Facebook Takes Down Abortion Information...Then Says It Was A Mistake

For those of you not familiar Women on Waves, it's an international organization based in the Netherlands that helps women in countries where abortion is criminalized. They literally have a ship and dock in countries like Chile where women get

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For those of you not familiar Women on Waves, it's an international organization based in the Netherlands that helps women in countries where abortion is criminalized. They literally have a ship and dock in countries like Chile where women get unsafe abortions and die on a regular basis.

I first interviewed them about a story I was working on last year. They said they have tons of calls from the U.S. for help - notably many from servicewomen serving overseas who cannot access abortion services at military hospitals. And not at all if they're serving in a country where it's illegal. Yes, under the law we will let women take a bullet - arm them - but won't allow them to control their own reproduction while overseas ... even if they're raped.

The other issue I learned from talking to these women's health advocates is that when you Google "RU486" or "abortion pill" you will not get the actual medication. You will pay for fake pills. Sometimes more than $80 or more for pills that are not as advertized. Women on Waves counters this by providing the real information on how to safely end a pregnancy with medication that is widely available for other medical reasons. This is the image (posted above) that was taken down by Facebook.

Women on Waves sent out a press release:

Date: 30-12-2011
For Immediate release:
Facebook censors safe abortion information

Today, Facebook removed the profile picture of Rebecca Gomperts, which was text with information about how women can do abortions safely by themselves. Dr Gomperts is a well-known abortion rights activist and the Director of Women on Waves. Women on Waves is a charitable organization focused on women?s health and human rights. Its mission is to protect maternal health by preventing unsafe abortions. Women on Waves sails a ship to countries where abortion is illegal. On board the ship the medical staff provides sexual education and healthcare services. With the ship, early medical abortions (up to 6 1/2 weeks of pregnancy) can be provided safely, professionally and legally. Applicability of national penal legislation, and thus also of abortion law, extends only to territorial waters; outside that 12-mile radius it is thus Dutch law that applies on board a ship under the Dutch flag, which means that all our activities are legal. Women on Waves? efforts serve to draw much-needed public attention to the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe, illegal abortion. To date, the ship has sailed to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Women on Waves also supported the launch of safe abortion hotlines in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. (for more information see www.womenonwaves.org). In 2005 it founded Women on Web, a telemedicine abortion service that provides medical abortions to women in countries where there is no access to safe abortion (www.womenonweb.org)

By removing the profile picture, Facebook is in gross violation of Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human rights. Facebook has a social responsibility to guarantee human rights Dr. Gomperts reposted the screenshot of the Facebook censorship message with the picture. She calls upon all Facebook users that support abortion rights to repost the message on their page.

We contacted Facebook for a response. Andrew Noyes Manager, Public Policy Communications at Facebook got back to us: "You can note that, according to a spokesman, Facebook reached out to Dr. Gomperts to explain that the photo that was removed from the profile was not in violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and appears to have been removed in error. We apologize for the removal of this content and the subsequent warning that Dr. Gomperts received."

I emailed with Dr. Gomperts Monday morning. I asked her if the page was back up. She responded, "Yes, after being blocked for two days, I could access my account again today and i received a email from Facebook with their apologies but I believe this is because of the inquiry of journalists and reposting of the image by others during the past days. Thank you very much for your inquiry."

In either case - the press release worked.

About Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy's picture
I write for Fast Company, The Atlantic, Mother Jones and LA Weekly among many (many) others. My weekly column is syndicated in these things called "newspapers," which are analog blogs 80-year-olds seem to enjoy.

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