By Michael Baggot and John Jalsevac
BALTIMORE, MD, April 4, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHBSPH) announced on its website today that it would restore search results for the term “abortion” in its massive POPLINE database after the term was made a stop word earlier in the week, thus yielding no search results.
The decision to block “abortion” searches on the database was apparently a massive over-reaction to a complaint about two abortion-related articles made by the Bush Administration. The POPLINE database is funded by USAID, which prohibits the use of federal funds to support 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, said that the two articles that USAID complained about were one-sided in favor of abortion, reports blog.wired.com. USAID had asked that the two articles be removed.
“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.”
In response to USAID’s complaint, POPLINE blocked all abortion searches, thereby rendering thousands of articles and records much more difficult to access.
“We recently made all abortion terms stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now,” stated a Tuesday email, supposedly from the database’s manager, posted online.
Left-wing bloggers and news sites responded by denouncing the Bush administration for censoring the database. “(USAID) is the same federal agency which revokes that very funding from third world clinics if they educate women about birth control, and which tells Africans that abstinence is the solution to the deadly AIDS virus, not condoms,” reported theinquirer.net.
“But obviously not content with preventing foreigners in the world’s poorest and most desperate countries from accessing information on abortion, they have now decided to censor the information from Americans too.”
However, POPLINE has now decided to reverse its former decision and to adopt a more sober response to USAID’s complaint.
“USAID, which funds POPLINE, found two items in the database related to abortion that did not fit POPLINE criteria,” said Michael J. Klag, dean of JHBSPH, in a statement announcing the reversal of the block on abortion searches. “The agency then made an inquiry to POPLINE administrators. Following this inquiry, the POPLINE administrators at the Center for Communication Programs made the decision to restrict abortion as a search term.
“I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the POPLINE administrators restore ‘abortion’ as a search term immediately. 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.”
Tim Parsons of JHBSPH told LifeSiteNews.com that “advocacy of abortion is not part of POPLINE criteria,” thus leading to the removal of two articles advocating abortion from the database earlier this week.
Parsons added that JHBSPH is continuing to investigate the exact reason for the censorship of “abortion” term searches.
Read the John Hopkins Dean’s statement:
Learn about the USAID’s opposition to abortion funding: