It's the beginning of the end of the ADA gag rule.

Portland lawyer Sandra Duffy, Oregon director for Consumers for Dental Choice, recognized that the Oregon dental board policy of enforcing the ADA gag rule on dentists criticizing mercury fillings violates the free speech rights of dentists. Accordingly, in December, she enlisted the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's champion on the First Amendment, to battle the policy.

The ACLU, through Portland lawyers Michael Simon and Julia Markley working pro bono, wrote a letter to the Attorney General of Oregon in February saying the dental board had 30 days to rescind its policy adopted back in 1990. (In that year, the Oregon dental board adopted the ADA policy aimed at gagging dentists from telling patients and the public about the health effects of mercury fillings (known, deceptively, as ,"silver" amalgam). The board maintained that policy despite the huge body of science showing the ADA to be wrong.)

The office of Attorney General Hardy Myers responded promptly, getting the matter on the Board agenda on March 8. Immediately, Mary Ann Newell organized a large number of consumers and health practitioners to attend, and Sandy put together a presentation to make to the dental board. On that date, the state's largest newspaper, the Oregonian, ran a front-page story about the dental board denying dentists their free speech rights. The board, used to having its meetings with only dental lobbyists present, was astounded to see 40 people in its tiny meeting room, told Sandy Duffy no one
could speak. She, of course, insisted that everyone have her or his say. The board, faced with an aware press, legal advice against them, and an aroused citizenry, repealed the ADA gag rule.

Since that meeting, Sandy Duffy and I have met with Jann Carson, assistant executive director of the ACLU, about pushing this issue with ACLU chapters around the nation. We commend the ACLU ,Äì remember, a champion of civil liberties for ALL of us.

The ADA gag rule is on its way to the dustbins of history. It is gone in California, after our yearlong battle out there led by Anita Tibau. It is now gone in Oregon. It failed to re-start in Florida, thanks to Julie Hilton and B.J. West. And it has no leg to stand on anywhere, any dental board who tries to enforce it is violating the First Amendment!

I urge dentists to start talking about mercury amalgam, the scientific studies, the manufacturer warnings, the Health Canada report, the fact that it's not silver, the vapors emanating continually to children's brain. We need you to advise, advocate, and advertise the truth. And now, thanks to Sandy Duffy and the ACLU, it's increasingly clear you have the United States Constitution on your side!

Charlie Brown
March 12, 2002

Oregon Recinds Gag rule On Dentists

Today the Oregon Dental Board voted unanimously to rescind a rule that has been on their books since 1990. A rule that effectively gagged dentists from discussing freely the potentially harmful effects of mercury exposure eminating from mercury-amalgam dental fillings. The issue was brought to a head by the ACLU protesting to the State Attorney General that the dental board's rule was a clear violation of a dentist's right to free speech under the US and Oregon constitutions.

The evident mood of the dental board was to get this issue off their table, and all these people with "no Hg" buttons out of their meeting room as soon as possible. What the board does next will be under close scrutiny by activists and ACLU in Oregon.

Despite the board's desire to keep it short, nearly a dozen anti-mercury activists spoke quickly, filling a half-hour of tape for the local news cameras that had gathered to cover the meeting. By the time the public speaking was over several of the dental board members were clearly slouched into their chairs, appearing more than a little red in the face, looking down and not engaging in very much eye contact.

Jeff Clark