By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
When I began working as a secular journalist, the Associated Press stylebook became my Bible. Although the AP stylebook has many competitors, it remains enormously influential.
The AP stylebook prescribes the language that is approved for usage for news stories. I quickly learned that, in my writing, the phrase “pro-life” would be banned. It would be replaced with the biased, but politically correct, “opponents of abortion rights.”
Rather than aiding journalists in achieving balance in their news reports, such guides allow pro-abortion assumptions and psychology to worm their way into countless newspaper articles, TV stories, and online news publications.
One of the most egregious examples of this is the term “abortion foes.” The idea, I suppose, behind the phrase is to communicate that pro-life advocates oppose abortion.
But the subliminal message is not that proponents of the right to life are one side of a contentious debate over fundamental issues but somehow the “enemy.” Think about it. Other than in an abortion context, how many times do you see the word “foes” used in newswriting?
Similarly, in my journalism classes, instructors taught me to avoid, at all costs, the phrase “unborn baby” when reporting on abortion. Instead, I was to use the Latin term “fetus.” Other than an occasional “status quo,” how many times do you see Latin terminology, without explanation, used in news stories? Instead of showing a lack of bias, “fetus” serves to depersonalize and dehumanize the child in the womb.
It should come as no surprise that I would hear “fetus” jokes in the newsroom. The desensitizing language had desensitized reporters to the humanity of preborn children–and to the very idea that other reporters might think differently.
Language—fair, unbiased, and accurate– is critical in the mission to protect the vulnerable from harm. As pro-life advocates, we embrace life-affirming terminology to communicate the incontrovertible, scientific truth that life begins at fertilization and should end at natural death.
We are not “foes.” We are friends of life—of mother and unborn child. And when Roe v. Wade is overturned, the case for life will have the last word.