Verizon Refuses to Carry Pro-Choice Text Messages

Posted by CorinneRamey on Sep 27, 2007

Verizon Wireless, a phone carrier in the United States, has rejected a request from an abortion rights group to use its network for an SMS program, according to the New York Times.

According to the Times, Verizon has refused to be part of Naral Pro-Choice America’s text message program. Verizon told Naral that it “does not accept issue-oriented (abortion, war, etc.) programs — only basic, general politician-related campaigns (Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, etc.).” Other wireless carriers have agreed to join the program, Txt4Choice, which allows users to sign up for SMS messages from Naral.

The Times article gives an example SMS: “End Bush’s global gag rule against birth control for world’s poorest women! Call Congress. (202) 224-3121. Thnx! Naral Text4Choice."

The Times notes that Verizon's decision seems to be contrary to their economic interest, as they would have received payment for the SMS messages, in addition to the fee for setting up the program.

According to MobileActive sources, NARAL has been sending out pro-choice text for several months under the Text4Choice program, through a shared short code owned by Mobile Commons, NARAL's mobile vendor. The pro-choice organizations application for its own short code - the mobile equivalent of a URL - was rejected by Verizon a week ago.

The legal precedence is murky but it seems the advocacy community and Verizon may be heading for a showdown on the subject. According to legal experts, the common carrier rule that forbids telecommunications companies in the United States from interfering with voice transmissions on ordinary phone lines do not apply to text messages. However, there is little legal precendence.

Ted Miller, communications director for NARAL, noted in a call with, that 600,000 NARAL members will be called upon tomorrow to denounce this "kind of censorship Verizon is practicing." He noted that the text messaging campaigns of NARAL are strictly opt-in, that is, constituents explicitly sign up to receive relevant text communications on their phones. He said to MobileActive: "Text messaging is the way of the future for political advocacy. This kind of censorship stands in the way of engaging the next generation of voters."

However this story unfolds, it is clear that Naral and its vendor Mobile Commons were handed a major PR coup with the news and blogosphere exploding on the subject. We will keep readers informed about developments in this dispute that may end up having significant implications for mobile advocacy in the United States.

Katrin Vercas contributed to this article.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br> <b><i><blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options