Gov. Drives State Library to Remove Link to Planned Parenthood Teen Website

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Dominick Washington, the Media Relations manager for Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, South Dakota discusses how Gov. Mike Rounds urged the State Library board to remove a link to Planned Parenthood’s Teenwire site from its library website. [includes rush transcript]

  • Dominick Washington, Planned Parenthood’s media relations manager in Minnesota, South Dakota.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Dominick Washington. He’s a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. The Minneapolis or, rather, the Minnesota, South Dakota chapter. I met him last night at an event celebrating Planned Parenthood here at the democratic national convention. Hundreds of people gathered and he pulled me aside to talk about something alarming that had taken place in South Dakota in the last few weeks around the issue of censorship.

DOMINICK WASHINGTON: is Planned Parenthood’s teen-oriented sexual health information web site and three weeks ago, governor mike rounds, the governor of South Dakota, essentially ordered the South Dakota State Library Board to remove a link that it provided on its State Library web site. The normal procedure for whether or not a link is going to be made available on a web site is that the library board votes to approve it or disapprove it. And the library board in the past has voted unanimously to put and keep Planned Parenthood’s on its web site. But in May of 2004, Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls diocese wrote a letter urging him to remove the site from the state library board web site. The governor is acting on that request, went to the state library board. The library board voted against him. Later the afternoon of the same, the day of the same vote, he sent an aide to the Library Board and the aide then instructed the Library Board that whether or not they could either, A: continue to vote against it, or B: the governor would remove it himself. So the governor—so the Library Board, excuse me, had a second vote and this time voted to remove the website rather than engage in a political fight with the governor. Reaction across the state was unified and outraged. People could not believe that the governor would use the weight and the power of his office to essentially remove a book from the shelves of the library which is essentially what he did by ordering the link be removed from the web site.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the newspapers in South Dakota?

DOMINICK WASHINGTON: Newspapers across the state were unified in their outrage at the governor’s move. The Rapid City Journal, as a point of fact, which is one of the more conservative newspapers I would say in the country, blasted the governor for his move calling it outrageous. The point that they made was that while religion is fine to guide a politician or a public official’s decisions regarding public policy, it should not dictate it.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s on this teen website?

DOMINICK WASHINGTON: is an award-winning web site that’s visited by approximately 500,000 parents and teens each month and what’s on it is information about sexual health, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, aids, HIV, it runs the gamut of sexual health information. Planned Parenthood, of course, encourages parents to view the web site with their children. But unfortunately, the comfort level for a lot of teenagers is not there. And so offers them a way to access information about sexuality that is comfortable and it really speaks their language to them.

AMY GOODMAN: So what’s Planned Parenthood going to about this? How long has Teenwire been out?

DOMINICK WASHINGTON: Teenwire’s been around since 1999. It was made available through a generous private grant and has been a part of the state of South Dakota, a part of their State Library Web site since early last year 2003. Planned Parenthood has been on the forefront of challenging the governor’s decision and will continue to organize support for the web site, of which there is plenty in the state.

AMY GOODMAN: Has this happened in any other state?

DOMINICK WASHINGTON: To my knowledge, no. It hasn’t happened in a state where a governor has come down and used the weight and power of his office to remove Teenwire from the state web site. So this is new ground and while, you know, it’s unfortunate, it’s systematic, it’s symptomatic of a growing problem that we have across this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Dominick Washington, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood in Minnesota and South Dakota. I was speaking to him yesterday at the World Trade Center Seaport here in Boston.

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