welcome to america today.

POPLINE is “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database on reproductive health, containing citations with abstracts to scientific articles, reports, books, and unpublished reports in the field of population, family planning, and related health issues.”

If you do a subject keyword search in POPLINE for abortion, the result is:

No records found by latest query.

If you do a subject keyword search in POPLINE for unwanted pregnancy, the result is:

Your search found 2590 record(s).

The first three titles in the list as of right now are:

Bankole A; Sedgh G; Oye-Adeniran BA; Adewole IF; Hussain R. Abortion-seeking behaviour among Nigerian women. Journal of Biosocial Science. 2008 Mar; 40 (2) :247-268.

Jones RK; Zolna MR; Henshaw SK; Finer LB. Abortion in the United States: Incidence and access to services, 2005. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2008 Mar; 40 (1) :6-16.

Majlessi F; Forooshani AR; Shariat M. Prevalence of induced abortion and associated complications in women attending hospitals in Isfahan. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. 2008 Jan-Feb; 14 (1) :103-109.

And there are of course many more titles containing the term abortion scattered throughout.

Women’s Health News, a blog authored by medical librarian Rachel Walden, reports:

The librarian who noted the problem inquired about it, and was informed that it wasn’t a simple technical glitch; the response she received was, “We recently made all abortion terms stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now.”

I’m so appalled that I was just sputtering for about 5 minutes after reading this. When did abortion become illegal in the U.S.? Wait, when did it become “best” to obfuscate (and, for unskilled searchers, effectively remove) access to topics that actually are illegal?

Oh wait… while POPLINE is hosted and maintained by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs, it is funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). You know, the agency with this policy, where mentioning = promoting:

Under the Helms Amendment, U.S. foreign assistance is prohibited from being used to perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. “Menstrual regulation” and medical abortion [i.e. RU-486] are considered abortion and are thus activities that are prohibited from receiving USAID funding.

It seems to me that one’s opinion on the morality/ethics of induced abortion is irrelevant here. Providing access to scientific articles on a subject is not “promoting” that subject. How did we get here? I rather frown upon crack-smoking, but I don’t think we should remove access to all research on the effects of smoking crack, the incidence of crack smoking, etc. from databases. Where does that get us, exactly? Pretty much everyone agrees murder is terrible. Let’s make that a stopword in legal databases while we are at it.

ResourceShelf reports that so far POPLINE has made no official statement about this, but have said they will do so. I wait with bated breath to see how this will be explained. Anyone want to bet on whether the phrase “current political climate” will be used?

See also: LibrarianActivist

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