Last week, NPR released a memo on coverage of abortion and abortion opponents that sounds like something out of a Planned Parenthood propaganda manual. But this was a style guide to shape news coverage on America’s most influential radio network.
Question: What sane editor would unveil such insider advice that’s going to enrage people? I know NPR isn’t known as friendly to traditional forms of religion, but this was asking for war.
Language in the abortion debate is huge right now, according to this New York Times piece that ran Wednesday. If you don’t think any of this has to do with religion, read the comments attached to said piece.
A quick side trip into the Times piece reveals that:
The new laws that prohibit abortion as early as the sixth week of pregnancy have been called “heartbeat” legislation by supporters, a reference to the flickering pulse that can be seen on ultrasound images of a developing embryo.
But when the American Civil Liberties Union announced a legal challenge last week to one such law in Ohio, there was no mention of the word “heartbeat” in the news release, which referred to the law instead as “a ban on almost all abortions.” In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost the governor’s race last year, called the measure in her state a “forced pregnancy bill.” A sign at a protest against the law in Atlanta this week turned the idea into a slogan: “NO FORCED BIRTHS.”
The battle over abortion has long been shaped by language. After abortion opponents coined the “pro-life” phrase in the 1960s to emphasize what they saw as the humanity of the fetus, supporters of abortion cast themselves as “pro-choice” to stress a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. In the mid-1990s, the term “partial-birth abortion,” originated by the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, helped rally public opinion against a late-term abortion procedure. Abortion rights activists countered with “Trust Women.”
I remember when newspapers began changing the nomenclature of the movement back in the 1990s when some really unfair usage crept in. Those opposed were called “anti-abortion,” those for were called “pro choice.” One side got stuck with the issues label; the other got an ideological label. Guess which was more appealing to the reader?