Blatant Media Bias for Abortion

January 26, 2005 | 55 comments
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Monday I joined 200,000 people at the annual ‘March for Life’ to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. My wife wasn’t feeling well enough to go this year (she’s pregnant — with twins!) and the weather accompanying Roe’s anniversary was typically frigid and miserable (if the Supreme Court was going to make such a colossal moral error, couldn’t they have at least done so in April?), so it was just my son and me. We were excited because the Family Research Council was distributing thousands of posters with my Created Equal logo and we hoped the signs might make it into the spartan coverage the march receives from the mainstream media.

I was thrilled to have the logo well-represented because I think it’s message is more immediate and compelling than other signs. Hopeful for a little exposure in the media, I was disappointed when we reached the Supreme Court to see the only news photographers taking pictures only of the few counter-protesters bearing signs with messages supporting abortion. 20,000 pro-life marchers were in the immediate vicinity, but the photographers were photographing the 10 pro-choicers. The only pro-lifers in the view of the cameras were those few who went to stand next to the pro-choicers. Knowing that large majorities of the media support abortion, I thought cynical thoughts while watching the photographers maneuver to get good pictures of the miniscule fraction of the crowd that agreed with them.

This lead AFP story from Yahoo — the first news story I’ve seen on the march — unfortunately justifies my cynicism. The only accompanying photo is of the cluster of abortion supporters I saw, which gives the impression that equal numbers of pro-life and pro-choice marchers attended.

In the story, the term “pro-life” never appears. Pro-lifers are called “abortion opponents,” “abortion foes” and “anti-abortion.” People in support of Roe v. Wade, by contrast, are called “pro-choice,” not “abortion supporters” or even “abortion-rights activists.” One side is called by their preferred label, one is not.

The story also perpetuates the lie that “abortion opponents” and “pro-choice advocates” have, according to the article “gathered annually in Washington” to commemorate Roe v Wade.

When I went to my first march in January 2000, I made placards that spoke to pro-choicers. Because I’d seen many news stories on previous marches, I wanted the throngs of pro-choice activists to see my compelling messages. As we gathered for the march near the Washington Monument, I looked across the mall for the pro-choicers. Where were they? — the hundred thousand marchers I could see were all pro-life. The pro-choicers must not start on the mall, I thought, they must take an alternate route to the Supreme Court. When we marched to the Supreme Court and there were only a handful of pro-choice counter-protesters among the tens of thousands of pro-lifers, I decided NARAL and Planned Parenthood had had a bad year. They’ll be here next time, I thought.

Now that I’ve been to the march five of the past six years, I know better. Only pro-lifers march on the court to commemorate Roe. I thought otherwise only because the media had deceived me.

One more example of bias — you might say it’s a textbook example of textbook bias. The best-selling textbook for entry-level philosophy courses is “Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy” by Harcourt Brace. It’s an anthology of materials about philosophical questions, with glaring biases in the chapters dealing with real-world controversies, especially the chapter titled, “How Should I Feel about Abortion?” To help college students grapple with that question and think about abortion, the book’s authors offer six perspectives. FIVE of those perpectives advocate for abortion, including one written by a Catholic theologian. The only essay opposing abortion relies exclusively on religiously-based arguments and is titled “Christians and Abortion.” Too bad the authors hadn’t already introduced their impressionable readers to the rhetorical trick of “stacking the deck.”

55 Responses to Blatant Media Bias for Abortion

  1. Times and Seasons » More on Media Bias on February 9, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    [...] ias comes up regularly on Times & Seasons. It was the focus of one of Matt’s recent posts. It was part of the discussion of my post on the elections in Ir [...]

  2. Derek on January 26, 2005 at 2:06 am

    The media’s selective use of positive and negative words to support their unspoken argument is an excellent example of persuasion. It’s too bad that it’s mainly only people in public relations, the media, marketing, and sales that know this stuff. Cialdini has a great book on the subject, which ought to be required reading in high school.

  3. ed on January 26, 2005 at 2:31 am

    I agree that the AFP story you linked to is biased in the ways you mention. I hadn’t heard of AFP, but apparently it’s a French news service. The other sources I checked were much better.

    The Washington Post story seemed quite good.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32317-2005Jan24_2.html

    CNN and the BBC were also better:
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/01/24/bush.abortion.ap/index.html
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4201843.stm

  4. John Kane on January 26, 2005 at 2:35 am

    Fight the good fight, Matt.

  5. Sterling on January 26, 2005 at 6:06 am

    Twins! The principles of pro-life are clearly at work in your own family, which is a better demonstration than any march to the Supreme Court. :) Not that a march to the Supreme Court doesn’t have its place.

    But is it the media’s job to report the news as it actually is? What you imply is that it is the obligation of any entity which claims to be objective to actually be objective. I disagree; it is the obligation of the partakers of that media to judge for themselves if it is objective or not, regardless of the claims. If a person prefers a bias one way or the other, they are welcome to it.

    As for your textbook example, don’t 5 articles in favor of abortion and 1 against suggest that it’s a difficult practice to defend?

  6. lyle on January 26, 2005 at 6:47 am

    fyi, the frc link isn’t working

  7. danithew on January 26, 2005 at 7:45 am

    Nice post Matt. The world often thinks that democracy = fairness or that free speech = fairness. The difference is simply that the unfairness does follow certain rules (usually). But many of the dirty tricks and biases of the world are still perpetuated by the press and by those involved in politics. My mom used to get involved in politics in New York sometimes (opposing or supporting various issues) and she told some unusual stories of the machinations that take place.

  8. danithew on January 26, 2005 at 7:48 am

    Interesting that you use an MLK quote (I visited your website) to support a pro-life position. It seems to be suggesting that the baby/fetus in the womb is equal to a human being who has been born. Was MLK pro-life? Was this MLK’s position? I really have no idea so I thought I’d ask.

  9. Bryce I on January 26, 2005 at 8:28 am

    The AFP story is bad — no two ways about it.

    I wonder if anyone has access to a style guide for AFP? A very brief internet search yields nothing for me.

  10. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 9:19 am

    Derek, it would be wonderful if Influence were required high school reading. I’d settle for it’s inclusion in the college curriculum, maybe as a supplement to the 20 Questions philosophy text.

    Ed, thanks for finding those other links. I was happy to see that not all mainstream media were determined to skew their stories. It’s still instructive to see the press attention showered on the 10 counter demonstrators — it’s more efficient to take placards to the other side’s events.

    Thank you John.

    Sterling, yes, we’re having twins! We’re excited to have more kids, of course. And we’re helping pro-lifers out-reproduce pro-choicers to boot. Darwinism and natural selection at work before your very eyes!

    I agree that newsmaking is truly a case where “buyer beware” warnings are needed. But it’s still wrong, and inefficient, to have news groups decieve people on the facts. It’s very hard to learn what biases are at play (high information costs) when people have to compare stories with multiple sources to check for bias. College textbooks are even harder, as students are taught to trust their teachers (they pay good money to sit at their feet) and seldom realize their teachers have unstated agendas. (To directly respond to your question: even if the authors of the philosophy textbook thought all pro-life arguments are weak, they should print the best ones and let them hang by their own petard. Exclusion is no way to stage a debate.) I’m doing my part to expose the shucksters.

    Danithew, yes, I think that moral status doesn’t turn on a person’s location — whether in or out of the womb — and that we are truly created equal. I don’t believe MLK made any public statements about abortion, but several of his family members are actively involved in the pro-life movement and claim that MLK would be marching with them today were he still with us.

  11. Glen Henshaw on January 26, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Matt-

    I don’t for a minute want you to see me as defending the media’s coverage of events like this, but I would like to suggest a thought that may at least partially explain what is going on here.

    Let me give an example that may be (slightly) less controversial: global warming. Whenever global warming gets covered in the media, the story always takes an “unbiased” view on the science behind it, in that inevitably both global warming advocates and skeptics are interviewed. This is extremely frustrating to most scientists, because less than 5% of all global warming researchers are skeptics. So why do the skeptics get so much more airtime per capita? IMHO it’s because the media’s definition of “unbiased” means giving equal time to opposing views, regardless of the jutification for those views. The media isn’t responding to the number of researchers on each side or on the validity of their arguments: it is responding to what it perceives as the political backing of each side. If a major political party backs a certain view, then that view gets equal time no matter how flakey it is.

    Perhaps something similar is happening here. The media gives pro-life and pro-choice protesters equal time not because of how many are on each side, but because of how many backers each side has and how powerful those backers are.

  12. Steve Evans on January 26, 2005 at 9:43 am

    Matt, what you really need is your own blog, where you can more fully expose the blatant media bias for abortion without fear of reprisal from the left-wing conspiracy.

  13. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Glen, I think your examples explain the Washington Post’s coverage that Ed linked to. They included statements from a pro-choice group about abortion politics generally, and noted the smattering of counter-protestors at the march. That seems responsible to me, or at least it’s as good as I can hope for. I reserve my ire for the journalists who deceive their readers on the facts about the march, like who was there, and who use biased language to label the groups.

    Steve, blogs are proving very valuable at monitoring media bias and are vastly reducing information costs.

  14. Nate Oman on January 26, 2005 at 10:25 am

    The Post’s coverage of the protest this year wasn’t bad, but in the past it has been pretty blatant. I remember one year where the pro-choice demonstration (a couple of hundred people) got front page coverage and the pro-life demonstration (over 100,000 people) was treated in a seperate story on the inside of the Metro section.

  15. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 10:58 am

    Matt, I thought that “pro-lifers” were called “anti-choice,” a flagrant distortion of what pro-lifers are about.

  16. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 11:16 am

    “Anti-choice” is the label used by NARAL and Planned Parenthood on their websites and in their press releases. The press settles for more subtle language cues.

  17. Glen Henshaw on January 26, 2005 at 11:22 am

    Matt-

    I understand your frustration about the facts. One point that I didn’t strongly make is that, when discussing global warming, the media virtually never points out the disparity in the number of pro vs. anti researchers. The debate is presented as though there were equal numbers on both sides. So I think the situation may be fairly analogous. It’s a case where by trying to be *politically* unbiased, the media actually introduced blatant *factual* bias.

  18. Ana on January 26, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve been working on related questions at my job, creating the first edition of our university style guide including a chapter on “sensitivities,” so this issue is fresh in my mind.

    The AP Style Guide entry on abortion (2002 edition) reads as follows:

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

    (They actually use italics instead of quotes, but for clarity’s sake …)

    This is interesting because it’s the only case where, in my style guide, I am not deferring to self-definition. When we’re talking about race, ability, and even sexual preference, the primary rule is to ask the person you’re writing about how they would like to be referred to. Not so with abortion. It is so extremely charged that to defer to either side or even to both is to compromise neutrality. The good thing is that we are not deferring to either side. We’re not supposed to say “pro-choice” OR “pro-life.”

    In the story you cite, they haven’t even followed AP guidelines. You could point that out in a letter to the editor. It seems very reasonable to expect them at least to follow the widely accepted rules in their own industry.

  19. lyle on January 26, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Glen: I disagree. Global warming is arguably a scientific debate, with many different sides. i.e. those in the scientific community who have evidence we would be in an ice age w/o global warming. Abortion, on the other hand, is seen as a “moral” & “legal” issue…one focused on polls. In contrast, you don’t see global warming stories saying “recent polls show 51% of American believe in global warming.”

    Sum: Equal time when there are two different views only works when the reporter can not distinguish between the two; i.e. scientific debates which aren’t popularity contests. When the numbers of supporters/opponents is an issue, i.e. abortion, then coverage should mirror this…esp. when the media reports on polls showing a 50/50 split in the nation on the issue, one would think that public manifestations of support or opposition where one side is much larger than the other would be a very relevant distinction to make…instead of blur.

  20. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Ana, if the style guide insists on “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” but then grants “abortion rights” instead of “pro-choice,” that still seems like a bit of built-in academic bias. If “anti-abortion” is the preferred word for “pro-lifers,” then consistency would imply that “pro-abortion” should convey the opposing viewpoint. The style guide has not followed this course. Why not?

  21. Glen Henshaw on January 26, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Lyle-

    I don’t want to hijack this thread by debating the merits of the global warming debate; my only point is that the number of researchers on each side is repeatedly misrepresented by the media. This is a fact, and is independent of whether the reporter can distinguish between the arguments on the two sides. Of course science is not a popularity contest, but in this case the coverage makes it look as though there is no scientific consensus, when in fact there is a very strong one.

    That seems to me to be very similar to what happens in the media’s coverage of the abortion issue: a misrepresentation of the facts in order to balance the coverage politically. Note that I am certainly *not* defending the media in this practice; I think it is wrong both in the global warming case and in the abortion case. I am with Matt on this one; the facts should be presented as they are regardless of the political strength of either side.

  22. A Soft Answer on January 26, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Matt Evans recounts media bias at this Monday’s March for Life
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=1902

  23. Ana on January 26, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    John, I think the aim of the style guide is to focus in on the issue at hand. Each side has chosen for itself a very broad name. Abortion-rights activists say they are pro-choice, implying that if you’re not on their side, you must be anti-choice. Choice is so broad and such a universal value in the United States (on other issues, too, not just abortion) that it’s unfair to let one side claim it. So is life.

    Therefore it’s better simply to clarify where each side stands on the issue at hand: abortion.

    Regarding “pro-abortion” vs. “abortion rights” as descriptors for the pro-choice movement: I think the reasoning is that calling abortion-rights activists “pro-abortion” would imply that they are campaigning to encourage people to have abortions. What they are campaigning for is the right to have an abortion. There is a difference. It’s an attempt to be accurate. I think you may be correct in thinking that it’s still not quite right, because there are similar subtleties in the pro-life movement that are not recognized by this AP entry–for example, the Church’s possible exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or situations where the life or health of the mother is in grave danger.

    I’m glad I don’t write the AP Style Guide because I don’t know the solution. Language is always loaded. There are some situations where you can’t win; you can’t present a story in neutral language. I think abortion may be one of those situations. I do write the university stylebook, and you can bet I’m considering it carefully. However, we mostly have to follow AP if we want our press releases and news stories to be picked up by the mainstream media.

    The media should still strive for neutrality by at least following their own rules. And in the cited story, they haven’t. I just caught the comment about AFP being a French newswire. That explains a lot about the problems with the story. However it doesn’t excuse Yahoo. They should be checking wire stories before they run them. Disgraceful.

  24. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Ana and John,

    The AP style guide causes a lot of consternation among pro-lifers. As communications professionals know (and as the book Influence explains), it is much more effective to be known by what you are for than what you are against. Every political movement does that. I’ve been urging pro-life groups, since the media refuses to let them use the pro-life label, insist that the media call them “fetal rights advocates,” especially since some of their policies concern the moral status of the fetus but not abortion (Unborn Victims of Violence Act, inclusion in CHIP program, stem-cell research, etc.). It makes no sense to refer to advocates of these causes as “anti-abortion.”

  25. Chris Williams on January 26, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    I would also suggest that being “pro-life” should involved a lot more than being against legal abortion. Unfortunately, it seems (and I stress the word “seems”) like that’s about as far as the “life” ethic goes with many in the movement.

  26. Ana on January 26, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    Matt, I like your suggestion to use “fetal rights advocates.” I wonder what will happen if I bring it up in my style guide meeting today?

  27. Laura on January 26, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Ana says the AP Style guidelines are opposed to using both the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” That’s probably a good thing, because those terms are not mutually exclusive. A person can be (and many people are) both.

  28. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    Ana, please do raise the point that “fetal rights advocates” better captures what pro-life groups are — all of their policies are premised on unborn human beings having innate value (rights), and not about abortion. I’d love to hear what the others at your meeting think.

  29. Mark Martin on January 26, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Gosh, for years I thought “March Madness” referred to college basketball. Thanks for opening my eyes, Matt. Here’s hoping that “fetal rights advocates” will get more press coverage.

  30. Adam Greenwood on January 26, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    God bless Matt Evans and other fetal rights advocates, the new abolitionists.

  31. Ana on January 26, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    Here I am with my return and report.

    My meeting was just with two close colleagues in the Communications office. Their first reaction was, “Oh, please!” Not surprising; I know where these two women come from politically and socially. But they listened rationally to my explanation that it really is a less hyperbolic description of the cause commonly termed pro-life.

    End agreement: while it might be the better term, we are not the wheels of change here at UC Merced. Yet.

    I think if you had consensus among yourselves on this (I use “you” instead of “we” because I have not been actively involved on the issue, having been instead busy building my family with unplanned children who by the grace of God were not aborted) you might have a chance. But that’s the opinion of a lone writer in the wilds of central California.

  32. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for the update, Ana. Hopefully your seed will grow to fill the whole earth. (Good work on building a family of unplanned children. I love the idea of a family of unplanned children, your free spirited counter-cultural radicalism makes me happy!)

  33. Ana on January 26, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    Wish adopting could be really free-spirited. In our experience so far, it’s mainly a lot of work and stress, but with a lot of blessings. Kind of like any other means of building a family.

  34. Kristine on January 26, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Adam, I suspect that God will continue to bless all of us, despite our hyperbolic assessment of the virtues of our pet causes.

  35. Adam Greenwood on January 26, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    You’re probably right, Ana, that the media won’t use the term on their own. I think pro-lifers are shifting to that term. Hopefully it pays off.

  36. Matt Evans on January 26, 2005 at 8:41 pm

    Ana, I had mistaken the source of your unplanned children. Good for you! All unplanned children are beautiful. Like wild flowers and serendipitous surprises, I suppose.

  37. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    And it adds extra value to Ana’s aside that the unplanned children she has in her family by the grace of God were not aborted.

  38. Ivan Wolfe on January 26, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    I’m very glad I have a wife who was “an unplanned child that was by the grace of God not aborted.”

    Those unplanned children bring a lot of happiness to many couples (several in my home ward, though my wife’s family is from a different state).

  39. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Ana, so you’ve noted why “pro-abortion” isn’t used when “anti-abortion” is used and that this approach results from an apparent attempt at objectivity (even though, as noted above, it still seems to evidence bias in favor of the pro-choice camp since it defines pro-lifers with a negative). You said that the preferred “objective” media term for the pro-choice camp is “abortion rights activists” or something like that. Matt noted that pro-lifers could more accurately be described as “fetal rights activists” but your colleagues didn’t buy it too easily. If pro-choicers can’t be termed “pro-abortion” in the way that pro-lifers are termed “anti-abortion” in this nomenclature, then maybe we should keep “abortion rights activists” for the pro-choicers and use “right to life activists” for pro-lifers. True, this is close to Matt’s “fetal rights activists” and it follows in the same vein: describe the camp more accurately and without resorting to a negative.

    The reason I suggest “right to life” in place of “fetal rights” is because “right to life” focuses more directly on the exact issue in the same way that “abortion rights” does for the other side. On the other hand, “fetal rights” seems amorphous and I wouldn’t want to write that into an international document for the same reason that vague terms like “forced pregnancy” and “right to sexual orientation” can be troublesome in that context (“forced pregnancy” can be used as a tool against religions who preach that abortion is wrong and “right to sexual orientation” ends the debate about whether it is a choice or not; in place of these terms, more precise terms should be used to achieve the beneficial effect without providing ammunition to extreme pressure groups with a questionable agenda–from the mainstream perspective). What does “fetal rights” encompass? Something more than the right not to be killed? If it includes something more than that, then the term is too broad and vague and falls into the same category as forced pregnancy. If it does not encompass something more than the right to live, then “right to life activist” would be a better term than “fetal rights activist” because it more precisely describes what those activists are seeking.

  40. Adam Greenwood on January 26, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    ‘Fetal Rights activist’ in a newspaper is not the same as ‘fetal rights’ in an international document. In the former case, the activists themselves give content to the term by what they do and strive for. ‘Right-to-life’ activist is good, but it’s probably too positive for the media to go for it.

  41. lyle on January 26, 2005 at 9:26 pm

    more media bias, than “abortion” media bias, but one wonders how NPR justifies media neutrality when one of its radio hosts refers to the Democratic Party as “The Party.” Reminds me of those that refer to one church as “The Church.” Not very objective.

  42. Jeremiah J. on January 26, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    Matt, in my experience and in the media research I know of your point is very true (though I don’t quite understand the level of attention you give, at least on T&S, to the way abortion plays in the media, as opposed to political and activist strategies, varieties of arguments against, etc.). The pro-abortion bias is much more clearly there than left wing bias of other kinds. For this reason I’ve always thought it more useful to point to an urban bias in the media rather than a left bias.

    On “fetal rights”, though, being defined as a negative seems to be, all things being equal, worse than being defined as a positve (e.g. “Anti-Federalist” vs. “Federalist”). But in this case I don’t think that it is true. What if I came out as anti-slavery, anti-genocide. or anti-torture? The base term is so bad that being anti- only sounds awkward if you aren’t paying attention. There is much evidence that “abortion” is such a term. Abortion rights activists don’t even like to use it, opting instead for “choice”, “reproductive”, or simply “women’s” right. They know they are weak here, because in some surveys over half the public (just barely) say abortion is murder (George Will noted that in one study 53% said abortion is murder, but closer to 60% said it should be legal, leaving at least 6% or so saying that some kinds of murder should be legal). So when the media calls someone an abortion rights activist, you should give them credit at least there for using an appropriate term which is not the favorite of pro-choice people.

    Another reason “fetal rights” would not be my choice (besides the strangeness and moral blandness of the adjective ‘fetal’) is that not every opponent of abortion fixates on rights. Some anti-abortion activists oppose the killing of fetuses through other themes (e.g. duties of parents, the social repsonsiblity to welcome all life, etc.). What unifies us all is the concern for unborn life.

  43. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 9:40 pm

    What unifies us all is the concern for unborn life

    Hence my argument for “right to life activists” rather than “fetal activists” or “anti-abortion.” Although I do think you have an excellent point with the anti-slavery, anti-torture, anti-genocide comparisons. . . .

  44. Greg on January 26, 2005 at 9:52 pm

    I really don’t know much about abortion politics, but I agree with Matt to the extent that if the press is going to identify one group by their preferred strategic title (pro-choice/pro-life), they should give the same courtesy to the other side.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure that the press would be partisan in calling one side “abortion rights supporters” and the other side “abortion rights opponents” (similar to the AP’s stylebook recommendation). This seems neutral to me in that the status quo is that there is a constitutional right to abortion; one side supports this right and the other side is against it and would like to see it overturned. As far as I know, the latter group is not arguing for the courts or legislature to find or create fetal rights or a “right to life,” but rather to eliminate the right found in Roe and affirmed in Casey. What am I missing?

  45. john fowles on January 26, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    Greg, you make a good point and I think that the nomenclature you suggest (“abortion rights opponents” rather than “anti-abortion”) works better than the AP approach.

  46. Jeremiah J. on January 26, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    john: I see that you did make much the same argument I did; sorry, I was only responding to Matt’s post and hadn’t read the whole thread carefully.

    Greg: “I really don’t know much about abortion politics, but I agree with Matt to the extent that if the press is going to identify one group by their preferred strategic title (pro-choice/pro-life), they should give the same courtesy to the other side.”

    I think that we call all agree with that, but at some point it becomes absurd to call groups by their own chosen names. Like a few other media practices it rewards the most shameless propagandizers. Still this should underline how hard it is to find a good name for things in the press, since names themselves are the subject of contest and controversy in politics. The media frequently gets accused of deciding the issue prematurely by settling on a name, and indeed it seems like this happens, but one cannot avoid using names with normative implications.

    “Abortion rights opponents” isn’t a terrible term to use, if the discussion is narrowly focused on specific constitutional questions. But the movement doesn’t simply want to eliminate rights but add postive protections. If Roe vs. Wade were overturned the movement would go on from there and fight against legal abortion in the states. Beyond the political aspect, the anti-abortion movement also seeks to reduce abortions in general, not only by getting rid of the right to have one but by dirfectly helping pregnant women and by making adoption easier. So if you are talking about the movement as a whole and not merely efforts to fight against Roe, then something broader than “abortion rights opponents” is needed.

  47. Steve Evans on January 26, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    “What am I missing?”

    Greg, you are missing the point of this thread, that 45 million people have died while people use euphemisms like “pro-choice” and insulting downplays like “abortion rights opponents.” Are you really so blind as to think these terms are neutral?

  48. Jeremiah J. on January 26, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    On the issue of “textbook bias”: In my experience academic philosophy takes the question of the morality of abortion more seriously than academics in general do. Unlike the Catholic fmr. Gov. Cuomo, they don’t just treat it as a question of religious faith. A great example is Peter Singer(certainly no friend to the pro-life movement)’s entry on abortion in the Cambridge Compantion to Philosophy, where he argues that the fixation on choice by abortion rights activists is misguided since the key question is the value of the life of the fetus.

  49. Lisa on January 27, 2005 at 1:19 am

    A bunch of men talking about abortion again . . . .

  50. Matt Evans on January 27, 2005 at 8:19 am

    Lisa, please join us. Women are more pro-life than men are, and it would be wonderful to have you help us understand why that is so.

  51. Lisa on January 27, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Matt,
    well meaning as you are, I’m going to be blunt, the last thing I have energy for right now is discussing abortion with a bunch of smug well-fed Mormon men.

  52. Adam Greenwood on January 27, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Actually, I’d say that courtesy is about the last thing you have energy for. Discussing abortion appears to be second last.

  53. Ryan Bell on January 27, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    Lisa, would an 1850′s era Southern farmer be justified in rebuking some Pennsylvanians for discussing their hopes for abolition, on the grounds that they simply don’t understand?

  54. Lisa on January 28, 2005 at 10:34 am

    It’s interesting Adam, how quickly you point out my lack of diplomacy here, and yet when I was belittled and maligned on the Powerful Women thread you were entirely silent. Care to explain the discrepancy?

    Some of my favorite people in the world are smug well-fed Mormon men. My father, my brothers, I love them dearly but I think there’s something about priesthood authority combined with strong testimonies and a heavy emphasis on the ownership of truth that gives them an over inflated sense of the validity of their opinions.

    Still you do have a point. I probably saw virtue in bluntness where none existed. And perhaps I was just wrong, what I see as smugness is something else entirely or a figment of my imagination.

  55. Jonathan Stone on February 10, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    Way to go, Lisa. If you can’t summon up the energy to actually debate the ideas being discussed, at least you can dismiss them by attacking the discussion participants. And what’s better, you didn’t even need to take the time to attack the participants individually; you were able to undermine all of them at once by resorting to stereotypes and prejudicial generalizations.

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