Monday, October 1, 2007

Let Freedom Ring
A Guest Post by Henrietta G. Tavish

The abortion rights movement has traditionally hated free speech. Its advocates have been on a rampage the past couple of years to prevent crisis pregnancy centers from communicating with pregnant women, an effort that has caused even some ACLU board members to dissent. Last year, pro-choicers last year forced Amazon to modify a search engine which suggested "adoption" to users who searched for "abortion," even though the message was controlled by an algorithm which merely reflected customer preferences. And they've fought hard to insure that no one see the dreaded words "choose life" on a license plate.

Too much public debate about abortion doesn't serve the pro-choice purpose, because it inevitably involves the use of, well, the unsavory word "abortion" and gets people to thinking about what it involves. When forced themselves to discuss the topic, abortion advocates use breezy euphemisms such as "choice," "access" and "women's health." "People respond best" to those phrases, explained one Planned Parenthood site, which simultaneously cautioned its readers to "[not] engage in 'when is it a baby?' conversations. Even when it recently tried to defend its deceptive opening of an abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood omitted the "a" word from its press release.

But now, it seems the tide is turning.

NARAL Pro-Choice has fought, and won, a battle to compel Verizon to permit the abortion group to send text messages to its supporters. Although Verizon had originally deemed the subject of abortion to be too "controversial and unsavory" for its subscribers and had exercised its legal right to regulate the topics of discussion permitted on its mobile network, it chose the path of more speech rather than less. NARAL President Nancy Keenan, celebrated the victory over at her organization's officially sanctioned blog, BushvChoice:

Let’s hope Verizon has learned a lesson today: citizen participation in democracy is neither ‘unsavory’ nor ‘controversial . . . [I]t is yet another reminder of why we must remain vigilant in fighting against third-party interference in how citizens participate in the democratic process.

I know that this episode has taught NARAL a lesson -- the abortion debate in America must be vigorous and robust. Doubtlessly, Ms. Keenan has directed her group's blog to embrace this new-found notion of freedom and abandon its prior practice of deleting comments from pro-lifers and even pro-choicers (like Katha Pollitt) who disagree with it. So let's all click over to BushvChoice and thank NARAL for its generous change of heart and its embrace of democracy over censorship.

[Note: If you do post at BushvChoice, please copy and save your comments. If they are deleted, send them to me at and I'll post them here later in the week.]