By Laura Echevarria, Director of Communications and Press Secretary
Editor’s note. This appeared in the February edition of National Right to Life News, “the pro-life newspaper of record.” Be sure to share the contents of this 50-page issue with your family and friends.
The Associated Press (AP) determines the language that is used in the majority of newsrooms through its widely acclaimed stylebook. According to the AP, “The AP Stylebook is widely used as a writing and editing reference in newsrooms, classrooms and corporate offices worldwide.”
Which makes its influence so important because of its widespread use and acceptance. Regrettably, this means that the predilection of its editors to be influenced by the abortion industry means that the language over time “evolves” into language that sounds like it came straight from talking points issued by Planned Parenthood.
The AP Stylebook’s latest language deletion/addition boondoggle involves the language used in describing pregnancy help centers. The AP asserts that journalists should use one of the following “anti-abortion counseling centers; ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ that oppose abortion; anti-abortion centers.” According to The Daily Signal, which first discovered the change,
The guide describes the centers as “set up to divert or discourage women from having abortions” and warns writers against “potentially misleading terms” like “pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy counseling centers.”
“If using the term anti-abortion center, explain later that these often are known as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ (with quotation marks) and that their aim is to dissuade people from getting an abortion,” the style guide entry states.
Calling a pregnancy center an “anti-abortion counseling center” or “anti-abortion center” defines the pregnancy center in the narrowest way possible and uses loaded language that comes directly from the abortion industry.
The abortion industry has become nearly maniacal in its assertions that reporters use the “correct” language (read: the abortion industry’s preferred language).
For example, NARAL Pro-Choice America contends that heartbeat bills should not be reported without “context.” Of course, that organization’s idea of “context” is to argue that the heartbeat every expectant mother hears at the first ultrasound of her baby isn’t a heartbeat but rather “cardiac activity.”
Or this from Physicians for Reproductive Choice. Don’t use “late-term abortion” or “born alive” but rather their preferred language which is “abortion later in pregnancy” or “later abortion.” There is no recognition that a baby can be and has been born alive in an abortion. Instead, the language is muddy and mired in sanitized slogans or multi-word definitions. Language choices are mired in obfuscation, misinformation, and smokescreens that make an ugly thing like abortion not sound that bad to the average reader or viewer.
These “style guides” are published as reporting guidelines for the media on the abortion issue and internationally recognized style guides like the AP Stylebook are influenced by these language choices.
What can we do?
First, we have to be accurate. Accuracy matters. Every press release and every factsheet National Right to Life issues is checked and triple-checked for accuracy. Every scorecard letter sent to the Hill and every communication with our members is checked for precision. It is imperative that we strive to be twice as accurate as the abortion industry and that we use exact language.
Second, we have to challenge the language used by the media and the abortion industry. No woman says, “I went to the doctor today and heard the cardiac activity of my embryo.” No, she says, “I went to the doctor today and heard my baby’s heartbeat.”
A mother says this because her baby is a living human being–not a talking point and not a euphemism.
And, that little girl or little boy is one of the reasons why we do what we do.