NPR style boss instructs staff on abortion terminology: ‘Babies are not babies until they are born’

NPR declared that its talent shouldn’t use the terms “baby” or “unborn” when referring to what’s happening inside a pregnant woman – much to the chagrin of conservative critics.

NPR supervising senior standards and practices editor Mark Memmott published a “guidance reminder” last week about how the media organization should discuss abortion news on the heels of a new law in Georgia and legislation in Alabama.

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“The term ‘unborn’ implies that there is a baby inside a pregnant woman, not a fetus. Babies are not babies until they are born. They’re fetuses. Incorrectly calling a fetus a ‘baby’ or ‘the unborn’ is part of the strategy used by antiabortion groups to shift language/legality/public opinion,” Memmott wrote, crediting NPR colleague Joe Neel for the tidbit.

The “guidance reminder” raised the eyebrows of Media Research Center’s director of media analysis Tim Graham, who criticized Memmott for “instructing his taxpayer-funded staff” not to concede anything to people who don’t support abortion.

“It isn’t about objectivity. It’s about using language to shift public opinion,” Graham wrote. “It’s fascinating that liberals who are so exquisitely sensitive about the dignity and humanity of the ‘illegal immigrant’ — don’t use that term! — or the people denying their gender “assigned at birth” can so easily dehumanize babies with the term ‘fetus.’”

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Graham pointed out that the “allegedly erroneous usage of ‘baby’” is common in the English language when not referring to abortion.

“Here, for example, is the Mayo Clinic, telling new parents ‘how your baby grows and develops during the first trimester,’” Graham wrote. “Unbelievably, this [NPR] memo is summarized as ‘We need to be precise, accurate and neutral.’”

NPR’s standards and practices editor wrote that he was simply emphasizing the organization’s “long-standing guidance” when it comes to abortion.

“It turns out that the longstanding practice of NPR has been to use the terms that are favored by one side of the abortion debate,” National Review’s Ramech Ponnuru wrote. “Guess which one!”

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Memmott, who often expands on NPR’s ethics handbook, also reminded staffers not to use terms such as “fetal heartbeat,” “partial birth” and “late-term abortion,” because they are phrases used by people who oppose abortion.

“NPR doesn’t use the term ‘abortion clinics.’ We say instead, ‘medical or health clinics that perform abortions.’ The point is to not to use abortion before the word clinic. The clinics perform other procedures and not just abortions,” Memmott added.

Graham concluded his piece criticizing NPR by noting, “Personally, I think we should just refer to abortion doctors as ‘assault weapons.’”

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Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold tweeted, “How is this anything other than bending over backwards to the preferred framing of pro-choice activists?”

“It is acceptable to use the phrase ‘anti-abortion rights,’ but do not use the term ‘pro-abortion rights,’” Memmott also wrote, to which the National Review responded, “If only NPR found putting out pro-abortion spin as unacceptable as it finds the phrase ‘pro-abortion.’”

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