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Planned Parenthood ad modified in directories

By Reuven M. Lerner

The words "abortion" and "birth control" were cut without warning from a Planned Parenthood advertisement in last year's MIT telephone directories, according to Merle Kummer, associate director for operations at the Planned Parenthood office in Cambridge.

Mark Wilson, manager of the Communications Office at the MIT Department of Public Relations Services, admitted to having asked University Directories, which publishes the directories, "to remove both words" from the advertisement. He noted that the publisher "usually gets back to the advertiser." Wilson said he assumed "the company had Planned Parenthood's knowledge and consent" when the changes were made.

No one from University Directories could be reached for comment.

Kummer said she had not noticed the change when she "got the tearsheet in the middle of last year." When she went to place a similar ad this year, however, she was "told that it was MIT's policy" not to allow such wording in advertisements, and decided not to advertise at all, she said.

Wilson said the decision was not advocated by MIT, and added he "did not bring it to anyone else" before deleting the words. He said his office has "the right to review all the ad copy that is submitted for eventual publication" in the telephone directory.

The cut came after people from the Personnel Office said they felt uncomfortable about the advertisement, Wilson said. He decided that editing out the words was "a moderate way" to soften the advertisement, he added. He said that in the four years in which the telephone directories have included advertising, only one other advertisement has been changed.

John Pratt, an associate director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a member of Planned Parenthood, disapproved of the changes. He said, "In an adult community like MIT, this kind of censoring doesn't seem appropriate." He added the same advertisement appeared, uncut, in last year's Nynex yellow pages.

Kummer said she complained to University Directories about the advertisement last year, and added she did not have anyone to contact at MIT. Wilson admitted that there were "some communications problems" with the company, and that perhaps Planned Parenthood had not been told about the changes because someone "just did not communicate with them." Wilson added he did not receive any comments about the advertisement after it was changed.

Wilson added that while it might look like he is "trying to skirt the issue, people know what Planned Parenthood does." He said he "wanted to proceed carefully, because it is a very sensitive issue to everyone."

Kummer expressed outrage at the changes and said that Planned Parenthood "will not do business with someone who won't give access to women for absolutely vital services."