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NPR Memo Instructs Writers How to Frame Abortion Debate with Biased Language


After reading a “guidance reminder” posted last week by NPR, it’s become even more obvious why those in favor of abortion and those opposed to it are increasingly at odds with one another.

Mark Memmott, supervising senior editor of standards and practices for NPR, put together the guide after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law the most stringently pro-life legislation in the country and not long after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a bill into law barring abortion after a heartbeat is detectable, which usually occurs around six weeks into pregnancy.

The style guide makes one thing abundantly, painstakingly clear: NPR writers are to go out of their way to make sure it never, ever sounds like the collection of cells inside a mother’s womb is a human life.

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Perhaps the most absurd — and absurdly bias — rule in the NPR manual is the injunction against the word “unborn,” which journalists are to avoid like the plague, according to Memmott, because it “implies that there is a baby inside a pregnant woman.”

“They’re fetuses,” he lectured. “Incorrectly calling a fetus a ‘baby’ or ‘the unborn’ is part of the strategy used by antiabortion groups to shift language/legality/public opinion.” (Just FYI: Even the Mayo Clinic refers to fetuses who have, according to Memmott, not yet turned into humans as babies.)


The moratorium on the sinister words can only be lifted “when referring to the title of the bill.” The fact he used the word “strategy” only to refer to those opposed to abortion should be telling, as if there’s a clandestine plan by pro-lifers, but those who support abortion are just trying to protect some inalienable right.

Memmott also takes issue with “pro-life” and “pro-choice” descriptors. Instead, he said those who are opposed to abortion should be referred to as “abortion rights opponents” or people who are “anti-abortion rights.” Both of those phrases, of course, are clearly editorialized. By unnecessarily inserting the word “rights” into the descriptors, it sends the message pro-lifers are opposed to “rights.”

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By contrast, those who are in favor of abortion are to be called “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s).” The upside in those titles is obvious.

The language Memmott selected for NPR journalists reveals two things: (1) Many in the media have already chosen their side and (2) those in the pro-abortion camp have a fundamental misunderstanding of the pro-life movement. It has nothing to do with suppressing a woman’s — a mother’s — “rights.” Rather, the pro-life movement is about protecting the rights of the child who has not yet been born and is unable to defend his or her inalienable rights.

Anything else?

The NPR editor encouraged journalists not to use the phrase “abortion clinic” because the facilities “perform other procedures and not just abortions.” Memmott also took issue with the title “abortion doctor.” Instead, abortionists should be referred to people who operate clinics “where abortions are performed.”

Memmott is also not a big fan of the phrase “late-term abortion.”

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“Though we initially believed this term carried less ideological baggage when compared with partial-birth,” he explained, “it still conveys the sense that the fetus is viable when the abortion is performed.”

He said late-term abortion should be referred to only as “a procedure known medically as intact dilation and extraction.”

All of this language achieves one goal: Making the human inside a mother’s womb sound as nonhuman as possible.

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