Round Two: Ombudsman Takes Another Whack at Defending NPR’s PC Language on Abortion

By Dave Andrusko

NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos

Let me begin with the conclusion of NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos who took a second run yesterday at defending his own indefensible defense of NPR’s internal style guide for all things abortion-related.

“The abortion fight is a battle of images and messaging by both sides. Americans will make their own decisions in the end. It is up to the news media to avoid manipulating Americans as they struggle to get there.”

Schumacher-Matos believes NPR’s clunker-language avoids manipulation. In fact NPR not only puts its institutional thumb on the scale, throwing off a true weighing of the abortion issue, it also uses language so awkward it practically clangs.

I wrote about his first over-the-top response last week ( What drove the Ombudsman to distraction was a September 1 story by NPR Justice Department reporter Carrie Johnson. Her story dealt with how the Obama administration has taken a “more aggressive approach against people who block access to abortion clinics, using a 1994 law to bring cases in greater numbers than its predecessor.”

It is only a slight—a very slight—exaggeration to say Schumacher-Matos went ballistic. “Abortion clinics”? No! “Abortion doctor”? Worse yet.

He revisits the hysteria yesterday in response to Erik Wemple, who blogs for the Washington Post on news media issues. Along the way Wemple comes close to mocking the Ombudsman but ends with an assessment that is sober and telling:

“There’s nothing evil about ‘abortion clinic,’ unless, of course, you believe there is. But as journalistic shorthand for a place that provides abortions as well as many other services and procedures, it works just fine. There’s a reason why the term pops up in other publications that care tremendously about the power of language: It’s simple, accurate and neutral.”

But to the Ombudsman (what? OmbudsMAN?), Wemple’s conclusion doesn’t reflect “the real world,” which is not to be confused with the Middle America environment we find at NPR. Read this:

“You can hear it best when you say ‘abortion doctor.’ Say it out loud, and tell me it doesn’t sound like a slur, conveying images of coathangars and sleaze. Having thus reduced the doctor to scum — no matter the full range of medical services he or she might provide in service to humanity, and particularly to women — it is now a lot easier attack her or him, even violently in today’s atmosphere, as has happened. The term ‘abortion clinic’ is not too different.”

Methinks the lady [or in this case, the Ombudsman)] doth protest too much. Talk about not operating in the real world.

Does he not know that it was pro-abortionists who coined “abortion doctors,” presumably to (a) insist that physicians who pollute their skills remain “doctors,” and (b) to associate abortion—the taking of life with medicine—the extinction of life—as if life and death were ethically interchangeable services.

“Slur”? “Scum”? “Coathangars and sleaze”? Talk about over-reaction. Wemple is absolutely correct, which is why Schumacher-Matos doubles down on the hysteria.    

As I pointed out last week, Schumacher-Matos knows NPR’s language is ridiculously one-sided, which is why he smuggled in references to violence to justify not only his hypersensitivity but turning pro-lifers into “abortion-rights opponents.” This time he gets off on ensoulment!

“Much of the abortion debate turns on religion and the question of whether a fetus has a soul. It is not for me — or any news reporter or editor — to proclaim an answer on so fraught a question.”

With all due respect to Schumacher-Matos, when is the last time you (or, I’ll bet, him) heard the abortion debate turn a question of the unborn child’s soul? The issue is the child’s inherent human rights, the brutalization of our culture that follows the routine slaughter of the defenseless, and whether the community for whom we claim collective responsibility includes its youngest members.

Lighten up, Mr. Schumacher-Matos, and while you’re at it, think about whether anyone not on staff at NPR or Planned Parenthood believes NPR’s language makes ANY sense.

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