Anti-Abortion Group, State Battle Over Anti-Abortion Ad
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ State officials contend they had the right to ban an anti-abortion ad from the 1987 state government telephone directory, but anti-abortionists say their right to free speech has been violated.
Florida Right to Life, which paid for the ad before it was barred, appealed Wednesday to Gov. Bob Graham and the Cabinet to reinstate the ad.
Graham and the Cabinet, however, would not take up the issue, said Jere Moore, chief Cabinet aide to the governor, and officials of the anti-abortion group said they were ready to take their case to federal court.
Ronald Thomas, director of the Department of General Services, said it would have been inappropriate to include the ad, which featured the picture of an 8-week-old fetus and advocacy text.
″Some of our people in the Division of Communications said that the ad was not the kind of ad we wanted in our directory,″ Thomas said. ″We have not allowed political, public-issue type ads.″
He said the ad was in bad taste and forced its views upon a captive audience of state workers who had to use the directory.
Attorney Kenneth Connor, however, said Florida Right to Life believed the ad was pulled at the last minute because it opposes abortion.
″It’s an indefensible position,″ he said. ″It’s a free-speech issue. We would submit that the same access ought to be secured to the National Organization for Women. This is the heavy hand of the state coming down and limiting the debate.″
Officials offered the group the chance to run the ad without the picture or the advocacy language, but the group refused, Thomas said.
By Wednesday, the presses already were rolling and 90,000 new books were expected to be ready for delivery in two weeks, said Claire Dryfuss, staff attorney for General Services.
She said the books were needed for training sessions and that delaying the printing for two weeks would have cost the state as much as $500,000.