Controversial anti-abortion site resurrected

A Dutch free-speech advocate is mirroring the Nuremberg Files Web site after a federal jury ruled that it threatened the lives of abortion providers.

3 min read
Despite her pro-abortion stance, a Dutch free-speech advocate is mirroring the controversial Nuremberg Files Web site after MindSpring shut it down.

Earlier this month, a jury in the U.S. District Court in Oregon found anti-abortion activists liable for inciting violence against doctors by distributing "wanted" posters on and off the Net that list physicians' names.

Yet Karin Spaink, a writer based in Amsterdam, hasn't simply resurrected the controversial site--visitors to her home page have to first read her commentary targeted at the creators of the site as well as the U.S. court system.

"While I strongly hold that every woman should have an abortion if she needs one, I do not think that other opinions about the subject should be outlawed or fined, no matter how harshly they are put," she stated on the site. "I hope that my mirroring this page teaches [the site's creators] a lesson in tolerance, too."

In a victory for Planned Parenthood, the defendants--who were members of the American Coalition of Life Activists and Advocates for Life Ministries--were ordered to pay more than $100 million in damages to abortion clinics and doctors.

The defendants maintain that paper "wanted" posters and Net sites such as the Nuremberg Files were created in case doctors one day can be put on trial for "crimes against humanity."

The Nuremberg Files' creator, Neal Horsley, was not a defendant in the case, but his site was highlighted as the prime example of anti-abortion rhetoric that allegedly incites violence against doctors and clinic workers. The site lists contact information for more than 200 doctors and workers from abortion clinics around the country and calls for the "baby butchers" to be "brought to justice." Some of the names were crossed out after doctors were murdered by abortion foes.

When the verdict was handed down, MindSpring said the site violated its "appropriate use policy" and shut it down. As of today, however, the Nuremberg Files is live again thanks to a new service provider as well as Spaink's mirror site.

A self-described "pro-abortion, pro-speech, bisexual, slightly perverted, smoking, cursing, atheist writer," Spaink admits that she and the Nuremberg publishers are "strange bedfellows." Still, her move capsulated the controversy over the Portland ruling, which pitted privacy and abortion rights supporters against their own free-speech camp.

"According the First Amendment, there is a very strong distinction between speech and deeds. Somehow it seems that on the Net, both courts and juries are far more lax in keeping up this distinction, which I think is very important to maintain," Spaink told CNET News.com today.

"The nasty bit about free speech is that it also all applies to the people you hate," she added. "While defending my own right to free speech, I sometimes need to support people I think are bastards, politically dense, conservative, or perhaps even dangerous."

U.S. activists say that like debates over hate speech, the ruling put a strain on First Amendment watchdogs.

"It's one of the most difficult cases that we've seen and there hasn't been any consensus on what the right outcome should be," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Ultimately the individuals who commit the actual acts need to be held responsible."

The rekindling of the Nuremberg Files site also proves that stifling speech on the Net is virtually impossible, Sobel added.

"It shows the futility of attempting to remove material from the Net," he said. "But the way in which [Spaink] includes her own commentary is what the Net is about. Allowing more speech is the antidote to so-called bad speech."

The creators of the Nuremberg Files welcomed Spaink's free-speech support today and seemed unruffled by their strong philosophical differences.

"I'm glad she mirrored it, and I don't think her views do us any harm because it's a vote of confidence for the First Amendment," said Jonathan O'Toole, spokesman for the Creators Rights Party, which put together the Nuremberg Files.