Toronto Feminists

Posts Tagged ‘abortion

Hump Day: Reproductive Rights

It seemed like as good a day as any to bring up the subject but it’s not like these aren’t under attack most of the time anyway. This came to my attention today since I’m a Medical Librarian for my day job, through our listservs and the NYT picked it up as a news item as well.


Johns Hopkins University said Friday that it had programmed its computers to ignore the word “abortion” in searches of a large, publicly financed database of information on reproductive health

POPLINE is the database in question and it describes itself as this:

the world’s largest database on reproductive health, containing citations with abstracts to scientific articles, reports, books, and unpublished reports in the field of population, family planning, and related health issues. POPLINE is maintained by the Info Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Recently it was discovered that in this database the word ‘abortion’ was to be IGNORED when entered as a search term –just like how google and other databases ignore the words ‘the’, ‘a’ or ‘and’.  You may ask yourself HOW a database devoted to reproductive health and family planning could possibly make ‘abortion’ a stop-term, I mean you’d think this is the database to go and find that very information.  The reason -it is a government funded project and it was found to not fit the database criteria… but researchers could I guess find things in a round-about fashion by looking up: ‘unplanned pregnancy’. 


When POPLINE was contacted by the NY Times their response was this:

“We recently made all abortion terms stop words,” Debra L. Dickson, a Popline manager, wrote. “As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now.”

Ms. Dickson suggested that instead of using “abortion,” librarians could use other terms like “fertility control, postconception” or “pregnancy, unwanted.”



 The censorship of information in a research database is inexcusable, preventing people from accessing research on abortion is low and not making users aware is just plain devious. This was only discovered when articles weren’t coming up and it’s not clear whether or not that term has been or will be restored to the database.

Am I going crazy or is our society becoming more and more forbidding about ‘abortion’?  In pop culture we have blockbuster movies about unplanned pregnancy and it is either quickly dismissed or only cutely hinted at (remember the whole, “it starts with an A and rhymes with schmushsmortion”) and not really considered an option.

 We have citizens in Kansas who can create their own grand jury to snoop through the medical records of women who get abortions trying charge providers using a law from 1887 to basically go on a ‘fishing expedition’…it’s a great plan -it intimidates providers and scares women.  Two birds with one stone!    

And here in Canada, we have wonderful polls about whether or not Dr. Henry Morgentaler should be awarded the Order of Canada being spammed by pro-lifers –I’m sure that’s what happened because I received one of those ridiculous mass emails urging me to vote against such a monster. 

What is going on?!  Why are we moving backwards on this?  I plan to set up a future event to discuss abortion and I’d really like to bring in some knowledgeable speakers so if you know someone who would be great, add it to the comments or send it through

Also, I came across this in the latest Bitch magazine and I’d love to have us view this film as well but it’s a little our of my price range to purchase –Silent Choices a film by Faith Pennick, the reason behind this film was:


During an argument about the future of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973, her friend declared to Pennick, “Abortion is a white woman’s issue, and black women have more important things to worry about.”  “I was floored by her comment,” said Pennick, “but I understood where that statement came from. Anytime you see media reports about abortion, it’s the same handful of middle-class, middle-aged white women running pro-choice organizations that are interviewed. How do you relate to an issue if you don’t see yourself in it?”

So if anyone knows where to get a copy please let me know



Written by outdoorsgrrl

April 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm

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