South Dakota Library Removing Abortion Link Causes Controversy

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 22, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Library Removing Abortion Link Causes Controversy

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
July 22, 2004

Pierre, SD ( — The American Civil Liberties Union may challenge South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds’ effort to remove a Planned Parenthood link from a state website catering to teenagers.

"We are investigating what appears on the surface to be a case of censorship," Jennifer Ring, director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, told the Associated Press. "The government has opened a public forum by including links to websites. When government opens a forum, it can regulate it in terms of time, place and manner, but not in terms of content."

A spokesman for the Governor, Dale Bertsch, said the Governor’s office does not consider removing the teen section of the state library’s website an act of censorship.

"We’re not infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights to free speech," Bertsch told AP. "The state has ownership of that Web site. Nobody has an inherent right to have the content of their website linked from the state site."

The Governor called for a review of state government Internet sites after he urged the State Library Board to close down the teen section of the library’s web page.

Rounds learned about the Planned Parenthood link after receiving a letter from the Rev. Robert Carlson, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion operation.

The Governor also objected to a link to the Go Ask Alice! site from Columbia University’s Health Education Program. The site contains sexually explicit material that Rounds said would be inappropriate for young readers.

The Associated Press recently surveyed teenagers about the Governor’s decision to review state websites for links to sites with sexual content. While some teens complained that the removal of the section was a step backward, others, such as 15-year-old Carolyn Miller of Sioux Falls, applauded the move.

"I am very pro-life. I was brought up that way. I agree with what Gov. Rounds is doing to look at all the links as well as Planned Parenthood," Miller told the AP.

The ACLU’s threat to challenge the Governor’s decision does not surprise pro-life advocates, given the organization’s history of supporting abortion on demand during all nine months of pregnancy.

On its website, the organization notes, "The ACLU was the first national organization to argue for abortion rights before the Supreme Court, and has been the principal defender of those rights since 1973, when the Court recognized the right to choose in Roe v. Wade."