I am in the middle of reading Free Speech for Me-- But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, by the wonderful journalist and First Amendment champion Nat Hentoff (who happens to be a pro-life atheist as well). The book was first published two decades ago. Sadly, it remains as timely as ever.
Last week, three physicians were scheduled to give presentations at a Medical Women's International Association (MWIA) meeting in Seoul. When they arrived, they learned that their presentations had been cancelled. Why? Because the three female doctors--ob/gyns Dr. Donna Harrison and Dr. Mary Davenport, and psychiatrist Dr. Martha Shuping-- had prepared presentations on risks of abortion.
MWIA's press release emphasizes that the presentations were censored because their conclusions were politically incorrect. The title of the press release is "MWIA is proud to stand for women's rights." It "regrets" that MWIA invited presenters "who would deny women their basic right to choice." For good measure, it throws in some slander, stating that the speakers' presentations-- which were to summarize recent studies from such esteemed journals as the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, BJOG, PLoS ONE, and numerous others-- have "no scientific merit."
The real motivation is clear: these speakers were censored for daring to share data that might show that abortion has downsides for women.
What's worse, MWIA leaders actively prevented people who wanted to learn more about the topic on their own time from doing so!
With the cancellation of our talks, our host Anna Choi, head of group of 680 Korean obgyn physicians who stopped doing abortions, had decided to set up a radio and newspaper interview for us during the time that we were supposed to present.
When we got to the “radio” interview that Anna had set up, it was actually a television interview, and the newspaper reporter was there also.
They put the three of us up front like a “panel” discussion, and the reporters started asking us questions about our presentation, allowing us an opportunity to talk about what we came to present. About 20 minutes into the interview, the Secretary General of MWIA, a Canadian woman, burst into the room (I kid you not. …and all of this is on camera), and came up to the table and said “What presentation is this? Donna Harrison said “it’s not a presentation”. So she snarled “Why are you being interviewed? At that point, the answers were left to Anna, our host. Anna said that this was a requested interview by the press.
The SecGen then said “Who gave you permission to interview these people?” And the reporters said “We are the press, we don’t need anyone’s permission. We have freedom of the press” And the Sec Gen snarled at Anna and said “Did you arrange this? Did you talk to the organizing committee?” And Anna said “I am on the organizing committee. I don’t need to talk to anyone.” And the Sec Gen stood in front of the camera, and refused to move, and said “The interview is over.” Then the reporters said “You can’t do this. We have the freedom of the press. You are interfering with the freedom of the press.” But the Sec Gen would not move and said “The interview is over.”
We exited to the hall, and a Belgian and German woman were waiting. They started to make fun of the Korean translator, and to snap pictures in her face. And she said “You can’t do this. This is my country. I will call the police.” And they actually grabbed at her, and then one of the Korean reporters put a huge camera in the Belgian woman’s face and started taking photos of her. A fist fight almost ensured between the women, but another of the Koreans stepped in and kept any contact from happening. And all of this was on camera. And then our Korean hosts ushered us down the hall, and down the elevator, along with the reporters and camera crew, and we resumed the interview in the commons area downstairs by the trash cans and the bathroom. We were able to complete the entire interview, and instead of our audience being a few women doctors from the conference, we now have an audience of probably a few thousand.In a textbook example of projection, MWIA president Afua Hesse accused the three censored doctors of "politicalization." In reality, it is MWIA that is politicizing science, by placing an ideological commitment to "choice" above all else. MWIA should be ashamed of itself for abandoning basic values of open scientific inquiry.
Censorship is bad enough under normal circumstances, but MWIA's censorship of medical studies that could save lives takes it to an even more deplorable level.
Doctors Harrison, Davenport, and Shuping are true heroines. They will not be bullied into keeping quiet about threats to women's health, and they deserve our thanks. Ladies, Secular Pro-Life salutes you!