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Pro-Choice Group Claims Censorship

July 21, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A pro-choice group charged Thursday that two major newspapers censored advertisements the group wanted to use to promote this week’s television broadcast of its film about abortion.

The Fund for the Feminist Majority, whose film ″Abortion: For Survival″ was to air Thursday and this weekend on Turner Broadcasting’s SuperStation TBS, said The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times refused to carry the advertisement unless a picture in it was cropped.

The picture, from the opening scene of the film in which a woman undergoes an abortion, shows a woman lying on a table with legs bent and a nurse standing beside her. The woman’s torso is covered with a sheet, and her bent knees are in the foreground.

The newspapers said the picture would have to be cropped to show only the woman’s head, said Tamar Raphael, a spokeswoman for the group.

The group refused, and the ads did not run, she said.

Virginia Rodriguez, public relations director at the Post, said: ″We do try to allow the advertiser the widest possible latitude, but we do reserve the right to ask people to make certain adjustments if we feel they need to be made.″ She declined further comment.

Laura Morgan, public information supervisor for the Los Angeles Times, said the Times is a ″family newspaper″ and objected to the ad because the photo showed ″a woman with her knees apart and uncovered. We simply asked that they crop the lower portion of the ad.″

She said, ″That kind of request is not at all unusual because we sometimes ask advertisers to modify their ads somewhat. ... It’s always a question of context and we review ads one at a time.″

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, said the action amounted to censorship and ″reveals a serious double standard for women.″

″When these papers are selling commercial products - like movies, underwear or bathing suits, they have no problem showing women’s bodies in suggestive positions. Yet, in our ad when a serious public health issue is at stake, we cannot show a woman’s exposed kneecaps while she is lying on an examination table,″ Smeal said.

She said the Post told the group it wouldn’t print the ad as the group proposed because it is a family newspaper.

However, she said, the Post has run in the same section their ad was to run a picture of a woman ″practically naked in a bathing suit.″ Also, the Times printed in Thursday’s paper in the same section as the ad was to run ″a photograph of a woman in both erotic and suggestive position″ as part of a movie ad, she said.

″This silly hypocritical standard doesn’t make sense and it limits everyone’s ability to advertise serious subjects,″ she said.

The two newspapers were the only two daily papers the group sought to run their ad, Raphael said.

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