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When the “mainstream media” stumbles and concedes life does begin at conception

by | Sep 15, 2021

By Laura Echevarria, NRL Director of Communications and Press Secretary

With a few exceptions, the mainstream media tends to follow the “rules” laid out for them by pro-abortion groups. NARAL, for example, routinely provides media “guides” to reporters. NARAL outlines how journalists should cover the abortion issue—stipulating everything from what kind of stories reporters should cover to the approved terminology (by them) they should use. 

But, not surprisingly, when publications and journalists dutifully abide by the rules pro-abortion groups lay out for what to say and what not to say, it can cause coverage in other areas to jump out as out of sync with the accepted narrative.

Case in point, on September 8th, the New York Times ran an article called, “From Cradle to Grave, Democrats Move to Expand Social Safety Net.” The subheading of the article read, “The $3.5 trillion social policy bill that lawmakers begin drafting this week would touch virtually every American, at every point in life, from conception to old age.” [emphasis mine]

But it’s not just the headline editor who wrote this. The article includes the following language  [italics are mine]:

When congressional committees meet this week to begin formally drafting Democrats’ ambitious social policy plan, they will be undertaking the most significant expansion of the nation’s safety net since the war on poverty in the 1960s, devising legislation that would touch virtually every American’s life, from conception to aged infirmity

And this sentence farther down:

To grasp the intended measure’s scope, consider a life, from conception to death

What’s so scary about saying that life begins at conception in stories about abortion? It’s because groups such as NARAL, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood demand journalists follow their lead. This is why the language that crept into this New York Times story was so surprising.

Let’s put this in the context of the AP Stylebook, the style guide used by nearly all major media outlets. It provides guidelines on standard punctuation and mechanics and also instructs journalists on terminology. For example, in 2004, the AP Stylebook provided the following guidance on the use of abortion:

Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions; use a term such as abortion doctor or abortion practitioner

In 2021, the AP Stylebook provides similar advice:

Use the modifiers anti-abortion or abortion rights; don’t use pro-life, pro-choice or pro-abortion unless they are in quotes or proper names. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.

But the recommendation regarding the use of terms such as embryo, fetus, unborn baby, or unborn child is very telling. The AP Stylebook walks journalists through the landmines of using such terms, admitting that context is everything. (This is a long excerpt but very much worth reading. 

While the terms are essentially interchangeable in many common uses, each has become politicized by the abortion debate even in uses not involving abortion. Anti-abortion advocates say fetus devalues human life; abortion rights supporters argue unborn child or baby equates termination of pregnancy with murder by emphasizing the fetus’ humanity.

Write clearly and sensitively, using any of the terms when appropriate.

Fetus, which refers to the stage of human development from the eighth week of pregnancy to birth, is preferred in many cases, including almost all scientific and medical uses: The virus can be disastrous to a fetus. The lawsuit alleges harm to a fetus that prosecutors claim was viable. The research was conducted on fetal tissue.

In scientific uses referring to the first seven weeks of human development after conception, use embryo.

The context or tone of the story can allow for unborn baby or child in cases where fetus could seem clinical or cold: Weiss said her love for her unborn baby was the strongest feeling she had ever felt. The expectant mother lost her baby in the seventh month of pregnancy.

NARAL’s most recent media guide, issued in 2020, comments on the impact journalists have on the abortion issue: “Journalists and media outlets play a critical role in shaping the debate around abortion.” 

And it’s true, they do play a critical role. This is why pro-abortion groups insist on having the edge in how stories are covered. 

International Planned Parenthood issued its own media guide with a list of terms to use and not to use with a (so-called) justification for each term. For example, they argue that using terms such as female feticide, gendercide, and abort disabled children should not be used.

Why? Because, “The suffix ‘-cide’ denotes ‘murder’ which is not appropriate when describing abortion; murder is only committed against people. And both the right to life and discrimination on grounds of sex or disability apply only after birth.” 

It’s dizzying to contemplate the mental gymnastics required to think in this convoluted manner.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence these pro-abortion groups have in the media. As we have covered in stories in National Right to Life News Today, more than ever, most journalists today live and work in liberal, pro-abortion enclaves, meaning that they don’t meet pro-lifers unless working on a story. 

Reporters are so insulated from pro-life people they write about it’s always astonishing to see a major news outlet print a story that uses terminology the way it should be used. 

And the fact that it caught the attention of pro-lifers also tells you how rare such honesty is. 

Categories: Media Bias
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