Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 18:17 UK

Google climbdown on abortion ads

By Christopher Landau
Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News

Google is the world's most popular search engine

Google is to change its policy on adverts about abortion following a legal challenge from a Christian pressure group.

It had refused a Christian Institute advert, saying it did not allow the advertising of websites with "abortion and religion-related content".

The institute threatened to use British equality laws to contest the decision.

But after an out-of-court settlement, Google will now allow religious groups to advertise about abortion.

It means when the word "abortion" is typed into the search engine, internet users will no longer just see adverts with details of abortion clinics and support groups, but could also find links to religious groups which may oppose abortion.

'Common sense'

In a statement, a Google spokesperson told BBC News: "The issue of abortion is an emotive subject and Google does not take a particular side.

"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."

The Christian Institute called the decision a success for common sense and free speech.

Mike Judge from the institute told BBC News that Google had a particular responsibility to treat groups equally given its status as a gateway to the internet.

"They have been very constructive in responding to our legal action. I think there is a level playing field now for religious groups, and we're delighted with this settlement," he said.

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