by Hilary White

  NEW YORK, October 1, 2007 ( – Under heavy pressure from abortion lobbyists, Verizon Wireless, the second largest broadband provider in the US, will allow the abortion activist organization, NARAL Pro-Choice America to use its service to send text message alerts to customers. The announcement is a reversal of its earlier decision to refuse the request and follows a campaign launched by abortion lobbyists and the New York Times.

  NARAL had asked for a five-digit “short code” that would allow Verizon customers to receive news and action alerts on request. Such codes allow people interested in hearing from businesses, politicians and advocacy groups to sign up to receive text messages.

  In order to receive the text-code messages, Verizon customers would have to specifically request the service. All the other major broadband service providers in the US had already granted NARAL’s request.

  The decision to refuse the service was featured on September 27 in a front page story in the abortion-supporting New York Times. The Times quoted a spokesman for Verizon saying the decision was based on the company’s desire to maintain a neutral position on the abortion controversy. Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson told the Times, “Our internal policy is in fact neutral on the position. It is the topic itself [abortion] that has been on our list.”

  NARAL Pro-Choice America decried what it called the company’s “censorship” and called on its supporters to demand a reversal of the decision. The campaign generated more than 20,000 messages within two hours.

  In its announcement following the New York Times coverage, Verizon said Friday that the initial decision to refuse NARAL’s request was an “isolated incident” and the result of an “incorrect interpretation” of a “dusty” company policy that bars “issue-oriented” programs.

“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,” the company said in a statement.

  Nelson told the online news source ClickZ, “It’s a matter of an old chestnut of a policy not reflecting reality. We’re going to fix it going forward. We’ll correct the disconnect.”

  Presumably, the change in policy will also now allow the larger, more grassroots based pro-life and pro-family organizations to use the text messaging service to alert their supporters about crucial developments.