Why Won’t They Call it ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’?

June 8, 2004 | 39 comments
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Though the act of aborting a partially-born baby is logically called ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the media refuse to use the term when describing the act. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby explains why. Yes, he thinks the fact that 97% of editors and journalists at major newsrooms identify themselves as being pro-choice is a factor.

Jacoby doesn’t address this point, but most press reports of the clash over abortion refer to one side as “abortion rights” activists or groups, and to the other as “opposed to abortion rights” or “anti-abortion.” Because the media has decided to avoid the terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ because of their ambiguity, pro-lifers would be wise to call themselves “fetal rights groups.” It’s better to be known what you are for — fetal rights — than what you are against — abortion. And in the case of ‘fetal rights’, the media would have no justification to avoid calling a fetal rights group a fetal rights group.

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39 Responses to Why Won’t They Call it ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’?

  1. Kingsley on June 8, 2004 at 10:49 am

    I doubt the name “fetal rights groups” would go over well with the establishment either. You would still have pro-choicers described in the noblest possible terms, e.g. folks who are simply for “a woman’s right to choose,” while pro-lifers are denigrated to simply being opposers of that obviously noble principle.

  2. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 10:53 am

    Perhaps if we called ourselves “animal lovers” & portrayed abortion & intact dilation/extraction (i.e. killing a viable out-of-womb capable living baby)…it would go over better?

    we could form a strategic alliance with PETA, call babies (fetus) “animals” & demand equal rights for them…since they can’t talk for themselves just like animals can’t.

  3. Jeremy on June 8, 2004 at 11:10 am

    They don’t call it that because doctor’s don’t call it that. The term was coined by conservatives for its rhetorical impact. Before “Partial-birth abortion,” some conservatives called it “brain suction abortion,” for the same reason. Just as “logical,” I suppose, but that didn’t catch on with the media either.

    Aside from the rhetorical controversy of the term “partial-birth,” it can be inaccurate as well: in some cases the procedure is used to extract a fetus that is already dead or will most certainly die in or before delivery (thus “-birth” wouldn’t work). It is sometimes used in cases where, say, the fetus’s head is three times its normal size due to water on the brain, insuring death upon separation from the placenta, and insuring damage or death to the mother in delivery. In a case like that I’d hate to be the doctor telling a patient already distraught over the loss of her baby that she was going to have a partial-birth abortion.

    I’m not trying to open up the abortion issue for debate, because my views are probably closer to those of many of you than you might think judging from this comment. I’m just suggesting that doctors are better equipped to duke it out amongst themselves over terminology than partisans and the press are.

  4. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Jeremy: If you read the article Matt links to, it explains what you explain…_AND_ the rank hypocricy & ideological self-interest by the media in only doing “so called” etc. labels on issues they don’t like. So, read the article & then try & defend the media.

  5. Ryan Bell on June 8, 2004 at 11:32 am

    Matt, I don’t follow the general principle that it’s better to be labeled by what you’re for than by what you’re against. Seems like you ought to choose whichever will afford the most rhetorical power to your cause.

    For example, if you oppose Euthanasia, wouldn’t you rather be anti-Euthanasia than pro-prolonged comatose states? The anti-Capital punishment folks certainly define themselves much more by the rhetorical evil of what they oppose than any affirmative value they may claim to support. Again, it’s a much more dramatic position to be anti-taxes than pro-destruction of social programs.

    In this sense, I’m proud to be “anti-abortion.” The label speaks to the strong opposition of something that many, many people in America take to be brutal and gruesome. Why hide behind some other, more euphemistic label?

    It’s when they start calling me “anti-choice” that things get really absurd.

  6. Kaimi on June 8, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Lyle,

    Check the NYT search page for the phrase “so-called.” You’ll see it applied to a number of different things.

    Is the liberal media opposed to exoplanets? (See http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/science/AP-World-Transit-of-Venus.html ). To targeted drugs? (See http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Brain-Cancer.html ). To the entertainers called the Wau Wau sisters? (See http://theater2.nytimes.com/2004/06/08/theater/reviews/08WAU.html ). To the Radio City gift lounge? (See http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/08/nyregion/08bold.html ).

    Those were the first four hits (that were the reporter’s term, not quoting someone else), but there are 200 uses of so-called over the past 30 days. It seems to be a general tag for use of a term that someone applies to themself or to another, but that has not properly entered the lexicon.

  7. Kingsley on June 8, 2004 at 11:41 am

    But if in the context of pro-life vs. pro-choice articles the pro-lifers are constantly labeled “so-called” while the pro-choicers are not, it would point to a certain bias in the writers.

  8. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Kaimi: again, did you read Matt’s linked article & see how it applies in _context_, not vis-a-vis the entire usage _universe_ of “so-called” in media?

  9. Matt Evans on June 8, 2004 at 11:48 am

    Hi Jeremy,

    Besides the double standards that Jacoby mentions in his article regarding ‘assault weapons’ and ‘campaign finance reform’ and ‘hate crimes’, the problem is that the media don’t generally insist on using the technical medical terms rather than common names. The press doesn’t nix references to ‘heart attack’ or ‘cancer-causing’ simply because they aren’t the technical terms used by doctors.

    And the term ‘partial-birth abortion’ is in fact *more* accurate than ‘intact dilation and extraction’. The partial-birth abortion ban applies only to acts where the baby is partly born, e.g., when part of the baby’s body leaves the birth canal prior to the abortion, but that isn’t a necessary factor for intact dilation and extraction. So in this case the technical term is broader and less precise than the common term.

    Finally, even when the baby has already died, we still refer to its leaving the birth canal as its birth. That is why we say that babies are “still born.”

  10. Jeremy on June 8, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Lyle,

    I read the article, thanks. All Jacoby does is propose a string of supposedly-analogous situations, the sheer number of which, he hopes, will preclude the effort required for individual scrutiny–and especially, specific scrutiny of the terminology ostensibly under discussion. A number of his analogies are deeply problematic, and he disingenuously leaves it up in the air: “Fair enough,” he says, use the clinical term if you’re prepared to use “clinical” terms across the board–in gun control, sexuality issues, etc. Classic bait and switch–this isn’t about abortion terminology, it’s about bias in the media. Yaaaaaaaaaawn.

    Matt,

    This isn’t about “medical terms” vs. “common names,” though that is precisely how the folks who came up with the term “partial-birth abortion” would like the argument to be percieved. There isn’t an appreciable rhetorical difference between “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest,” or “cancer-causing” and “carcinogenic.” The term “partial birth abortion” simply didn’t emerge as a “common term” in that way, it was invented for political ends, thus media are, appropriately, I think, wary of adopting it without reservation. Now, if you want to argue on that basis that the press was erroneous in, say, unproblematically adopting the term “assault rifle” rather than whatever AK-47 manufacturers or owners prefer to call them, that’s a whole other argument.

    So what is Jacoby arguing? That we SHOULDN’T use the “common” term for the procedure under question, but that the press should also apply the same terminological standards to other issues? Or that would SHOULD call it “partial-birth abortion,” on the grounds that we have sloppy, baggage-laden terms for lots of other things too?

  11. Jeremy on June 8, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    To quote myself:

    “All Jacoby does is propose a string of supposedly-analogous situations, the sheer number of which, he hopes, will preclude the effort required for individual scrutiny–and especially, specific scrutiny of the terminology ostensibly under discussion.”

    Incidentally, this is kind of what Quinn does to compare the church’s past treatment of blacks with the church’s current attitudes towards homosexuals… :)

  12. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    of course, it’s alot easier to criticize & point out the flaws in an ‘analogy,’ which by definition is that _analogous_…not _exact_.

    of course, that would require taking the argument seriously rather than leftists ignoring it when it makes them look bad & conservatives when it hits them, etc.

  13. Frank McIntyre on June 8, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    Jeremy,

    I believe the appropriate technical term for “heart attack” is myocardial infarction, although someone correct me if I’m wrong. This is perhaps relevant because the technical term is not particularly useful to the laymen. It is difficult to understand. Similarly, Dilation and Extraction is a sufficiently vague phrase that it may not be the best way to describe the procedure so that voters understand what is going on.

    I don’t know if PBA is the best phrase, but your example of a traumatized mother is not really germaine, the woman could well be traumatized by any usage that implied the baby was aborted, although the baby is clearly being aborted. Should we stop calling it abortion in public policy then? The doctor in this case probably should be sensitive to what he calls it. But the needs of a traumatized mother placed in a difficult situation are hardly analagous to public policy terminology. I might say someone “passed away” instead of that they died in order to sooth feelings. But in public policy we can probably go ahead and talk about people dying.

  14. Matt Evans on June 8, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I admit that there are exceptions to the general rule of modern rhetoric I stipulated, but it’s still the general rule that people respond better to optimistic labels than negative ones. That’s why pro-euthanasia activists called their bill the Death with Dignity Act, rather than the “End the Humiliation Act”, etc. It’s also why pro-life activists refer to themselves as pro-life activists, rather than anti-abortion activists.

    The reason I think the pro-life movement hasn’t rallied around the ‘fetal rights’ label is because they think the word ‘fetal’ is emotionally distant. Another factor is the influence the Catholic church has on the pro-life community, and they frame the issue as one of life, not of fetal rights.

    But the label ‘fetal rights’ is much more accurate than ‘anti-abortion’. We fought for the Unborn Victims of Violence bill, Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and CHIP coverage for unborn children, for example, because these issues recognize the fetus as a human being deserving of legal protection. They don’t relate to abortion per se.

  15. Scott on June 8, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    Any woman who has had a miscarriage has had a “spontaneous abortion”. That is the medical term. Early bleeding in pregenancy is often described as “threatened abortion” or “inevitable abortion”, depending on the status of the gestational sac and embryo. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the semantics.

  16. Kristine on June 8, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    The other problem with the terminology is that “Dilation and Extraction” can be performed at any point during a pregnancy, not just in the late-term abortions in question. I think that pro-life groups perfectly understand this, and want to introduce language that is vague and potentially broadly interpretable.

  17. Matt Evans on June 8, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Kristine,

    I’m not sure I understand. It is pro-choicers who inject the over-inclusive ‘intact dilation and extraction’, not pro-lifers. The pro-lifers introduced the term ‘partial-birth abortion’, a narrow term referring to a subset of D+X abortions.

  18. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    scott: can you clarify the source for those definitions & when they were used? I.e. why do we have the term “Miscarriage” if it is medically a “spontaneous abortion”?

    my point: sounds more like leftists re-defining the medical vocabulary to fit their needs…which would only reinforce Matt’s point.

  19. Scott on June 8, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    They actually mean the same thing, but abortion and its modifiers are what is used in the medical record. Perhaps “miscarriage” is used more in a lay sense to help the woman feel better. I don’t beleive that “leftists” had anything to do with it.
    Source: Stedman’s Medical Dictionary

  20. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks Scott. I’m going to check out the medical school library; find older editions, from the 50s, 60s & 70s and on and check to see how, if any, usage has changed. :)

  21. Kristine on June 8, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    Matt, pro-lifers use the overbroad medical terminology when they help write legislation (you can correct me; you’re more up on this than I am, but wasn’t a Nebraska law struck down because it could be read to prohibit D&X at any time?). Then they use the inflammatory and somewhat inaccurate non-medical terminology when trying to score public opinion points.

    However, it is certainly true that pro-choice groups use medical terminology as a way of inserting distance from the emotional content of the debate.

    Lyle, I can save you the trip to the med. school library–I once (1996 or so) wrote a paper on the ways that medical textbook rhetoric around pregnancy changed with the advent of fetal imagery technologies. If you want definitive proof or want to make word counts, you’ll have to do it yourself, because I wasn’t looking at miscarriage, but my recollection is that “spontaneous abortion” was commonly used in textbooks of the 1950s (I didn’t look earlier than that).

    I’m not sure when “miscarriage” started to be commonly used–it’s a little out of favor these days in popular texts about pregnancy, though no one has a really good alternative. “Pregnancy loss” is most common. I don’t really like “miscarriage,” since it suggests some failure on the part of the woman (I once said to my doctor, “it’s not like I *dropped* something!”), but “pregnancy loss” and other terms I’ve seen used don’t seem right either.

  22. Kaimi on June 8, 2004 at 10:55 pm

    Matt, Lyle, et al,

    For a nice counter-example, you need look no further than today’s paper. Turn to page A3 of today’s NYT. Here’s the

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/08/international/africa/08cutt.html

    Note the use of:

    “She started as an apprentice while still an adolescent by holding down girls’ legs for her mother to perform the rite, which opponents call genital mutilation.”

    “Finally, the anti-cutting advocates tried a different tack.”

    We’ve got both a refusal to adopt a loaded term (it’s given with the qualification “which opponents call”), and a labeling of a group as “anti-” — and it refers not to abortion, but to (so-called) female genital mutilation, which is a favorite liberal issue.

  23. Matt Evans on June 9, 2004 at 12:34 am

    Hi Kristine,

    The Nebraska Partial-Birth Abortion Ban was struck down by the USSC in part because it was overbroad, but this doesn’t mean the pro-lifers wanted it broad, they likely crafted the language to be as tight as possible so it would withstand challenge, it shows that opposing lawyers found five justices who agreed that if you read the statute in the least favorable way, it was possible to say that the language was overbroad. Arguing that a law is vague and overbroad is a routine charge against every law that lawyers don’t like.

    I don’t see why calling abortions performed on partly-born babies ‘partial-birth abortions’ is inflammatory or inaccurate.

    Hi Kaimi,

    I wouldn’t complain nearly as loudly were the press using an alternative label for partial-birth abortion equivalent to “genital cutting”. It’s their refusal to craft any easily understood term to replace the one they find politically charged that is wrong. And because partial-birth abortions are only a subset of intact dilation and extraction procedures, their allegedly technical term is actually less precise than the lay term. There’s no justification for using the term except to suggest that the label ‘partial-birth abortion’ is misleading. But as I wrote to Kristine, I don’t know what a more neutral term would be. Jeremy wondered about “brain suction abortion,” Ann Coulter calls them “‘fork in head’ abortions,” — but is there a more neutral term than PBA?

    Jeremy,

    The press should call it “partial-birth abortion” not because there are other sloppy labels, but because “partial-birth abortion” is the most precise name for what is being banned.

  24. VeritasLiberat on June 9, 2004 at 1:20 am

    “It is sometimes used in cases where, say, the fetus’s head is three times its normal size due to water on the brain, insuring death upon separation from the placenta, and insuring damage or death to the mother in delivery.”

    Do they really abort hydrocephalic babies? I thought they delivered them by C-section and then drained the excess cerebrospinal fluid through a shunt.

    http://www.hydroassoc.org/information/prenatal.html

    That’s what happened with my cousin, anyway, and that was more than 30 years ago (my cousin is a bit older than me, and I’m 32). She runs a tutoring business out of her home with 60-some kids.

  25. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 11:19 am

    Kristine:

    thanks for the info. I am sympathetic to your dislike of miscarriage as it _could_ infer blame on the mother. However…would you rather have an inference of _blame_ or an inference of _murder_? Try telling your faithful Catholic or Evangelical (or even right wing Mormon) that they just had an abortion & see how great you make them feel.

    So: abortion was once a medical term. It was turned into a political one. Turning it back into a legal one is the solution, i.e. _murder_.

  26. Kristine on June 9, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    lyle, that’s silly. “Abortion” means premature termination, not murder. Do you have a moral crisis every time your computer asks you whether you want to “retry” or “abort” a computer function? And, believe me, when you lose a baby, the terminology the doctor uses to describe the event is pretty low on the list of things to be upset about.

  27. Nate Oman on June 9, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Some data:

    A search of the ALLNEWS database on Westlaw of the term “partial birth abortion” produces 9231 documents.

    Searching for “partial birth abortion” in the same sentence as “so called” produces 1289 documents.

  28. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    thanks, Kristine. I’m going to make a badge with the word “silly” on it & wear it around either Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m honored.

    I didn’t know that trying to defend the soon to be born was silly. Perhaps less silly, and simply _ludicrous_, is comparing a _BABY_ a _LIFE_ with a computer program. Perhaps you have been watching too many Mattrix re-runs? :)

  29. Kristine on June 9, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    lyle, I was responding only to your unique (and therefore not very useful) definition of the word “abort.” I was not calling *you* silly. I also said nothing about your anti-abortion position per se.

  30. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Kristine: I have not used the word _abort_ here. SO…I’m somewhat at a loss as to how you could be referring to such.

    Abortion has one common meaning; or at a minimum is the common meaning used in context in this thread. In this context, I find nothing _unique_ about my statement that abortion is murder. While not agreed upon by all; ’tis certainly far from unique.

  31. Matt Evans on June 9, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Nate,

    Thanks for running that search, that’s good to know and higher than I would have expected. If you have the time, could you run the search to see how often the word ‘call’ is within a few words of PBA? That would probably catch a lot of the other qualifiers like “what opponents/critics/anti-abortion activists _call_ partiall-birth abortion.”

    And I don’t know if it’s possible to check for scare quotes, but they’re frequently used to describe “partial-birth abortion.”

    Think how cool it will be when databases like AllNews add the feature allowing you to tabulate the frequency ‘so-called’ is used by each news outlet?

  32. Nate Oman on June 9, 2004 at 2:46 pm

    Matt: An ALLNEWS search of “partial birth abortion” /5 call! produces 3450 documents. This search ought to return any document in which the phrase “partial birth abortion” occurs within five words of any permutation of the word “call” (e.g. called, calling, calls, etc.)

  33. Gary Cooper on June 9, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    Lyle,

    Might not the proper legal term for deliberate abortion be “homicide”, not “murder”? “Homicide” is a neutral legal term, meaning the taking of a human life. Given what the Lord has said through the First Presidency on this matter, we could draw the following conclusions:

    1. Some abortions are justifiable homicide, and should be recognized as such by the law. Physical threat to the mother’s life, rape, and incest of a minor child would be examples where, at least from a legal point of view, abortion should be justified. It is a homicide, but in these cases it can be justified.

    2. Other abortions would be seen as “criminal homicide”, in that a human life has been taken, but for reasons not justifiable by law. Under such a regime (and of course this is all theoretical, I’m just thinking of what a potential Pro-Life jurisprudence might look like), the legislature (state, not federal) would determine the nature of how the law would view that homicide.

    It could take the view that the homicide is murder–for example, a doctor performs a partial birth abortion on a child just two days before the due date of the child’s birth, for no other reason than that the mother has paid him to do so, and where there is no physical or other reason to have done so; an abortion of convenience on a child that, if a delivery had been performed, would have easily survived outside the womb. It could also take the view that the homicide is manslaughter–for example, a doctor performs an abortion on a woman in the first trimester of the pregnancy, for no reason other than tomake money and becasue the woman doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by an unwanted pregnancy.

    My point here is that, while I am a pro-life as any Mormon I know, I recognize that the Lord, through his prophets, has not seen fit to make a blanket appelatation of abortion as “murder”. This may be because the issue is not as clear to most concerned as if it would be if the child was already born (so it’ll be interesting to see how the Church’s postion might change as neo-natal technology develops, which already strongly indicates that human life begins somewhere in the first trimester of pregnancy, and which is now able to save prematurely born infants at earlier and earlier levels of prematurity).

    Also, I wonder if the Lord’s perspective on abortion is similar to how he viewed human sacrifice in pagan times. Clearly, there were people converted to the Gospel in both Old and New Testemant times who came from human-sacrificing (including child sacrifice) cultures. My goodness, what about the Lamanites converted in the BoM, who previously engaged in cold-blooded murder and rapine? My point, here, is that God seems to to judge the sinner based on the level of his/her level of understanding of the rightness/wrongness of the action. In today’s world, there is so much obfuscation on the subject of abortion, that I can understand why the Lord, in mercy, is willing to forgive those guilty of unwarranted abortions–he does not *now* view it as murder. But, that could change (I’ve noticed even many “pro-choicers” now openly admit the fetus is a living human being, but argue for abortion on “quality of life” issues and issues of the mother’s freedom being more valuable than the fetus’s life; plus some doctors are now urging that abortionists apply anesthesia to the fetus, for humane reasons. So, the cat may soon be out of the bag.)

    Just a helpful thought from one pro-lifer to another! :>

  34. Kristine on June 9, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Lyle, you suggested that any use of the term “abortion” is offensive to Evangelicals or Catholics (or, presumably, Mormons), even in the context of a medical record, where the accepted terminology for the demise of a pregnancy is “abortion.” You further suggested that we should just replace the term “abortion” with “murder,” which makes no sense in the context of a spontaneous abortion, which is what I thought we were talking about.

  35. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    While I still prefer murder in self-defense to talk about ‘justifiable’ homicide; perhaps this is just my aversion (when it suits me :), to legal terms for common terms.

    Ergo: I bow to Gary’s lucid goal of differentiating murder from homicide in the context of abortion [not computer program abort(s)].

  36. Kaimi on June 9, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Matt, Lyle, et al,

    I remain unconvinced that opponents of a political view should be viewed as the correct group to make new distinctions and try to create a terminology relating to a practice.

    Allowing opponents to control the lexicon (and especially to create new categories) invites problems.

    Of course, this applies across the board. The same restrictions that apply to (so-called) partial-birth abortion should apply to (so-called) assault weapons. These are etymological identical twins: Both are advanced by political opponents of a view, and purport to create a new category, not recognized by the view’s proponents.

    It would be the same if any other created a distinction and tried to get it into the lexicon. For example, an environmentalist group might argue that any oil drilling outpost of over ten acres in size must be called “land pillage.” In that instance — just as with partial-birth abortion and assault weapons — the correct approach would be not to use this term in journalism, or to qualify it (such as with so-called).

  37. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    Kristine:

    1. I suggested that telling anyone who believes that the abortion of a child is sinful that they just had a ‘spontaneous abortion’ is offensive, insultin & fraught with miscommunication. Let’s role play, shall we?

    Woman: Will the baby be ok Doctor?
    Doctor: No, I’m sorry to say that you had an abortion.
    Woman: What?
    Doctor: A miscarriage, i.e. what us high & mighty doctors call a ‘spontaneous abortion’…spontaneous because it just happened & you didn’t ask for it like the sinners who kill their own babies like animals.
    Woman: Oh, ok. Why didn’t you just say miscarriage instead of make my pulse & heart rate jump & insult my religious beliefs that I would have an abortion?
    Doctor: Well, because it is “accepted medical terminology”…

    2. If you look at the thread, the thread is about partial birth abortion or D+X abortion, whichever you prefer. As Matt pointed out, PBA is not less, but more specific. It is also better understand by the public, even if the media & leftists don’t care what the public think (cuz they want to tell them what to think). So…

    in the context of a discussion on PBA/D+E:

    assuming that replacing _Abortion_ (of a human life, which is what the thread is about) with murder (now homicide, since Gary was so eloquent) makes perfect sense. In contrast, while seemingly an innocent mistake, presuming that I was saying “murder” should replace “_spontaneous_ abortion” seems more than far fetched.

  38. lyle on June 9, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Kaimi: I agree with you 100% Allowing _opponents_ to define is not the way to go.

    However, whenever the media finds even a few folks who are going against the status quo…they privilege the _progressive_ group & then let the _new_ & _progressive_ group frame the debate.

    If folks followed your reasoning…great. Until they do; both sides have to play dirty. Unless one decides to unilaterally ‘disarm’ & ‘disengage’ from using a potentially effective rhetorical weapon? [I’ll do it…I like unilateralism :) ]

  39. Matt Evans on June 9, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Kaimi,

    I agree that the press needn’t cede control over its vocabulary to political groups. They should, however, rather than derisively preface a term with ‘so-called’, introduce a term that they believe is more neutral. It appears the NYT did that in the case of genital mutilation, which they consistently call ‘genital cutting’. They’re professional wordsmiths, after all.

    It’s important to note that the pro-lifers success on this issue has not been to invent the term ‘partial-birth abortion’. Their success has instead been to expose this heinous practice, whatever it’s name, and shine the light of truth on the extreme ugliness Roe and Doe have wrought. The name is of secondary importance, but the press should drop the dismissive qualifiers.