Abortion debate shows how media deploys language gymnastics to serve left-wing goals

By Jarrett Stepman | The Daily Signal

“Pregnancy Kills. Abortion Saves Lives.”

That was the headline on an absurd opinion article in The New York Times, deploying Orwellian language to turn the abortion debate on pro-lifers and comfort those who support abortion on demand.

While the conversation over Alabama’s new abortion law has drawn out some wild arguments from the left, it’s easy to miss the less obvious ways the media reinforces the pro-abortion side.

The media, cleverly and often subtly, uses rhetorical adjustments to reinforce left-wing ideas under the guise of objectivity.

It’s not just on the abortion issue that the media kowtows to the left in the terminology it uses in charged public debates.

For instance, The Guardian, a British outlet, recently updated its style guide to reinforce the idea that challenging prevailing left-wing ideas about man-made climate change is fundamentally illegitimate.

Few topics, however, draw out media bias like abortion, where the concerns of pro-life Americans are left on the back page or uncovered, and a magnifying glass is put on anyone who challenges pro-abortion orthodoxy.

Ultimately, media bias regarding abortion is nothing new.

Ross Douthat, a conservative New York Times columnist, wrote in 2012:

Conservative complaints about media bias are sometimes overdrawn. But on the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant, and its blinders impenetrable. In many newsrooms and television studios across the country, Planned Parenthood is regarded as the equivalent of, well, the Komen foundation: an apolitical, high-minded and humanitarian institution whose work no rational person–and certainly no self-respecting woman–could possibly question or oppose.

This is certainly the case today.

Not only is coverage of abortion highly skewed, but it’s clear that the language used to describe it is made to soften the reality of what the practice is, while diminishing the concerns of those who believe fundamental rights are being violated.

NPR, which is of course publicly funded, recently updated its language guidelines for reporters.

Here are some of the terms now off-limits for NPR journalists: Pro-life, late-term abortion, fetal heartbeat, partial birth.

Instead they are to use terms such as “intact dilation and extraction” (to describe a partial birth abortion) and “medical or health clinics that perform abortions” (instead of simply “abortion clinics”).

The phrase “abortion doctor” also would drop off the list of acceptable phrases. Instead, NPR reporters are instructed to list the doctor’s name and write that he “operated a clinic where abortions are performed.”

If anything, the attempt to use more scientific language to describe abortions,such asintact dilation and extraction” in the place of “partial birth abortion,” at best merely confuses readers as to what actually is being performed.

This point was well made by National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis, who wrote in a thread on Twitter:

Of course, NPR has also set strict guidelines about how to treat the words “unborn” and “baby,” making sure that reporters never describe, well, unborn babies in anything other than technical language to remove thorny debates about personhood or humanity. NPR instructs its reporters:

The term “unborn” implies that there is a baby inside a pregnant woman, not a fetus. Babies are not babies until they are born. They’re fetuses. Incorrectly calling a fetus a “baby” or “the unborn” is part of the strategy used by antiabortion groups to shift language/legality/public opinion.

Media bias on this issue will become only more pronounced as the “positive good” school of thought about abortion becomes more pronounced on the left than the “safe, legal, and rare” camp.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of abortion, attempts to dance around prickly questions about life and humanity are unlikely to solve the division.

The media, as is so common today, distinctly reveals its biases and lets slip the mask of objectivity that’s becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to believe.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/James McNellis

10 thoughts on “Abortion debate shows how media deploys language gymnastics to serve left-wing goals

  1. To go along with Jim’s lesson of the day we should include, how do
    spell Journalism?? Fascist language guidelines that are propaganda
    NOT Journalism….NPR deserves NO MORE TAX MONEY and the guardian
    deserves to cover the bottom of the bird cage..with the NYTimes

  2. .The words fetus ,baby, toddler teenager, adult, describe the age of a human being, I have never heard a pregnant woman say “I am going to have a fetus”. People often ask a pregnant woman is she knows if her baby is a boy or a girl. Expectant parents are excited to hear their babies heartbeat for the first time.

  3. The Liberal Left and it’s rhetoric “Pregnancy Kills, Abortion Saves Lives.” just how stupid
    is that statement….. I thought I had heard every bit of nonsense !!

    But the more I hear about abortion from Liberals, maybe abortions a good thing ??

    As that means that only the foolish Liberals are having abortions, so that means that within
    a few generations all these liberal fools will be too old to reproduce, and that means that the
    Liberal breed will die off, hopefully ???????

    And we know Conservative women believe in ” Motherhood, Family, and Morals. So that means
    we will have generations of level headed kids.

    Hey Liberals, instead of Abortion ” Killing the unborn ” try some sort of birth control, but if that’s
    too hard, try keeping your pants up or get sterilized !!

    What a pack of Idiots.

    • You’re onto something CHenry; if liberals want to have an abortion, let them! It can be called freedom or choice! And next time I see a rapist, I’ll be sure to make sure he’s got birth control on him.

      • Your reaching quite a bit on both counts. One abortion
        is taking another life or more commonly called murder…
        Second no one said rape victims can’t and shouldn’t get abortions as it’s written in the laws on the books..

        • Many bills introduced make no exceptions for rape or incest victims. Either way, luckily all of these bills eventually get overturned. And the big debate about “life” and “murder” will probably never end. I don’t believe life begins until you are born, until you are a human being in the world. I believe in the rights and freedoms of women who are definitely alive people who should have control over their own lives bodies. I don’t believe abortion is anyone’s business but that of the pregnant woman.

          • A women does have a right to control HER body but after 22 weeks the OTHER body
            inside her is another human being that can
            survive with medical care and grow up normal so ripping a baby of 22 wks or more is MURDER…plan and simple. Abortion shouldn’t be a form of birth control of convenience which is what the left wants. Wasn’t that what the whore Fluke was screaming for free contraceptives all about?? Or now they got that they don’t like it?? Or is murder just more convenient??

          • Most bills I’ve been hearing about lately take effect at 8 weeks or even less; before most women even know they are pregnant. That’s alot different than 22 weeks.

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