Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The terminology of the abortion debate

I noticed today that my story on the 40 Days For Life demonstration is the second most commented article on our website. (An anti-abortion group is holding a 40 day "vigil" outside of the West Chester Planned Parenthood.) As of1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, my article had 67 comments.

If it were up to me, that wouldn't be my most popular article. I wrote it quickly, in a dry style. Although I spent about an hour with the protesters, I used only their least challenging quotes. Their most challenging quotes fell outside of my scope. For example, Pat Carnevale, of East Nottingham, told me a story that would suggest he is against abortion, even when the life of the mother is at risk.

Carnevale: When I was out here last year or the year before, a young girl drove by a few times. I looked at her, and I knew she wanted to talk to me. She stopped, and I went over to her. She told me that when her mother found out she was pregnant, the doctor told her that she would be too ill to have the baby. The doctor told her to have an abortion. The mother was living in Europe at the time, and she got a second opinion. The other doctor said, "You don't want to have an abortion. You don't know what your child could turn out to be. Who knows? Your child could turn out to be a doctor." So I asked the girl what she was. She showed me her business car and said, "I'm a doctor." She was healthy and doing well. She was driving a BMW, I think. Was it a BMW? It was a nice car. And she said her mother is still alive, and healthy too.

Carnevale then said that he believes everything is in God's hands. If a pregnant mother is sick, he said, it's not up to humans to intervene. If it is God's will, the mother will live. If it is His will, she will die.

Carnivale was my best interview subject that day. Because he was so good, he didn't make the article. The paraphrasing that you must do to write a 400 word story would not have allowed a fully accurate representation of his quote. And introducing God into a 400 word news article on abortion issues is inadvisable. Mention of God outside of a direct quote might lead the reader to believe the reporter is in the "pro-life" camp. It's best that your news copy stand as far away as it can from the partisans of the abortion debate. To see why, read the often nasty comments left under my article.

I like to stand as far away as possible from the partisans of the abortion debate. This is not just because I'm a reporter. "Pro-life" and "pro-choice" are overly simplistic terms, as are their opposites, "anti-choice" and "pro-death" (a favorite at my Catholic grade school). In college, I tried to write an op-ed article on my opinion of abortion. I abandoned the project: I got myself wedged between materialism and spirituality. It's a scientific fact that the female body automatically aborts many zygotes and early-stage embryos. But to say that an embryo is merely a collection of cells is to say, by extension, that human life is nothing more than a biochemical process.

Anyway, here's what the Daily Local's stylebook has to say about how reporters should handle articles on abortion issues:

abortion - This is one of the most divisive issues in American society today. As newspapermen and newspaperwomen we must be very careful not to allow the partisans of the issue to drag us into the issue. We do not use the public relations-loaded terms pro choice or pro life to describe partisans of this debate. At the Daily Local News, our style is to refer to partisans as anti-abortion activists and abortion rights activists. "Choice" or some other word might be nice and short for a headline, but not here. Reporters may only use pro choice or pro life in direct quotes.

Labels: ,