A U.S. District Court on Feb. 1 dismissed a lawsuit brought against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton by Yelp, the company whose website and mobile app allow people to review local businesses, in a case involving pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.
In 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Yelp began adding “consumer notices” to the app’s listings of crisis pregnancy centers. The notices stated: “This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”
In an announcement about the notices, Yelp said it would “recategoriz[e] business pages to distinguish crisis pregnancy centers from other reproductive healthcare providers on Yelp.”
In response, 24 state attorneys general, including Paxton, wrote to Yelp in February 2023 demanding that Yelp remove the notices. Their letter called the notices misleading and discriminatory, noting that Yelp did not add such notices to abortion facilities, which also “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.” And the attorneys general pointed out that Yelp added the consumer notices to all crisis pregnancy centers, even those that do have licensed medical professionals onsite.
Yelp updated its notice to state that “Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers,” which Paxton and others agreed was accurate. But in September, Paxton announced that he intended to sue Yelp for violating Texas’ Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Paxton holds that even though the company had removed the consumer notices, “Yelp remains liable for penalties and other relief for the duration of its unlawful behavior.”
In order to halt the Texas suit, Yelp filed a preemptive lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but with that court now denying and dismissing Yelp’s claim, Paxton’s suit against the company can proceed.
“Yelp cannot mislead and deceive the public simply because the company disagrees with our state’s laws,” Paxton said in a press release. “I’m pleased that the court agreed with Texas that Yelp’s federal lawsuit was a frivolous attempt to avoid enforcement for misleading consumers.”
Above: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks after a runoff election victory in 2022.
Bob Daemmrich / ZUMAPRESS / Newscom