AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In his first lawsuit since returning to office, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking damages from the business review giant Yelp for what he calls deceptive business practices harming crisis pregnancy centers.
Crisis pregnancy centers offer women and families pregnancy support. They do not provide abortions. Before abortion was banned in Texas, Yelp sought to clarify their services when these businesses were listed on their platform.
These centers “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite,” Yelp added as a consumer notice
Paxton called that notice “inaccurate and misleading.”
“Yelp cannot mislead and deceive the public simply because the company disagrees with our state’s abortion laws,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday. “Major companies cannot abuse their platforms and influence to control consumers’ behavior, especially on sensitive health issues like pregnancy and abortion.”
After Yelp received a letter from 24 state Attorneys General accusing the consumer notice of discriminating against crisis pregnancy centers in February, they amended the language.
The statement now reads “crisis pregnancy centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.”
“The accurate description of businesses on Yelp is important because it helps consumers find the businesses they’re looking for,” Yelp told Nexstar on Thursday. “We’ve also invested in better matching users who search for abortion care with reproductive health services that actually offer abortions.”
Austin-area pregnancy center Heart of Texas offers free pregnancy guidance, prenatal care, and material support to women and their families. They said they do not have any problems with Yelp, but disagree with any claim that crisis pregnancy centers mislead or discourage women from seeking abortions.
“We want to empower them to be great parents and make it easy. A lot of times they don’t know hat a pregnancy resource center does. We offer them so many free things… and just love them well. We care about them from the moment they walk in the door,” Heart of Texas’ Executive Director Debi Wehmeier said. “A lot of [these women] are super scared. A lot of them just need truth. The last thing we would do is mislead them in any way.”
If a court finds Yelp in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, they may be forced to pay large fines to the State of Texas — $10,000 per violation, and $250,000 for violations involving senior citizens.