by Steven Ertelt
May 24, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The ACLU has always been a strong First Amendment advocate, but the pro-abortion group is planning to toss aside the free speech rights of its board members after some of them criticized the group for supporting a Congressional abortion bill that would unfairly target pregnancy centers.
The ACLU joined leading pro-abortion organizations last month in backing a measure that would threaten to shut down pregnancy centers that abortion advocates say deceive women because they don’t do abortions.
Members of the ACLU board gave various media interviews saying they disagreed with the groups decision to support the bill and say the board should have been consulted.
Now the pro-abortion group is asking for board members to remain silent and not give public interviews about such disagreements.
An ACLU committee has proposed new standards for its board members and says they should no longer speak to the media and be mindful of the financial costs of public disagreement.
"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee proposes, according to a New York Times report.
"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the ACLU adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposal states.
The proposal also says board members may "publicly disagree with an ACLU policy position, but may not criticize the ACLU board or staff."
Some former members of the board are "shocked" by the proposal, the Times reported.
Nat Henthoff, a former ACLU board member who is pro-life and a nationally syndicated columnist, told the Times: "For the national board to consider promulgating a gag order on its members — I can’t think of anything more contrary to the reason the ACLU exists."
Wendy Kaminer, a board member who spoke against the support for the abortion bill, told the Times, that anyone who disagrees with a policy position is, in essence, criticizing the ACLU staff or board who proposed and support it.
"If you disagree with a policy position," she said, "you are implicitly criticizing the judgment of whoever adopted the position, board or staff."
"I find it quite appalling that the ACLU is actively supporting this," board member Wendy Kaminer told the New York Sun in an interview shortly after the ACLU supported the bill. "I think this is precisely the kind of legislation we should be opposing, not supporting."
"I am troubled by the assumption in the legislation that abortion services, as a matter of linguistics and a matter of law, cannot include discussing with a woman why she shouldn’t have an abortion," Kaminer said.
"I don’t believe the pro-choice movement has the copyright on the term ‘abortion services.’ That seems to me a very clear example of government being the language police," Kaminer told the Sun.
Anthony Romers, ACLU’s executive director, would not comment on the proposals to the Times, but said the group opposes some forms of free speech like hate speech.
The ACLU eventually backed off of its support for the bill. The original press release supporting it and any mention of the legislation have been removed from the group’s web site.
Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, the bill directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a rule prohibiting pregnancy centers from trying to deceive women into thinking they perform abortions.
Maloney did not provide any examples of crisis pregnancy centers falsely advertising abortions when she filed her bill and three groups that represent thousands of pregnancy centers across the country called it an "old recycled" attempt to attack pregnancy centers.
"This is nothing more than a routine attack on pregnancy centers by organizations seeking to limit their competition," Care Net president Kurt Entsminger said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.
"Our network of pregnancy centers are held to a high standard of integrity regarding truth and honesty in advertising," he added.