Utah's legal debate over the state's new abortion law has digressed into a "freedom of speech" squabble over the pseudonyms the ACLU chose for anonymous plaintiffs in its abortion law suit.

Somebody in state government - to date no one will admit who - is deeply outraged over the use of the pseudonyms Jane Liberty, Jane Freedom and Julie Spouse used in the suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.The unidentified official has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on his bid to get the pseudonym changed, instructing a local law firm to take the matter before a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene will hear arguments on the state's request for more neutral pseudonyms and two other issues in the abortion case during a July 11 hearing.

But the ACLU has said `no' to a name change. It filed a brief in federal court claiming that its pseudonyms are neither "impertinent" or "scandalous" as state officials claim in their motion to have the names changed.

Liberty's right to name herself is a freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, the ACLU said in its brief. The anonymous woman who chose the name Liberty eschewed a pseudonym like Doe "precisely because that name, rather than being neutral, has connotations of weakness and victimization with which she does not want to be associated," the brief said.

The choice of Jane Liberty represents to the woman "her identity, her personality, her being" the brief said.

The brief included a sworn affidavit from Jane Liberty explaining her choice of the pseudonym. "I wanted a pseudonym that would tell people how I feel - proud and strong. I do not want people to see me as a victim. I am a survivor," she said.

"I know that women plaintiffs are frequently named `Jane Doe,' or something that rhymes with `Doe.' I, however, refuse to become a `Doe.' I specifically rejected the name `Jane Doe' because `Doe' sounds either like an anonymous victim (as in `Jane Doe' in the morgue) or like a passive, flirty female (as in `doe-like.' `Doe' does not have dignity; it sounds more like a joke. It reminds me of the song in the Sound of Music that goes `Doe a deer, a female deer . . .' I do not want to be thought of as just another `female deer.' I am not some kind of dumb joke," she said in her affidavit.

"I also do not want to be known as a `Johnson' or `Smith.' Those names are a `dime-a-dozen.' I am not that kind of person, especially now that I am standing up for myself . . . I feel very strongly about being able to name myself in this case. I do not wish to offend; I only wish to stand up for my own interests, goals and desires - and for the interests, goals and desires that I believe I share with other women in the state," Liberty said.

The uproar over the pseudonyms caught the ear of the East Coast press and prompted a governor's aide to deny that Norm Bangerter is behind the state's objections to their use.

But state officials care so deeply about the pseudonym that their legal response to the abortion law suit started off with a strong objection to the Liberty pseudonym. The state's defense of the abortion law itself came later in the brief.

"They are saying any group can call itself anything - The Sierra Club, Save The Trees - every organization can call itself anything except for women," said ACLU attorney Janet Benshoof after a Thursday scheduling conference on the case.


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Motion commotion

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene will hear arguments July 11 on three motions in the suit over Utah's new abortion law:

- An ACLU motion to add new plaintiffs to its suit. The American Civil Liberties Union has already filed an amended complaint adding new plaintiffs - including Jane Freedom, Julie Spouse and the Utah chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The state opposes the addition of the new plaintiffs.

- A state motion asking the court to order the ACLU to drop the pseudonyms Liberty, Freedom and Spouse in favor of more neutral pseudonyms. The ACLU will oppose the state's request.

- An ACLU motion asking the court to certify Liberty, Freedom and Spouse as representatives of a class of Utah women in situations similar to those faced by the three anonymous plaintiffs.

The ACLU may also file a fourth motion asking the court to hold two trials on the abortion suit, one trial for each of two major issues in the suit.

During a scheduling conference Thursday, the ACLU suggested a four-day trial on whether or not the language of the new law is so vague as to be unconstitutional. The new law, enacted in January, prohibits abortion except in the case of rape, incest, when a mother's life is in "grave" danger or a fetus is "gravely" deformed.

If the judge rules against the ACLU in the first trial, the ACLU suggested a second, five-week trial on whether or not the new law violates the "right to privacy" standard outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Attorneys for the state wanted to review the ACLU's proposal. A formal motion seeking separate trials may be filed later.