"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, April 05, 2008

White House Leads Effort to Censor Medical Database

We know, of course, that censorship, surveillance, and secret policing are primary tools for operating within this Administration, but the worst part of this story is the instant capitulation by those charged with operating the database. They simply struck the word "abortion" from the search engine without a peep. Scary.

From Wired Blog Network:
University administrators of the world's largest scientific database on reproductive health blocked the word "abortion" as a search term after receiving a complaint from the Bush administration over two abortion-related articles listed in the database.

"The items in question had to do with abortion advocacy -- the two items dealing with abortion were removed following this inquiry, and the administrators made a decision to restrict abortion as a search term," said Tim Parsons, a spokesman for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.

The blocking of the keyword "is a decision that the dean does not support in any way," he added, and the administrators are unblocking the search for the term right now.

"I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the Popline administrators restore 'abortion' as a search term immediately," said Michael J. Klag, the school's dean in a statement issued on Friday. "I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and not its restriction."

The Popline search site is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care funding, to developing nations.

Under a Reagan-era policy revived by President Bush in 2001, USAID denies funding to non-governmental organizations that perform abortions, or that "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."

Sandra Jordan, director of communications in USAID's office of population and reproductive health, could not identify the documents that prompted her office's complaint, but said the publications were one-sided in favor of abortion rights.

"We are part of the Bush administration, so we have to make sure that all parts of the story are told," says Jordan. "The administration's policy is definitely anti-abortion, and the administration does not see abortion as a part of family planning policy."

Jordan says that the Johns Hopkins database administrators blocked the word "abortion" on their own, and had misunderstood USAID's request.

"We're glad they're restoring the search function to the site -- the studies and statistical information are certainly important information to family planning," she adds.

The massive Popline database indexes a broad range of reproductive health literature, including titles like "Previous abortion and the risk of low birth weight and preterm births," and "Abortion in the United States: Incidence and access to services, 2005."

As previously reported, a search on "abortion" used to produce nearly 25,000 hits on the site. But on Thursday, the same search resulted only with the message "No records found by latest query."

The American Library Association's president Loriene Roy applauded dean Klag's swift move to restore the search functionality, but said in a statement that she is still concerned about the overall policy.

"Any federal policy or rule that requires or encourages information providers to block access to scientific information because of partisan or religious bias is censorship," she said. "Such policies promote idealogy over science and only serve to deny researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information."
Here is link to earlier story.

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