Should an anti-choice journal be indexed by Medline?

Last weekend, I had a very interesting Twitter conversation with Dr Jen Gunter, author of a well-read EBM blog about issues in ob/gyn. And I have to say I was mighty chuffed too when she asked for my opinion about this journal: Issues in Law and Medicine. After doing some investigating and digging around, it appears that one of the co-publishers is aligned with the American Right To Life organisation. Both co-publishers, the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent & Disabled (U.S.) and the Horatio R. Storer Foundation, do not have websites as far as I can tell (please inform me if you find anything). This seems iffy – what publisher doesn’t want to publicise their offerings? You have to access the journal to find contact information and access is only available if you are a member of a organisation that has a journal subscription or a subscription to a full text database that includes the journal. I looked up the journal today and discovered that the chief editor is someone with a divinity degree. The referees include people from pro-life institutions such as the Lindeboom Institute and Christian ethicists and as well as that, includes a referee who is also a author of an article in one of the latest issues. The journal states that it peer-reviewed but that doesn’t mean anything much these days. Journal article submissions seem to fall under general correspondence. Dr Jen asks: should an anti-choice journal be indexed by Medline? Everyone is biased in some degree – it is impossible not to be unbiased about everything. My first thought was that there shouldn’t be censorship. Having said that though, databases including Medline have to operate within its stated scope. If it falls with scope and the content isn’t covered well, then it should be included (this is part of the journal inclusion criteria). Libraries aim to present all views as fairly as possible. But if it is well-covered by more scholarly fair-reasoned content, poorer content should be removed. This is not the only problem with this journal though. In the latest issue, there is an article bringing up the non-issue of vaccines causign autism, resulting in a outraged PubMed Commons comment. A major part of the journal inclusion criteria is Quality of editorial work. This includes retraction where appropriate (that anti-vaxxer article is one that is up for retraction), opportunity for dissenting opinion and as part of good publisher business practice, conflict of interest disclosures and editorial independence. This journal does not publicise it’s ties with the Right to Lief organisation and only implies it’s pro-life stance (the credentials of it’s editors and referees). This isn’t the end of the matter either. As PubMed is accessible by the general public, care and consideration needs to be taken about what sort of information should be indexed. The NLM should take steps to ensure it is not used as a political tool and including anti-choice articles thinly disguised as scholarly discourse in Christian ethicsΒ  is an ethical issue in itself.

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