When the Washington Post decides a ‘fetus’ is a baby

The Washington Post recently reported the tragic stabbing in the stomach of a pregnant woman, resulting in the death of her unborn baby. The crime was widely condemned as being horrific and brutal. Thankfully, the mother’s injuries were not said to be life-threatening. It was somewhat surprising to see the paper acknowledging the deceased as an “unborn baby”, since the Post typically tries to avoid such humanizing words when the issue under discussion is abortion.

Fast forward a few days and the Post was reporting on demonstrations outside of the Supreme Court for and against “Obamacare”, President Obama’s overhaul of the health insurance system. The pro-life movement was strongly represented in the protests against this mandatory health insurance, given that abortions would be covered in the package.

Here was the irritating part though: the front page picture in the Post was of a young man outside the Supreme Court with tape covering his mouth, which the paper described as his representation of voiceless “fetuses”.

Similar dehumanizing descriptions of the unborn are, of course, used by paper throughout the West, an unwritten rule of reporting in the vast majority of articles dealing with abortion.

If only the public’s grasp of Latin was a bit better, they would see through these attempts to dehumanize the unborn, knowing that “fetus” translates as “little one”. But, as it stands, when most people read the word “fetus” (or “foetus” in Europe), a sense of the unborn’s humanity is not evoked.

The inconsistencies of the Washington Post’s editorial policies were made evident then in this short period. When the unborn are ‘wanted’, they are babies; when they are not, or when the ‘right to choose’ is challenged, they are suddenly fetuses. Regardless of your views on abortion, I’d hope we could agree that such inconsistencies are intellectually dishonest. Either call it a fetus, or call it an unborn baby, and stick with that. However I sure wouldn’t like to tell the grieving woman who lost her child so tragically in that stabbing that it was ‘just a fetus’. She knows it was her unborn baby.

These varying – and entirely arbitrary –  descriptions adopted by papers, depending on the desirability of the unborn, amounts to specious nonsense. By seeking to devalue one unborn child through use of language, whilst recognizing the value of another, they commit a subtle yet potentially deadly discrimination unnoticed by most. It’s a form of discrimination that, for 50 million babies worldwide every year, proves very deadly indeed.

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