NPR Strikes Abortion Phrasing From Its Lexicon


In an effort to be extremely (overly?) sensitive, NPR has instructed staffers to no longer use the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” They’re not “neutral” enough, apparently, so they’re going to tiptoe around from here on out.

In a staff memo, NPR explains how things are going to work:

This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work. On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”

Hm. Aside from the fact that, as a writer and editor, I cringe at unnecessarily over-worded phrases, I’m not sure there’s much point to this. Over at DailyFinance, Jeff Bercovici nicely articulates why:

The motive behind this move is solid enough. “Pro-choice” and “pro-life” both began, essentially, as propaganda — expressions conceived to curry maximum sympathy for the positions they represent. How can anyone be against choice? Or against life? Why, you’d have to be downright evil!
But, over time, through sheer repetition, both phrases have lost their connotative crackle. When I call someone pro-choice, I’m not praising his dedication to the exercise of free will any more than I’m describing someone as generous and open-minded when I call him a liberal. They’re words. They mean what they mean because we all agree that’s what they mean.

And if excising these words for the sake of neutrality were necessary, it would’ve only been necessary decades ago. Removing from a media organization’s lexicon strikes me as a backwards step in the evolution of language. It’s not even a matter of “too little” — it’s just far too late.

NPR Changes Abortion Language [NPR]
NPR Retires ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Pro-Choice’ in Futile Attempt at Neutrality [DailyFinance]

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin