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Antiabortion Subway Ads 'Undermine' Efforts To Find Common Ground in Abortion Debate, New York Times Columnist Writes

Antiabortion Subway Ads 'Undermine' Efforts To Find Common Ground in Abortion Debate, New York Times Columnist Writes

March 29, 2010 — In its "purported neutrality," a New York subway ad campaign directing readers to abortionchangesyou.com "undermines recent efforts by the poles of this most polarizing issue to find common ground," New York Times columnist Susan Dominus writes. The ads show young women with phrases such as, "I thought life would be the way it was before," and directs readers to the site, which features the "personal narrative of a woman troubled by her own abortion," Dominus writes.

Michaelene Fredenburg -- the founder of the site and author of the "personal narrative" -- claims the site provides a "safe place" for women "to experience their own range of emotions, apart from the controversy and debate."

According to Dominus, the "numerous grim testimonials on the site ... represent a somewhat limited range of perspectives -- from depressed to tormented by guilt."While the site does not explicitly mention an antiabortion-rights agenda, Dominus notes that clicking the "Find Help" link and using a Manhattan ZIP code led to the Web site for Project Rachel, a Catholic Church initiative to "present the truth of the impact and extensive damage abortion inflicts on the mother, father, extended family and society." Dominus writes, "So much for no judgment." She adds that Fredenburg has worked with the antiabortion-rights group Feminists for Life. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the subway ads were purchased by the Vitae Caring Foundation, a group whose Web site states that it seeks to "reduce the number of abortion by using mass media education." Fredenburg declined to identify her financial backers and said that the foundation handled the logistic of the purchase, Dominus writes.

Dominus continues, "Someone seeking a safe space truly clear of the abortion debates" should instead turn to the Doula Project -- a group that provides emotional support and information for women who continue pregnancies and those who choose abortion -- or ProLife, ProObama, which supports social programs that reduce the need for abortion.

While Fredenburg claims that she "merely intends to help women who are suffering emotionally as a result of an abortion," her creation of "a site that seems to convince women that there's only one appropriate emotional response, exquisite pain, is troubling -- especially when its founder claims to be creating a judgment-free space," Dominus writes. A campaign with the slogan "Abortion Changed Me" could be "therapeutic," but the "Abortion Changes You" tagline "sounds like propaganda masquerading as therapy," Dominus concludes (Dominus, New York Times, 3/26).