As The Daily Wire reported this week, NPR has issued a “Guidance Reminder” instructing journalists on which words and phrases they should avoid, and which they should employ, when reporting on the abortion issue. NPR suggests that reporters steer clear of words like partial-birth abortion (“intact dilation and extraction” is the suggested alternative), abortion clinics (“medical or health clinic that performs abortion”), abortion doctor (it is recommended that we refer to doctors who “operate clinics where abortions are performed”), unborn baby (“fetus,” obviously), and pro-lifers (“abortion rights opponents”). Journalists are also cautioned not to use other apparently loaded phrases like “fetal heartbeat.” The point is, at every turn, to utilize language that will make abortion seem as clinical and sanitized as possible while making pro-lifers seem as crazy as possible.
While I respect NPR’s steadfast commitment to distortion and partisanship, I tend to think that these codewords only make the abortion conversation more confusing. That, of course, is precisely the goal. Pro-aborts always want to talk about abortion in a way that will not encourage anyone to actually think about abortion. As a pro-lifer myself, but more importantly as someone who values honesty and clarity, I take the opposite approach. If we are going to talk about killing babies, we should be frank and straightforward about it. Our language should highlight the essence of abortion, not distract from it.
With that in mind, I have decided to offer my own Guidance Reminder.
Here is my longstanding guidance:
(1) “Fetus” simply means “offspring” in Latin. If you are going to insist on “fetus,” you might as well insist on “akachan,” which is “child” in Japanese. In your effort to avoid using the word “baby,” you are basically still using the word “baby,” just in a different language. But even the word “baby,” or “unborn baby,” might not be the best choice. That’s why I have been advocating that we refer to the unborn as “undocumented infants.” After all, the only difference between an infant in the womb and infant outside of the womb is a birth certificate.
(2) “Intact dilation and extraction” sounds like something your dentist might do. It is probably not an appropriate term to describe a procedure where a fully developed, viable, and living infant child is pulled from the womb feet first, until just his head remains in the birth canal, and then executed via suction tube to the base of the skull. “Partial-birth abortion” doesn’t quite capture it, either. In place of both of these euphemisms, I suggest “cervical infanticide.” Partial-birth abortion is, literally, the killing of an infant as it passes through the cervix.
(3) “Reproductive rights” is a misnomer. Nobody is challenging a woman’s right to reproduce. Reproduction has nothing to do with this debate at all. Scientifically speaking, reproduction occurs at conception. I have been in the hospital for the births of three children and I don’t remember anyone shouting, “look, she’s reproducing,” as the baby emerged from the birth canal. That’s because birth and reproduction are not the same. A woman who avoids conception either through abstinence or birth control has failed to reproduce, and thus has exercised her reproductive rights. A woman who gets an abortion is killing a child that has already been produced. Thus she cannot be exercising her reproductive rights, which are now irrelevant to the question. Instead she is exercising her “parental murder rights,” which is the phrase I suggest we employ henceforth.
(4) “Abortion doctor” is a problematic term because it includes the word “doctor.” I agree with NPR that we should discard that terminology, though their recommendation for a replacement is absurd. I suggest that the term “medical mercenary” be used from now on. This makes it clear that these are professionals ostensibly in the medical field whose only job is to destroy life. By definition, doctors treat and cure. That is what they swear to do in the Hippocratic Oath. Abortionists do not treat any diseases and do not cure anyone of anything. They kill. They are paid to kill. They are mercenaries.
(5) “Planned Parenthood” is technically the name of an actual organization, so you might be able to justify using it. But it is so ironic, so divorced from what Planned Parenthood actually does on a daily basis, that it seems like we are complicit in a lie just by calling the company by its name. I think “Margaret Sanger’s Killing Field” might be an apt alternative.
(6) “Pro-choice” is a completely ridiculous phrase, as it would seem to suggest that the “pro-choice” person is somehow in favor of all choices. Being “pro-choice” is like being “pro-shooting.” Plenty of people are pro-gun, but their opinion about the wisdom of shooting a gun will depend entirely on why the gun is being shot, and in what context, and at what target. It’s the same thing with choices. Nobody thinks that all choices are good choices. Nobody thinks that we should have the right to make literally any choice we want. All of that depends on the nature of the choice, and especially on whether that choice might directly harm another human being.
So, when someone says they are “pro-choice,” they do not mean that they are pro-choice. They mean that they are pro-one-particular-choice-which-specifically-in-this-case-involves-the-direct-killing-of-an-innocent-human-being-who-also-happens-to-be-the-child-of-the-person-making-the-choice. Perhaps that is what we should call “pro-choicers” from now on. It’s a bit wordy, but at least it’s honest.