By: Steve Hochman (Music Columnist for the L.A. Times)

Is abortion rights too hot a topic for the record industry?

There's no doubt that the music world has moved a bit cautiously since the fall of "Cop Killer" and the rise of 'family values' rhetoric.

Take this example: Two young L.A. video directors are rolling with a record project with a solid lineup and an intriguing concept, top pop women of the '90's singing songs associated with top pop women of the '70's. Titled: CHOICE: THE FREEDOM REMIX, the album will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, with proceeds earmarked for several pro-choice organizations.

They've already recorded LA rock hotshots L7 teaming with Joan Jett on the Runaways "Cherry Bomb" and have the B-52's ready to record Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," while Debbie Harry (from Blondie) and Tina Weymouth (from Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club) are eager to pair up on Donna Summer's scorching "Love To Love You Baby."

Plus, they've go positive feedback from Melissa Etheridge, Rosanne Cash, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordan, Salt 'n Pepa, The Breeders, MC Lyte, Alison Moyet, and Sophie B. Hawkins.

They've got everything in place, everything that is, but a record company willing to release the project.

Though record labels once seemed to stand in line to put out benefit albums, especially those with liberal or humanitarian causes, there seems to be a reluctance to do so following the controversy over rap lyrics.

"One label was very close to committing and then the thing with Ice-T broke," says Julie Hermelin, who conceived the project a year ago with partner Joy Ray. "Their excuse was, 'Well we're traded on two stockmarkets.' They were afraid of their stockholders reaction to the album. But we knew it could be tough. We know that stores like K-Mart probably wouldn't carry an album like this.

The labels that have passed on this project include Warner Brothers, which released Ice T's blistering "Cop Killer," as well as fellow Time Warner divisions of Atlantic and Elektra, Sony, Geffen, Capitol and several divisions of the Polygram label group have also said no.

Executives at several of these companies confirmed that the "Cop Killer" flap and attacks on the media-elite have made many in the industry wary of topical projects.

"Two years ago it might not have been that big a deal with record companies giving an affirmative answer (to this project)," said one major label executive. "Certainly with some of the situations we've seen over the past six months, sure I can understand some labels backing off."

But one Time Warner company is readying its own pro-choice anthology, in fact, it's Sire Records, the Warner Brothers subsidiary that includes Ice-T on its roster. Sire Vice President Howie Klein is assembling newly recorded tracks for a compilation called "JUST SAY ROE," which will feature artists drawn from the Sire roster, which includes the likes of Madonna, Morrissey, and David Byrne.

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