Yesterday, the US Supreme Court, armed with its Bush appointees, upheld the constitutionality of a 2003 federal law that bans a medical procedure called intact dilation and extraction (ID&X). I find it unworkable to have legislators telling doctors that certain procedures are not medically necessary, and I find it unsupportable to have judges backing them up. That this procedure is performed only on women, and that it involves the removal of a fetus, is, of course, central to the question. But rather than showing respect for a developing fetus, this decision is showing callous disregard for the lives and health of women. An adult woman, this says, can never be considered more important than an improperly developing fetus. I fervently hope this doesn't represent only the beginning of the spread of that disregard. I fear it does.
But there's something else about this that bothers me: the way the procedure is reported in the news media. The New York Times is a bit different; here's what they say, in the article cited above:
The banned procedure, known medically as “intact dilation and extraction,” involves removing the fetus in an intact condition rather than dismembering it in the uterus.That, and when it gives the name of the law, which was decided by Congress, are the only times the NY Times refers to “partial-birth abortion” in the article.
It was also a vindication for the strategic choice the anti-abortion movement made 15 years ago, when the prospect of persuading the Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion seemed a distant dream. By identifying the intact procedure and giving it the provocative label “partial-birth abortion,” the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses. In short order, 30 states banned the procedure.
Most of the media, though, use a stock phrase that they almost seem to have agreed upon:
The procedure, which opponents call “partial-birth abortion”, [...]The media proceed to call it by its “provocative” name, coined by “opponents”, and rarely or never use the medical term. Does that not put them in the “opponent” camp? It's not just its “opponents” who call it that, after all; it's the opponents and the news media, and that gives the coinage more weight.
Why not this?:
The procedure, medically known as “intact dilation and extraction”, [...]Or are the media too wedded, these days, to sensationalism to be medically correct and clear, and to avoid overly inflammatory characterizations? I have no doubt that if the news media had eschewed the provocative but inaccurate phrase from the start, we would never have gotten here, and we wouldn't be wondering how we're going to get women the medical help they need when they need it.