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ISP shuts down antiabortion site

MindSpring shutters the controversial antiabortion Nuremberg Files Web site following a federal jury ruling that it threatened the lives of abortion providers.

MindSpring has shut down the controversial antiabortion Nuremberg Files Web site after a federal jury ruled that the site threatened the lives of about 200 abortion providers.

Neal Horsley, owner of the site, said MindSpring shut it down without prior notice at approximately 6:00 p.m. ET last night.

Horsley became aware of what he calls a "temporary setback" after trying to access the site late last night.

"This is business as usual," said Harry Smoak, a MindSpring spokesman. "The site was in violation of our appropriate use policy, and we have no plans to restore it."

Axing Web sites is nothing new, but remains a thorny issue in the free speech and legal communities. Last year, GeoCities shut down a Web site that rated the sex appeal of students and teachers at a Palo Alto, California, middle school.

Smoke wouldn't say exactly why The Nuremberg Files site was removed, but the company's policy states that, "Threats of bodily harm or destruction of property are always prohibited."

The site asked pro-life advocates to aid the antiabortion crusade by collecting evidence against abortion doctors, clinic owners, people who provide protection to clinics, and judges and politicians who pass or uphold pro-choice laws. The site says any such information received may be shared with pro-life organizations, as well as neighbors and colleagues of abortion providers.

Three days ago, a federal jury ruled that The Nuremberg Files site posed significant threats against abortion providers whose pictures and other personal information were posted for the world to see. Twelve abortionists and two antiabortion groups were ordered to pay $107 million in damages.

"We're not in the business of monitoring content, but we do have a staff who does nothing but answer complaints regarding our policy," Smoak said.

The Nuremberg Files is just one of many sites posted by the Christian Gallery. Horsley's assistant, Jonathan O'Toole, says he has "several offers from a variety of ISPs" and isn't worried about finding a new home for the site.

O'Toole and Horsley have plans to expand the site once it is relocated, adding a Web cam that will publicly identify women who seek abortions at selected abortion clinics around the United States, Europe, and Japan. The cities and clinics will not be identified and will periodically change.

"It was interesting that they picked this time of all the times they could have knocked us off," said O'Toole. "We think that possibly it has to do with Neal's announcement to deploy the Web cam project."

According to O'Toole, pro-life advocates known as Sidewalk Counselors will either carry the cameras outside clinics or will mount them on clinic walls.

"We're trying to expose [women seeking access to abortion clinics] not only to the Sidewalk Counselors and the people who live next door to a clinic, but to the entire world and anyone who can get on the Net," he said.

In addition to sporadic stills that will be transmitted by the new incarnation of The Nuremberg Files site, O'Toole has plans to provide live video streaming.

Planned Parenthood, one of the plaintiffs in the case that found The Nuremberg Files site guilty of inciting violence, said the project will never come to pass.

"This is obviously a threat for the safety of our patients and workers, and if this does happen, we will do everything in our power to ensure that patients and workers can enter and leave our clinics safely and securely," said Pamela Lyons, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Oregon.

She maintained that if the antiabortionists follow through with the Web cam plan, they will, once again, be breaking the law by violating patient confidentiality. "Many patients who visit clinics aren't even seeking abortions; many visit for services such as annual exams, birth control, and pregnancy tests," Lyons said.

O'Toole said he recognizes that, but says the women "deserve to be exposed."

"If you're going to a man who slaughters children for a living to get a physical, you ought to be ashamed for patronizing that man," he said.

O'Toole said he expects The Nuremberg Files site to reappear sometime this weekend or next week. The Web cam project is set to expose patients at five United States clinics within a few weeks.