Language and Abortion
On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit heard oral argument in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA. You can read a transcript of the two-hour session here. I plan to write more about this case in due course. But here, I will opine on the press coverage of this dispute, and more broadly about abortion and language.
Shortly after the proceeding wrapped, the New York Times published a story titled Appeals Court Seems Skeptical of F.D.A.’s Approval and Regulation of Abortion Pill. As I was reading it through on my phone, one passage jumped out at me:
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Erin Hawley, claimed that ending a pregnancy with medication — she used the anti-abortion term “chemical abortion” — is extremely unsafe.
At the time, I made a mental note, and planned to blog about it later. By Wednesday evening, I went back to the article on my desktop, and that passage was gone. (For those curious, I created a PDF of the original). Substantial changes were made to the article. Some bits were added, others subtracted. These sorts of changes are common enough when an article goes to print, so I don’t think there was any deliberate effort to remove this passage in particular. Indeed, the usage in the Times was not at all atypical.
The choice of language is powerful–especially with regard to contentious social issues. And consistently, the political left gets to define what words are acceptable. “Marriage equality” sounds so much better than “same-sex marriage.” “Gender affirming care” sounds so much better than “sex change surgery.” “Diversity, equity, and inclusion” sounds so much better than “racial preferences.” “Non-citizen” sounds so much better than “illegal alien.” “Black” is capitalized but “white” is lowercase. And so on. These linguistic judgments are not value-neutral. They represent a subtle, but deliberate effort to make the pr
Article from Reason.com