"We had abortions" -- and outing ourselves was our choice

AOL poll misleads readers about Ms. cover story.

Published October 4, 2006 8:22PM (EDT)

Abortion isnt getting the best P.R. these days -- even, arguably, from some of its supporters; you know we're in a pickle when even pro-choice activists are accused of helping to stigmatize abortion by partnering with their opponents to prevent it. In that context comes Ms. magazine's counterpunch: the fall issue cover story, due out next week, titled "We Had Abortions." The article -- actually a reprise of an even more daring piece in its 1972 debut issue -- is accompanied by the names of only a fraction of the thousands of women who stepped up to sign Ms.'s petition.

This campaign's not the only one to take this go-public tack: There are Planned Parenthood's "I had an abortion" T-shirts," the documentary "Speak Out: I Had an Abortion," the Web site ImNotSorry.net. But right this minute, this one's getting a lot of ink, some of the high-dudgeon variety (Judie Brown of the American Life League used the word "evil"), and some simply -- but seriously -- misleading. While the text of this AP article, a cover story itself on today's AOL, makes it clear that the women who participated chose to name themselves, AOL's headline -- "Women With Abortions Named" -- makes it sound like Ms. outed them.

So, perhaps worse, does the accompanying poll question: "What do you think of Ms. magazine's naming of women who had abortions?" Well, when you put it that way! Perhaps not surprisingly, "It's a bad idea" is currently leading "It's a good idea" by a small margin. Anyone wanna head over to AOL and help fix that?

Update: Per Ms.'s request, AOL has amended the language of the poll question. What do you think of Ms. magazine's listing of women who had abortions? Doesn't sound a heckuva lot better to me, however. So your vote still counts!

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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