Language Police

ve8QAd   |   April 09, 2010

A rose by any other name is still a rose, but some organizations are determined to make the pro-life movement appear less than beautiful.

In a war of words, National Public Radio’s managing editor, David Sweeney, recently issued an internal memo, instructing reporters to stop saying “pro-life” and instead use the phrase “abortion rights opponents.” And while staffers aren’t permitted to say abortion supporters are “pro-abortion,” they are free to call those of us in the pro-life community “anti-abortion.” It’s no small change. NPR is bent on framing the murder of the unborn in a friendlier light while casting a negative spin on the pro-life cause.

They are not alone. The Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, CNN, CBS, and NBC have all adopted similar terminology. “What does pro-life mean? That leaves people scratching their heads,” CBS Senior VP Linda Mason reportedly told NPR.

Perhaps the problem isn’t that the words are confusing (most understand the meaning of pro-life), but too upsetting. Pro-abortion people don’t like the idea of being identified with a movement that supports the intentional killing of innocent preborn children. So under the guise of neutrality and shielded by the company of other major news organizations, editors recast the debate from life and death to an issue of rights.

“This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible,” Sweeney’s memo said. But if abortion is going to be a rights issue, then why not portray pro-lifers – quite accurately – as fetal rights advocates? Perhaps that’s too clear.

The language police are at work in the medical community, too. Just days after NPR’s memo, Canadian Medical Association Journal editors urged doctors to ditch the word euthanasia and “stop using such value-laden terms as starve and kill.” (Remember Terri Schiavo?) Instead, they suggested, physicians should simply describe in neutral language what they intend to do and the possible impacts of that action – like starve and kill their patients?

These organizations are engaging in what George Orwell called wordplay “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” but they’re not fooling us anymore. Sugar might make the poison taste better, but it’s still poison.

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