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Research Shows Rise in Google Searches for Abortion Pills

July 18, 2022
Assistant Professor of Computer Science Adam Poliak

A number of media outlets reported on research by Assistant Professor of Computer Science Adam Poliak and colleagues from the University of California San Diego on the increase in Google searches for abortion medication following the leak of the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

"The authors, who include a new member of the computer science faculty at Bryn Mawr College, caution that the searches do not necessarily reflect an immediate attempt to seek an abortion. The searchers may have been seeking the medications for future use, or they may have been searching for other reasons.

"Either way, the traffic surge likely reflects concern about reduced access to abortion in many states, said researcher Adam Poliak, who starts at Bryn Mawr in August.

"The finding comes amid legal uncertainty as to whether pregnant people in those states can obtain prescriptions for the pills from doctors based in less restrictive states via telemedicine. If not, public health experts are concerned they may try to do it anyway, said Poliak, who collaborated on the study with researchers from the University of California San Diego.

"'Although abortion medications require a prescription, women may be attempting to stockpile medication or hazardous black-market options in anticipation of curtailed access,' he said."

Poliak's research interests focus on understanding the limits of machine learning and natural language processing, a branch of artificial intelligence that aims to build machines that humans can seamlessly interact with through spoken and written language. A long-term goal of his research is to develop methods that can enable researchers in a wide range of fields, including public health, social sciences, and humanities, to glean insights from large amounts of text.

Computer Science