In the last couple of days it has come to light that the term “abortion” had been taken out of Popline, a publicly funded health database managed by John Hopkins University. Popline receives money from USAID (United Stated Agency for International Development). Representatives of the university acknowledge that the term had been programmed out of the database, but later reinstated when the dean of the Public Health School objected.

Initially the term was disabled after complains from the development agency claiming that the database contained two articles which they believed did not meet the database’s standards (they were about abortion advocacy). A Popline manager explained at information could still be retrieved through “related” terms such as “fertility control, postconception” or “pregnancy, unwanted”, what they failed to point out is that these terms do not mean the same as “abortion”, and in any case, they are restricting information to the general public.

It’s amazing to me that such draconian measures were taken to appease an over zealous political position. There is no need to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Just because certain powerful people do not like a few articles in a database, is no reason to restrict everyone else’s access to them.

Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association (ALA) best summed up the situation.

“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 ideology over science and only serve to deny researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information.”

You can read more about this case from an article form the NYT here, and Wired Magazine here.