Yesterday the Newsweek blog was covering the abortion-in-healthcare debate and it posted this title:
What I take issue with is the use of the term “Anti-Abortion Rights Group” when referring to a collection of groups that includes Americans United for Life and National Right to Life. Why?
- It Makes a Pro-Abortion Assumption that the Debate is About Abortion Rights, Not Abortion
It assumes that pro-life groups main or fundamental position is opposition to abortion rights. While pro-life groups do not believe that a right to abortion exists, a more accurate description is opposition to “abortion,” not “abortion rights.”
- It Plays Word Games with the Word “Rights”
Does anybody want to be against “rights”? It doesn’t matter what “right” it is, it just sounds good to be for rights even if they are ridiculous rights. To make being pro-abortion sound more palatable, the term pro-abortion rights is often used by the media. The same thing is used here by injecting “rights” into the title.
- It Ignores the Fact That Abortion Can Exist Without Abortion Rights
If Roe v. Wade (which established a Constitutional right to an abortion despite no mention of it in the Constitution) was struck down by the courts, abortion could still legally take place. It would just mean that each state would have full freedom in deciding to restrict or permit abortion. For example, there is no specific right to own a computer, but many people do own computers. If a group was opposed to people having computers, they should be referred to as “anti-computers,” not “anti-computer rights” because their advocacy against computers could legitimately exist whether “computer rights” existed to not.
- It Assumes the Negative
It labels those who believe that every human life should be protected as not being advocates for something, but rather against something. Everyone wants to be on the positive and not the negative side of things, and so this subtle tactic is used to make it seem like pro-life advocates are really just negative people against things instead of positive people standing for the value of every human life.
- It Ignores the Concept of a Right to Life
The title could have been written as “Executive Order Wins With Stupak, Loses With Right to Life Groups.” The reason why Newsweek doesn’t want to write in these terms is that it brings up the concept of there being a right to life. The very mention that a “right to life” might exist gives credibility to the pro-life position in a way that Newsweek loathes. Pro-abortion writers will keep the use of the term “right to life” to an absolute minimum which means you will only read it when they are referring to the name of an organization such as, “National Right to Life.”
- It Affirms the Concept of a Right to an Abortion
A Historical Perspective
When we think about early American history, there were those for and against the choice to own slaves. We do not call those who supported the choice to own slaves, “pro-choice,” we call them “pro-slavery.” Likewise, today we accurately describe each position on this debate as pro-abortion/anti-abortion or pro-human life rights/anti-human life rights as those terms describe the true nature of the debate.
Note: Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post, which consistently editorializes from a pro-abortion perspective.
A related piece that I have written on use of language in the abortion debate:
Why “Anti-Choice” is an Imprecise and Inaccurate Term when Debating Human Feticide