In a “guidance reminder” issued amid the national firestorm over state abortion laws, NPR has provided a reminder for journalists about how to report on abortion in a way that counters the pro-life stance at every rhetorical turn.
In a “Guidance Reminder: On Abortion Procedures, Terminology & Rights,” NPR Supervising Senior Editor of Standards and Practices Mark Memmott makes painfully clear on which side of the argument NPR stands. Memmott begins by warning journalists not to use the phrase “fetal heartbeat” because it can give an embryo too much developmental credit (and because it is “their term”):
One thing to keep in mind about this law and others like it: Proponents refer to it as a “fetal heartbeat” law. That is their term. It needs to be attributed to them if used and put in quotation marks if printed. We should not simply say the laws are about when a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. As we’ve reported, heartbeat activity can be detected “about six weeks into a pregnancy.” That’s at least a few weeks before an embryo is a fetus.
This terminology problem addressed, Memmott them moves on to instructing journalists not to ever use the “opponent”-preferred phrase “partial-birth abortion,” or to refer to the procedure as “rare”:
Use the term intact dilation and extraction to describe the procedure, or a procedure known medically as intact dilation and extraction; opponents call it partial-birth abortion. On the latter, it is necessary to point out that the term partial-birth is used by those opposed to the procedure; simply using the phrase so-called partial birth abortion is not sufficient without explaining who’s calling it that. Partial-birth is not a medical term and has no exact parallel in medical terminology; intact dilation and extraction is the closest description. Also, it is not correct to call these procedures RARE — it is not known how often they are performed.
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