POPLINE kerfuffle follow-up

The good news of the day is that Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released a “Statement Regarding POPLINE Database.”

In the statement he says he was just informed this morning about the blocking of searches for abortion in POPLINE, and that he “could not disagree more strongly with this decision.”

His explanation for what happened is a bit puzzling:

USAID, which funds POPLINE, found two items in the database related to abortion that did not fit POPLINE criteria. 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.

Don’t you wonder what those items were?  (Also, how exactly the “inquiry” was made?)

Interesting.  Comments on Rachel Walden’s blog are tracking the return of records.

Wired has an article discussing the stopword decision and a bit on the Mexico City Policy as background here.  In that article, ALA president Loriene Roy states her concerns over the 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.”

I love it when my reproductive health, social justice, and librarianship worlds come together.  Librarian/Information kindred should absolutely be up in arms about the Mexico City Policy.  But I never saw any library affinity groups at any of those “pro-choice” Marches on Washington (maybe they were there, but in my pre-librarian life they were not apparent to me).  This should change.   I love that the ALA president is connecting reproductive rights and intellectual freedom.  Can we keep doing this, always, please?

Back on POPLINE in particular, hooray for everyone who wrote, called, and spread the word about this mess.  As my partner said when I told her about Dean Klag’s statement today, “Wow.  Librarians do rock.”

Now, why did this making a fuss work pretty well with POPLINE and not so well with the CHN?


Filed under censorship, government, Health, Intellectual freedom, Other blogs, The Profession

3 responses to “POPLINE kerfuffle follow-up

  1. Don’t you wonder what those items were? (Also, how exactly the “inquiry” was made?)

    I’m not sure about the second question, but there’s some info on the first in the New York Times, which reports that, “Mr. Parsons [a Johns Hopkins spokesman) said the development agency had expressed concern after finding ‘two articles about abortion advocacy’ in the database. The articles, he said, did not fit database criteria and were removed.”

    More questions, of course–why didn’t they fit the criteria? Does the database not have any articles on anti-smoking advocacy, or anti-obesity advocacy, or sexual abstinence advocacy? Most curious…

  2. Oh, and my apologies–the NY Times article is here.

  3. I had the same reaction when I heard this story: I love it when my life as a feminist and my life as a librarian collide. And yup, I’m also kind of peeved that people haven’t used this as an opportunity to talk about the overall wrongness of the USAID policy in the first place, and are framing it only as an erroneous decision made at Johns Hopkins that is being fixed.

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