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A Dangerous "Neutral" Stance on Abortion Speech

By Austin Rhea

The AAUP spoke out against guidance released by the University of Idaho in September that urged “faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion” to “remain neutral” in discussions surrounding abortion. Following the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer, trigger bans in Idaho and several other states immediately limited access to abortion, and the university’s insistence on so-called neutral speech reflected the translation of those bans into the academic sphere. 

The AAUP condemns this stance, noting that “neutrality” enforced by administrators infringes on academic freedom, as it effectively serves as a limitation on free expression and discussion. Insistence on neutrality prohibits the exploration of multiple viewpoints in the classroom and undercuts the AAUP’s position that “all decisions about curriculum subject matter, and methods of instruction should be made by educators who have expertise in the subject.” Faculty members, not administrators, should be the arbiters of classroom speech, the AAUP maintains, and university classrooms should be spaces for open conversation. The AAUP continues to contend that the University of Idaho’s decision on speech about abortion in reaction to the state’s post-Roe legislation directly conflicts with higher education’s commitment to academic freedom and should be rescinded.

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