BALTIMORE – A prominent public health school has restored the word "abortion" as an acceptable search term on a reproductive health Web site funded by a federal agency that restricts references to abortions.
The move by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health follows criticism from some health advocates and librarians that the restriction amounted to censorship.
The restriction on the POPLINE Web site — "population information online" — had been put in place after inquiries by the United States Agency for International Development, which funds the site, according to a statement from Dr. Michael J. Klag, the dean of the Bloomberg school.
USAID denies funding to non-governmental organizations that perform or actively promote abortion as a methods of family planning in other nations. The policy was started under President Ronald Reagan and was revived when President Bush took office in 2001.
"I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the POPLINE administrators restore 'abortion' as a search term immediately," Klag said in a statement. "The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and not its restriction."
USAID officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Saturday.
POPLINE is a free database containing citations and abstracts of scientific articles, reports and books about population, family planning and related health issues. It contains nearly 360,000 records.
Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association, applauded Klag's action, saying the restriction denied "researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information."
Wayne Shields, president and CEO of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, said in a statement that restricting access to the information could possibly jeopardize patient care, because it prevented doctors and women from linking to scientific literature on the topic.
"Removing abortion as a search term on a publicly funded reproductive health database is clearly a decision driven by ideology — and not based on the medical or scientific needs of the reproductive health professional community the database exists to serve," Shields said.
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