April 4, 2008

Access to Abortion Search to be Restored in POPLINE; Johns Hopkins Releases Statement

Following Wednesday’s revelation that the USAID-funded POPLINE reproductive health database had deliberately blocked users from performing a simple search on “abortion” because, “As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now,” medical librarians, feminists, public health professionals and others responded with outraged blog posts and calls and letters to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where the database is managed.

Today, Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH (Dean of the School at Hopkins) has released a statement detailing the events and indicating that the ability to search the database for “abortion” will be restored.

Dr. Klag notes:

I was informed this morning that the word “abortion” was blocked as a search term in the POPLINE family planning database administered by the Bloomberg School’s Center for Communication Programs. POPLINE provides evidence-based information on reproductive health and family planning and is the world’s largest database on these issues.

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.

I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have ordered 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.

Thank you to everyone who worked to call attention to this issue.

Cross-posted at Women’s Health News


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