Friday, March 14, 2008

Wisconsin college newspapers' anti-pro-life-ad, pro-hyphen

By Joe Uchill
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Three Wisconsin college papers, including the Marquette Tribune, are under attack from an anti-abortion group upset that their ad was denied. The ad is described by the La Crosse Tribune as this:

The ad, showing a college-age male and female, reads “Be good to yourself over spring break. Make smart choices the night before ... that way you won’t have any emergencies to deal with the morning after!”

It also states that “emergency contraception is a powerful, high dose of steroids that tricks a woman’s body into thinking it is pregnant” and can cause “chemical abortions and deadly blood clots.”

Please, take their word for it. My email to Pro-Life Wisconsin asking for a copy of the ad has gone unanswered.

Political ads notwithstanding, newspapers reject ads all the time. Most have distinct advertisement policies. And no one really complains when ads for Elliott Spitzer-approved escort services are banned, even though it has a profound effect on the income at a number of weeklies. (The National Organization of Women estimated that the New York Press, the lowest-level free paper in the city, made $624,000 a year off hookers). No one complains when strip club ads are forced to be tasteful, or when cheap vodka doesn’t carry the slogan “It’ll taste the same after it gets you drunk.” For better and for worse, the advertisements - as much as the content - define the publication.

And that’s why partisan advertisements nearly always should be accepted. If the media is a Petri dish of free thought, blocking an opinion is the penicillin. It’s also why this ad could be rejected on non-partisan grounds.

There are two facts in the Pro-Life Wisconsin copy. Both of them veer towards false. Emergency contraception is not an “abortion;” it prevents fertilization instead of terminating a fetus. And while it is true that emergency contraception carries a risk of blood clots, so does pregnancy – to which effect, the WHO determined that the rewards of next-day contraception outweigh the risk.

It’s hard to imagine that even the most fervent pro-life activists would argue that a publication shouldn’t have leeway to reject advertisements that are nakedly false. Especially ones attached to medical advice or inflammatory issues, and among those, especially ones attached to both. The decision should come down to what a specific audience is prepared to evaluate – both ethically and intellectually. That’s different for every newspaper. Audiences are different for every newspaper.

To find papers who will run the ad, all Pro-Life Wisconsin must do is find readers who can see through their argument without holding it against their cause.


Papers that did not run the advertisement:

Marquette University Tribune

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Racquet (who announced the ad was being reviewed for publication, and not yet rejected)

UW Stout Stoutonia

11 schools, including the UWM Post and the UW-Madison Badger Herald ran the ad.

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