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July 25, 2005


Cranky Lawyer

(1) The NYT dogma extends to federal public health. The Centers for Disease Control frequently refuses to categorize miscarriages as deaths. The line from some quarters is that one must be alive before one is dead and one is not alive until one is born.

(2) NYT's refusal to recognize the difference between partial-birth abortion and other abortions is salutary in that it recognizes that, morally speaking, abortions share the equivalent wrong of intentionally taking an innocent life. So, I applaud NYT for recognizing a basic truth, even if it does end up getting it wrong.


"He begins by noting the difficulties of defining and naming this procedure from 1995, when it first came to public attention and Clinton vetoed a bill banning it. . . . even though 'partial-birth' abortion was the term of choice for pro-life advocates, it became the most popular way to refer to it, in journalism, usually in scare quotes or with 'what opponents call' attached to it."

This is where our pro-life "leaders," who if they were sports coaches would have been fired long ago because of their near winless record, have once again made a serious tactical error. "Partial birth abortion" is an oxymoron. It does not exist.

Once the process of birth, by whatever means or causes, has begun, to terminate the entity coming out of the womb is NOT an abortion, but INFANTICIDE. Once the body starts coming out of the womb, he or she is no longer a "fetus," but is a legal person, even under the Roe framework, which marked the line of personhood at birth. By calling it "partial birth abortion," our pro-life "leaders" needlessly allowed it to be swept into the entire abortion-law scheme, wherein anything and everything is permissible, rather than allowing application of the regular murder laws already on the books.


...ideology determines what is written as news, language and its integrity are the first to suffer.

George Orwell wrote extensively on this very topic. A good summary is "Principles of Newspeak", an appendix to 1984.


A matter of semantics?

We need to stop calling it abortion and start stating it as barbaric contraception.

Donald R. McClarey

The NYT is to objective journalism, as Ted Kennedy is to personal responsibility. Journalism for the NYT is politics by other means.

Susan F. Peterson

I read a passage in an obstetrics textbook explaining what to do at a birth in which the parts that were out were described as "the baby's head" but the parts that were inside were described as "the fetus' shoulders" etc. Now that was taking an editorial policy to its absurd extreme.
Susan Peterson


I read on the Web somewhere that the only thing Our Enlightened Betters know how to do is Semantics, i.e. play games with words. Therefore, they will attempt to reduce everything (definition everything) to a matter of Semantics, so they can fight & win in the only thing they're any good at.


No matter what physical reality says.


It's like the question "What's the difference between a Violin and a Fiddle?" Those who "know" or have heard the question before will tell you there is no difference except what you do with it, how you play it. Others start racking their brain trying to come up with other subtle differences.

So what's the difference between a fetus and a baby? There is no difference, except for what you {are allowed to} do with it.


Ummmm....what does MSM stand for? Thanks.

Patrick Sweeney

This is part of the technique of "controlling the question" to shape the answer.

Another example is replacing abortion with "reproductive rights" which a political agenda for the right not to reproduce and to kill the unborn.

Donald R. McClarey

"Ummmm....what does MSM stand for? Thanks."

MSM stands for mainstream media. Blogs are definitely not part of mainstream media.


People on both sides of this issue play games with words. There's no getting around it. Words (or acronyms) are used to attack others, especially when the discussion tilts toward uncivil.

Some of the suggestions here:

"Once the process of birth, by whatever means or causes, has begun, to terminate the entity coming out of the womb is NOT an abortion, but INFANTICIDE."

Maybe not accurate, even if it feels good to say it. By some methods, the fetus, after exiting the womb, is often still alive. If you start calling all these abortions infanticide, how do you differentiate between post-birth infanticide? And a fetus outside the womb at 8, 12, or 20 weeks gestation isn't an infant. She or he is still a fetus.

"We need to stop calling it abortion and start stating it as barbaric contraception."

Well, no. Conception has already taken place.

" ... the only thing Our Enlightened Betters know how to do is Semantics..."

... be they liberal, conservative, pro-life, or otherwise.

"So what's the difference between a fetus and a baby? There is no difference, except for what you {are allowed to} do with it."

There is a distinction. It's important to know what that is.

"MSM stands for mainstream media ..."

If so, then it would be msm, lower case.

On another point, "This is where our pro-life "leaders," who if they were sports coaches would have been fired long ago because of their near winless record ..."

I can't argue against it.


There is a distinction. It's important to know what that is.

It's also important to realize that the distinction is accidental and not substantial. The way the words "fetus" and "baby" are used often obscures this fact.

Mike Petrik

Don is correct re the meaning of MSN notwithstanding Todd's important distinction between MSN and msn. In fact, Todd's post is replete with equally probing distinctions, such as the moral difference between murdering a fetus versus murdering an infant.


"the fetus, after exiting the womb, is often still alive. . . . And a fetus outside the womb at 8, 12, or 20 weeks gestation isn't an infant. She or he is still a fetus."

No, a fetus ex utero is not a "fetus." By definition, a "fetus" is in utero.

And what ever word games you choose to play in, whatever you might choose to call this entity, he or she is still a living human being, an individual member of the species homo sapiens. He or she is not some species of sub-humanity. He or she is a moral if not legal person, entitled to respect and dignity as a subject, and not to be treated as a thing, an object, to be dehumanized by oh-so-clever phrases and Latin terminology, and then to be chopped up and crushed and thrown away because of some misguided and perverted conception of the freedom of choice.


Mark, I checked an old dictionary (pre-1960, just to be sure) and you are correct. Fetus is a term reserved for an unborn baby from the end of the third month of gestation till birth. Embryo is proper before that.

"And what ever word games you choose to play in ..."

I hope you weren't referring to me. I was pointing out the word games others use. I was clear in assigning the masculine/feminine pronoun before you did, in fact. Clearly, if some pro-lifers can't get along with those of their own number, why should we be surprised the movement has troubles beyond just semantics?


Todd -- I meant "you" in the broader sense, but to the extent that I swept you in with it, I apologize. On another related note, it is somewhat surprising to see NYT pubishing this story recently --

"2 More Women Die After Abortion Pills
WASHINGTON, July 19 - Two more California women have died after taking abortion pills, and federal drug regulators say they suspect bacterial infections as the cause. As a result, the drug's label will be changed to warn women and doctors to watch out for signs of an unusual infection that is not always accompanied by fever, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.
Five women in the United States have now died after taking abortion pills; four of them most likely suffered lethal bacterial infections, said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the agency's center for drugs."

I understand that Planned Parenthood is a (the?) major distributor of RU-486. Where are all of the tort lawyers when you need them? Someone needs to lay some major products liability lawsuits on them, with huge punitive damage awards. This was a problem more than 12 years ago when it was first introduced in France, and PP has known about it, but suppressed it.


"the moral difference between murdering a fetus versus murdering an infant"

If there is no difference, why then do so many, even around here, want to reserve punishment only for the abortionist and not the mother of the child?

Todd's point is correct --- if both the homicide of a fetus and the homicide of a post birth child are called infanticide,then I assume we're ready to hand out the same punishment to the mother willingly participating in an abortion as we would to Susan Smith? If not, then we need to keep the distinction.

Deacon John M. Bresnahan

After reading how the verbal police strangle the choice of words available to the NY Times reporters and columnists for purposes of liberal propaganda and thought control--it makes any complaints about Catholic leadership trying to protect orthodox teachings seem amateurish and weak.


John, I sympathize, but at the same time, I'd prefer not to see pro-lifers get dragged down into a discussion on conspiracy theories.

From a psychological viewpoint, the language game might be a form of mass avoidance. Substantial numbers of pro-choice people are disturbed at the use of abortion essentially for the purpose of birth control. (That's why the "contraception" suggestion above is way off.) Playing games helps salve the conscience. Make use of that information, not by attacking the fence-sitters on language, but by making a persuasive and compassionate argument.

Play up the good work people are doing in helping women and babies instead of getting into battles over semantics.

Catholic leadership seems amateurish and weak? Possibly because it is in some ways.

Last point: mainstream is one word, not two, now that I think of it. Maybe MSM needs to be retired altogether as a perjorative term. We all know it's there, whether we believe it is a pawn of our corporate masters or of the liberal establishment, so why give it any credence by calling it out at all?

Marion (Mael Muire)

"From the outset, the Times determined to avoid using 'partial-birth' in its news headlines. A computer search of the newspaper's database since June of 1995 shows how persistently this prohibition has been enforced. . .The most frequently used terms were 'type of' abortion and 'form of' abortion, abortion 'method' or 'procedure' or 'technique,'"

I have no objection to pro-choicers like the Times objection to the term "partial-birth abortion", as long as we can all agree on another term that expresses what the procedure really is.

How about instead we go with "forceps - sharp-scissors - vacuum - abortion"?

Works for me!

Mike Petrik

You can try all you want to retire MSM from the lexicon, but it won't fly with the 20-somethings who initially coined it. They are the ones who first saw the obvious need for the pejoritive term. I did, however, remind my twenty-something kids and friends last night that "mainstream" was one word, not two. For what it's worth they did not seem moved.


Mike, I hate to break it to you, but my liberal friends were decrying the mm over twenty years ago for the same reasons your kids and their friends are today: not open to the possibilities beyond those thought up in their newsrooms.

My main objection today with the mm is that like twenty, or likely forty years ago, they are simply too tame and conservative, especially when the profit principle is in play.

If they draw the ire of both left and right, they're most likely in the lukewarm middle.

Mike Petrik

What are you talking about, Todd? CBS has no problem lying to discredit US car manufacturers. Just this month the Atlanta Journal Constituion ran a highly critical, and stupid, story blowing out of proportion some minor mishap by hometown UPS. The MSM goes after my clients with abandon, and truth is not an especially important value. I have represented dozens of corporations in matters that were covered by the MSM. The coverage was uniformly hostile and inaccurate. Indeed, the only fair and accurate coverage a corporate client of mine ever received was from a small town newspaper, where a young reporter did an admirable job describing a county commission hearing regarding a corporate tax assessment. He fairly quoted and described the questions and answers of all sides, and then interviewed both attorneys fairly summarizing the positions of each. This was over 20 years ago but I still remember it because it was so doggone unusual.


Mike, read my post. I'm not denying you have your justified beefs with certain aspects of the media. I have mine, too. And many of my friends have had them for years, even going back before Reagan.

The media, especially today, is driven not by truth, but primarily by the bottom line of profit. If that means they play into the American sensibility of applauding when the high and mighty take a tumble (politicians, corporate execs, or even Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson) they do so without regard for ideology.

I challenge you: ask your garden variety liberals what they really think of the mainstream media. You already know what this one thinks.

Mike Petrik

I don't have to ask. We've had the discussion many many times. They think they are often inept, but not generally biased. In contrast, I think they are both inept and biased, and I think these attributes both stem from a common cause -- thinking they are smarter than they really are.


Mike, I would agree with you.

I've seen many times when reporters who cover subjects out of their depth, and not just religion, the errors that are made from both a lack of grasp of the basics and a lack of desire to get a story straight.

I know journalists are biased. I'm not sure where the idea came from that they need to be unbiased. I know they've given the Iraq Wars too quick of a pass. I know they don't pay enough attention to news outside the US that doesn't involve direct American interests.

I think their bias is betrayed by financial considerations of their CEO's. And I think both liberal and conservative individuals are pleased to use media outlets as their soapbox.

Mike Petrik

First, I don't mind biased journalists as long as they don't bill themselves as unbiased.
Second, the views of a paper's publisher and a broadcaster's CEO usually don't amount to much. The corporate types don't much care about political stuff as long as circulation and ratings are high. The ideological vaccum is filled by the editors and journalists, as Bernard Goldberg so convincingly documented.

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