Ad insert in UM paper ignites campus debate Anti-abortion treatise angers some readers

February 09, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

An anti-abortion supplement in the University of Maryland student newspaper has created a small uproar on campus, infuriating some who accuse the paper of selling out to the abortion opponents' cause.

A Minnesota anti-abortion group, Human Life Alliance, paid $760 for the insert inside the Diamondback and 19,000 copies were distributed Jan. 31. But now, angry readers are distributing their disapproval in the form of pink fliers bearing the words, "Buy the Diamondback -- The Human Life Alliance did."

The insert has a close-up photo of a 16-week-old fetus on the cover, a list of counseling clinics in Maryland and the account of a woman who regretted having an abortion when she was 18. But it contained no disclaimer.

"It seemed as if they backed up the side of pro-life," said Risa Pendroff, a 22-year-old senior health education major. "They could have written, 'This does not represent the views of the Diamondback.' But they didn't. So, a lot of people probably think those are the views of the Diamondback."

But the paper's managers say they did nothing special for the Human Life Alliance.

"We showed them the same courtesies and policies that we would show any out-of-state advertiser," said Chris Stelzig, advertising manager for Maryland Media, the umbrella group that sells advertising for the Diamondback.

Barak Joseph "B. J." Sanford, editor in chief of the Diamondback, said the supplement did not represent the views of the newspaper but gave students a chance to get to know one side of the debate.

2.5 million inserts nationally

"Newspapers provide a forum for opinion," said Mr. Sanford, who has received four letters evenly divided on the supplement. "This is a legitimate opinion. If someone from pro-choice came with an insert, we'd run it, too."

Jolene Rosenthal, a spokeswoman for the St. Paul-based Human Life Alliance, said the group began targeting colleges and universities in 1992, starting with college newspapers in Minnesota before going national.

Since 1992, the alliance has printed about 2.5 million inserts and paid more then $5,000 to place them at institutions such as Marquette University, Georgia State University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she said.

"We're here to reach out to women who reach a pregnancy crisis," she said. "The college campus is a marketplace for ideas. We want to get the truth out."

But the group's message has made many angry. Another flier being passed out on campus reads, "Diamondback off my uterus!" Some students said it wasn't the opinions that bothered them, it was the confrontational tone.

'It was startling'

"I was repulsed," said Carlyn Kessler, a 22-year-old senior public relations major. "It seemed like the group took some cheap shots and took advantage of the possibility of some impressionable people around here. It was startling."

Sophomore Mike Italiano, 19, said the pictures "made me sick. I thought it was really inappropriate. No one needs that crammed down their throats."

Others said the supplement made them think about the issue.

"It was interesting," said Kesha Bailey, 18, a freshman psychology major. "I wasn't offended."

"It was good because I think life should be spared," said Hyun Yang, a 21-year-old biology major. "I think the public should be aware."

Mr. Stelzig, the advertising manager, said Maryland Media will continue to accept any advertisement "if someone wants to pay and it's not motivated by hate or shock value."

"If we did not accept it, I'd be imposing my viewpoints," Mr. Stelzig said. "That's not my place."

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