services of each clinic and provides information about financial assistance, the New York Times reports.
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. In 2016, the organization performed about one out of every three abortions that year.
In cases where the nearest Planned Parenthood is more than 60 miles away, the web tool refers users to a map from the National Abortion Federation.
The Planned Parenthood app results can be misleading in states like Kentucky or Mississippi, whose abortion clinics are not Planned Parenthood-operated.
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting president, told the New York Times that Planned Parenthood “wanted to make sure that we were connecting them directly to our centers.”
In the past decade, Planned Parenthood has seen its number of patients decline. The number of cancer screenings, contraceptives distributed, and prenatal services provided by the organization decreased as well.
The number of abortions, however, has increased by about 10 percent since 2006, despite Planned Parenthood seeing fewer patients.
Planned Parenthood said that search queries on its website and online spiked for the phrase “abortion near me” in spring 2019, when abortion restrictions and bans were debated and passed in state legislatures.
McGill Johnson said prospective clients became more desperate for information about that time.
“Restrictions have just been coming so fast and furious,” she told the New York Times.
Changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court are believed to increase the likelihood that a future ruling on abortion could modify or strike down precedents that mandate legal abortion nationwide.
An iPhone app mapping nearby abortion clinics, called Cara, dates back to late 2016, the New York Times reports. It was created in response to accusations that some crisis pregnancy centers presented themselves as abortion providers when one of their goals is to dissuade women from performing abortion.
Pro-abortion rights advocates have also objected to internet search algorithms that sometimes take women seeking abortions to crisis pregnancy centers.
Planned Parenthood itself is in a time of tumult.
In July the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America fired its president, Dr. Leanna Wen, only eight months after she took over the role.
Wen said there were philosophical differences over the direction of the organization. She saw the organization as a health care organization “with advocacy as a necessary vehicle to protect rights and access.” She contended her critics on the board aimed “to double down on abortion rights advocacy.”
The debate about whether Planned Parenthood’s public image should be that of a health care provider or abortion advocacy group comes as cuts in funding and abortion restrictions in dozens of states across the country have put the organization on the defensive.
In addition, a rule under the Trump administration prevents Title X fund recipients from performing or referring for abortions. It bars abortion clinics from sharing facilities with entities that receive Title X money.
Planned Parenthood stands to lose about $60 million in federal funding as a result of the rule.
Since 2015, Planned Parenthood has also faced increased scrutiny following the release of a series of undercover videos in which executives at the organization and leaders in the National Abortion Federation appear to be discussing the transfer of body parts from aborted babies for money, a practice that would violate federal law.
In response to the controversy over the videos, Planned Parenthood and its supporters launched a multi-million-dollar publicity campaign.