All “advice” must include abortion

This is a lede to a New York Times story that ran this past weekend. The article is headlined, oddly, “Politicians Open Front on Abortion in Bay Area“:

SAN FRANCISCO — Seeking to stem what they call misleading advertising, San Francisco officials on Tuesday began a two-pronged attack on “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice, but often use counseling to discourage abortions.

Yes. Scare quotes for “crisis pregnancy centers.” Scare quotes! Now, is this a reflection of how sensitive the New York Times is to euphemisms in the “abortion” wars? And I’m not just wondering about the use of the euphemism “abortion,” the word we now use to describe the intentional killing of an unborn child. What does the New York Times do when it’s talking about “family planning”? Do we get scare quotes there? No.

Does anyone in the story question whether these centers serve women facing “crisis pregnancies”? No, not at all.

The news writer reveals his bias in the last phrase. These places are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice but they discourage abortion.

So advising women carrying children that abortion might not be their best option and that there are, in fact, other options for women facing unplanned pregnancies — options that the pro-life movement is frequently criticized for supposedly not offering, such as adoption, financial assistance, employment counseling and the like — is not “advice”? (I recently met a man who adopted all three of his daughters from women who had given birth to them after visiting his local crisis pregnancy center.)

Come again?

Now, I am fully aware that the pro-choice movement has declared war on these crisis pregnancy centers. In the face of many legislative successes for the pro-life movement, this is the front on which they’re attempting to have some successes of their own. And that’s a really important story and one that needs covering. New York City passed a law in conjunction with NARAL efforts this past spring that would have required crisis pregnancy centers to disclose more information about their services but a federal judge blocked its enforcement a few weeks ago, saying it violated free speech rights, was motivated chiefly by politics, and risked discriminatory enforcement.

The story of this front in the abortion wars is important but it should be told with straight up news reporting, not something using language where we redefine “advice” to mean something that pro-life people are incapable of providing.

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  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    I’m not just wondering about the use of the euphemism “abortion,” the word we now use to describe the intentional killing of an unborn child.

    Language really is important here. There are those who believe that a functioning brain is necessary to be a person (whether or not it’s sufficient), so an early embryo without a differentiated and interconnected brain would not – yet – be a child.

    So what term should be used besides “abortion”, Mollie? Do you have a suggestion? One that takes into account all the various schools of thought on the issue?

  • R9

    I had no idea the word abortion itself now was looked on as a euphemism!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    R9,

    “abortion” is certainly the nicest way of putting what’s being done. That’s all a euphemism is — a more agreeable term for something that may offend someone.

    I think it’s interesting, though, that voluntary abortion has come to exclude spontaneous abortion.

    Anyway, like I said, I’m NOT talking about abortion as euphemism. I use the term myself since I think its meaning is clear.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/ Nicole Neroulias

    I’m confused. Is your complaint here that the NYT is reporting about certain “crisis pregnancy centers” (quotes used not to scare, but to clarify that the language is not my own) as being anti-abortion? Isn’t this newsworthy, in that it’s widespread public knowledge that places like Planned Parenthood provide advice/counseling on all the options (abortion, adoption, morning-after pill, contraception, etc.), but places like this apparently do not? What if you’re a scared unplanned-pregnant girl who wants all the options on the table — wouldn’t you like to know that certain places don’t offer that?

    Or is your complaint that you feel the NYT isn’t doing equally investigative reporting on places you think may encourage abortions instead of adoptions?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Nicole,

    Neither. As I noted in my post, I pointed out that the New York Times used “scare quotes” around CPCs, and that this “scare quote” practice is not uniformly applied around all terms in the abortion wars. And then I pointed out that the reporter’s lede suggested that pro-life advice can’t be advice because it doesn’t include encouragement toward abortion.

    As I also wrote, the issues you raise are part of a pro-choice campaign going on right now but that campaign should be waged by the partisans, and not the reporters. They should cover this news story without taking sides.

  • R9

    Some might say the nicest way of putting what’s being done is “saving a woman a lot of misery”. Okay that takes a few more words.

    But the word abortion is just a label. Everyone knows what it means. There’s no sugar coating.

    It might not be the purpose of your post but you clearly thought it was worth mentioning, on a blog that claims to not be a conservative grumble-fest but rather fighting for quality journalism.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Mollie –

    And then I pointed out that the reporter’s lede suggested that pro-life advice can’t be advice because it doesn’t include encouragement toward abortion.

    I’ll agree the lede was clumsily-worded. However, I think the reporter was, in fact, trying to be fair. Quotes were included from several sources on different sides of the issue, even in a short piece, and that lede is careful to refer to “what [San Francisco officials] call misleading advertising” (emphasis added).

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/ Nicole Neroulias

    It might not be the purpose of your post but you clearly thought it was worth mentioning, on a blog that claims to not be a conservative grumble-fest but rather fighting for quality journalism.

    This blog does skew conservatively, but between this post and the incredulous one about why presidential contender Rick Perry’s revival meeting was so newsworthy, GetReligion seems to be abandoning any premise of objectivity towards secular, mainstream media — and readers. We will need a GetGetReligion blog, at this rate!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Nicole,

    It is disappointing to see a comment such as this. I know it takes time and effort to make the case for your perspective, but please take that time and effort and refrain from such comments in the future.

    From your first comment, it appeared you didn’t even understand my argument. You ignored my response to your comment. That just doesn’t make for good discussions.

    I know that abortion is a hot topic issue and a very personal one, but it needs much better coverage. You can’t disagree with that. And we can all work toward that goal.

    Also, since when is abortion a “conservative” issue? I’ll be sure to notify all my liberal pro-life friends. Or maybe I misunderstand what is meant by your use of the term.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/ Nicole Neroulias

    We’ll have to agree to disagree — but in this case, I’m still confused because your complaints (as others have noted) seem unfair, journalistically. For example, one could easily argue that “crisis pregnancy centers” is in quotes not as a “scare” tactic, but because that’s what they call themselves and it’s not a familiar enough term for most readers to recognize as self-described language for anti-abortion organizations.

    And “since when is abortion a ‘conservative’ issue” — seriously? Abortion is one of THE conservative issues.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Nicole,

    I’m aware that many conservatives oppose abortion but so do many liberals. So do many who don’t identify as conservative or liberal. Such a label doesn’t really shed light on the arguments or adherents of the cause or its opponents.

    But I don’t think we need to agree to disagree. We can instead listen to each other’s arguments.

    I’d point out, again, that “crisis pregnancy center” is no less or more understood or euphemistic than “family planning clinic” and so we should see some consistency in the NYT practice. We don’t see that consistency. Why?

    What’s more, the quotes were unnecessary because of the structure of the sentence. Remember the clause that follows is “which are billed as …” so if the quotes were simply an attempt to explain something to readers, that was done immediately after the scare-quoted term.

    And I’m unsure what you’re referencing when you say that somebody said I’ve made journalistically unfair complaints, much less anything that would warrant your previous comment.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The media and other’s determination to marginalize pro-lifers as only being “conservative” ignores the fact that the farthest leftward or liberal wing of the Catholic Church is strongly pro-life. In fact there could have been no more politically liberal–and famous–pro-life Catholic than Dorothy Day who may be on her way to canonization in the Catholic Church.
    I still remember being deeply involved in George McGovern’s campaign here in Ma. that we won on mostly pro-life arguments (Followed by: “Don’t blame me, I’m from Mass.” bumper sticker fame as Nixon imploded.)
    One of our slogans was condemnation of “search and destroy” missions in Vietnam that killed innocent civilians, especially children. Then the war ended and some of those on the left in our groups suddenly became in favor of “search and destroy” abortion missions here at home. But the media never portrayed– or even hinted at– that there were many pro-life anti-Vietnam war liberals who became turncoats on life issues when the war ended. The media just targeted every person who remained pro-life as some sort of a right-winger. (Which admittedly did push many pro-lifers who had been liberal rightward.)

  • dalea

    Mollie says:

    I’m not just wondering about the use of the euphemism “abortion,” the word we now use to describe the intentional killing of an unborn child.

    Was there some other word used in the past? Hasn’t abortion been a stable word with clear meaning for centuries? I personally like the term miscarriage which is then differentiated into spontaneous and induced. There are various degrees and combinations of the two.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Maybe things are different in San Francisco. But it seems evident that entities which run New York subway posters advertising “Abortion Alternatives” are not offering to perform abortions. What is “misleading” about these ads?

  • michael

    Nicole,

    Here’s the lede: “Seeking to stem what they call misleading advertising, San Francisco officials on Tuesday began a two-pronged attack on “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice, but often use counseling to discourage abortions.”

    Here’s one way of interpreting that lede based on the scare quotes and the final clause: San Francisco officials are attacking “crisis pregnancy centers” because they aren’t really crisis pregnancy centers since they discourage abortions.

    Now my question to you is this: Is this, or is it not, a viable interpretation of the lede sentence? Not THE viable interpretation but simply A viable interpretation?

    If it is not, why not? If it is, why is the criticism of this piece journalistically unfair?

    I look forward to your answer.

    For what it’s worth, I have less trouble with the scare quotes than with the unstated premise of everything that comes after.

    And speaking of unstated premises, do you know of any statistics on the number of “scared, un-planned pregnant girls” who have sought adoption services on the advice of Planned Parenthood, say, relative to the number of abortions they’ve performed? Since it is “widespread public knowledge” that Planned Parenthood gives “advice/counseling on all the options,” I’d be interested in knowing how effective this advice is.

  • Suzanne

    As someone who is liberal and pro-life (which includes, but is not limited to, being anti-abortion), I appreciate the distinction that Mollie is making.

    And I agree that the scare quotes clutter up the story — both sides in the abortion debate have so muddied their language with euphemism that words barely mean anything anymore. The armed truce that is the AP Stylebook’s compromise on this still leaves a lot of unresolved areas.

    What I really missed when I read this story was a more substantive look at exactly how these clinics advertise themselves. There is a brief one-sentence description in the story, but if it’s the most damning one they’ve got, then they ain’t got much. Presumably these places distribute fliers and have posters to draw patrons; what do those say?

    If a clinic deliberately gives the misleading impression that it does abortions (either through its ads or its communications on the phone to women who call asking) then that should be highlighted. That would indeed be false advertising and (potentially) subject to some sort of government oversight.

    I also would have liked the story to note how abortion providers in San Francisco advertise their services. Do they specifically say that they do abortions? Seems to me that even an unsophisticated person looking through the Yellow Pages would know that the place advertising abortions is probably the place I want to go if I plan to get one.

    There may be safety considerations at work in not advertising it, but realistically, the bomb-throwing nuts tend to know which places do them in any case.

  • Jerry

    This issue to me is a “truth in advertising” issue. We debate the answer, of course, but the scare quotes tell me that the article itself concerned that question.

  • Ed Mechmann

    To give the full story, wouldn’t it have been helpful if the reporter also noted that two other similar laws in Maryland have been struck down as unconstitutional, and that this local law is part of a nationwide campaign by NARAL to shut down “crisis pregnancy centers”?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/2011/02/must-read-new-yorker-investigation-of-church-of-scientology.html Nicole Neroulias

    The term “crisis pregnancy” suggests that women who view their pregnancy as a crisis can go there to seek advice and help — on all their options. That’s why it’s newsworthy that these places are actually anti-abortion, and quotes are needed to indicate that the term is a euphemism for “anti-abortion pregnancy services” — and hence there is a debate going on about whether false advertising is taking place.

    Also, this is a short news story, not an investigative piece or an analysis. Perhaps there will be a more in-depth follow-up, or an op-Ed piece, that satisfies some of your concerns.

  • michael

    Nicole,

    Beg questions much?

    If “false advertising” is really the point at issue–a dubious proposition that I am temporarily willing to grant for the sake of argument–then whether “‘Crisis pregnancy’ suggests that women who view their pregnancy as a crisis can go there to seek advice and help–on all their options” is precisely the disputed question, in which case “crisis pregnancy center” deserves its scare quotes (at least you now admit that they are scare quotes) only because you and the Times reporter have already decided that question to the benefit of one of the disputants in the story.

    I wonder, would you find it equally necessary to put “family planning clinics” such as Planned Parenthood in scare quotes as equivalent to “pro abortion pregnancy services,” since there is an overwhelming likelihood that a woman who views her pregnancy as a crisis and visits one of these places will leave having had an abortion? Or is that simply not “newsworthy”?

    If I may offer a word of advice, the next time you want to defend a piece of journalism for its objective treatment of both sides of a story, it would be more convincing if you didn’t begin simply by restating the position of one side as if it were essentially and self-evidently correct.

  • Jeffrey

    Nicole is correct. The fact that the phrase is in such dispute and the entire purpose of the legal challenges suggests that quotes are appropriate. The defensiveness of pro-life activists over the term underscores the volatility and uncertainty over the phrase.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/2011/02/must-read-new-yorker-investigation-of-church-of-scientology.html Nicole Neroulias

    I don’t call them scare quotes. To address your other point, you could consider that “family planning” (accurately) implies a range of related services (contraception, abortion, adoption), whereas “crisis pregnancy” (inaccurately) implies a full range of options to address an emergency situation.

    Again, we can all agree to disagree, on our political and/or religious values, when it comes to social issues like this. But journalistically, reading this as a short news story (and not an analysis, investigation or op-ed), I maintain that it’s a fair piece.

  • michael

    No, Jeffrey. The term is in dispute because NARAL, Planned Parenthood, et al object to centers that oppose abortion calling themselves crisis pregnancy centers. (So far, the courts don’t seem to concur by the way.) The scare quotes are only merited if you agree with that position. Otherwise, journalists typically give the the benefit of the doubt to people and groups in their self-identification, calling them what they call themselves. That they do not do so in this case is telling.

    You’re begging questions again, Nicole, and following your logic is making me dizzy. I won’t agree to disagree–I’m not sure we’ve ascended to that stage yet– but I will agree to give up on trying to engage you in an argument.

    I actually do agree with you about one thing though. Apart from the poor lede, whose bias may be more a matter of intellectual laziness than malice, I think the story on the whole is decent so far as these things go–superficial, but relatively even-handed. It’s your defense of it that I find problematic.

  • Karen

    Given that the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are contraceptive (83%), gynecological and STD services, “Family Planning Center” is appropriate. Only 3% of Planned Parenthood services are related to abortions. In fact, unless things have changed, they are not allowed to do abortions at the family planning centers and send women to off site and separately funded abortion centers for the surgery.

    I sincerely doubt that the majority of pregnant teens and young women know that “Pregnancy Crisis Center” means “center where everything but abortion is advised and abortion is considered killing.” If I were an uninformed teen I’d think that Planned Parenthood might be a 100% abortion center (given the rhetoric I usually hear) and the pregnancy crisis center might be somewhere more neutral where I could consider all my options. I therefore favor the “Abortion Alternatives” advertising of one chain of such centers as truth in advertising. And, no those quotation marks aren’t scare quotes but something in between.

    As to the logic for the rest of the sentence, I disagree Molly. The role of an impartial counselor would to consider the pros and cons of all options, not to have started with a conclusion. Otherwise call yourself an Abortion Alternatives counseling center.

    When I have had to counsel a patient with an unplanned pregnancy we look at pros and cons of all actions, from the medical safety of pregnancy, the ability to bear future children, what she will feel about terminating a life, what the impact will be on her life or her life and the baby’s life, etc. The times I have had to do this, there were no options without significant costs or potential regrets and the patient ultimately made the decision herself after looking at all of them. (I do family practice Oriental medicine so have no irons in the fire.) I personally know people who were advised by Planned Parenthood counselors to consider alternatives to abortion as better choices though.

    So I disagree that the lede is problematic or biased.

  • MoonChild02

    “I’m not just wondering about the use of the euphemism “abortion,” the word we now use to describe the intentional killing of an unborn child.”

    “Language really is important here. There are those who believe that a functioning brain is necessary to be a person (whether or not it’s sufficient), so an early embryo without a differentiated and interconnected brain would not – yet – be a child.

    “So what term should be used besides “abortion”, Mollie? Do you have a suggestion? One that takes into account all the various schools of thought on the issue?”

    The scientific definition of life is: “The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.”
    An unborn child, or embryo or fetus (depending on the time), has a metabolism, grows, has reproducing cells, responds to stimuli, and adapts to her or his environment.

    Just because a brain is not whole does not mean that it is not functioning. The brain does not finish developing until about 21 years of age, which is why it is illegal to drink before then. There are some people who have had parts of their brains removed, and they still function. Note that if the brain weren’t functioning, the child would not be reacting to stimuli or moving around as much as embryos and fetuses do by the time women find out they’re pregnant. The brain tells the other organs to act, which is why a heartbeat is detectable by 21-25 days. It is estimated that during the course of prenatal development an average of one million neurons (impulse-conducting cells that make up the nervous system) are produced every minute.

    As for the argument over the word “abortion”, that’s what lead to this whole thing in the first place. According to Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe of Roe v Wade, she thought “abortion” meant just going back, like in the war movies she watched with her dad, in which they said, “Abort mission!” and the like. She thought that in her case it meant going back to not being pregnant. She did not know that it meant killing a child. She said that had she known and understood what they were talking about, as she was on drugs and alcohol at the time, she would never have agreed to sign the papers for the court case.

  • michael

    Speaking of false advertising, I just noticed the logo on this post for Hope CPC, an affiliate of International Life Services. I don’t know, but I don’t look at that and think ‘abortion on demand’ anymore than I imagine one walks into Planned Parenthood thinking ‘adoption’. Granted this is in Arizona, not San Francisco, but a google search for crisis pregnancy centers shows that many, though not all, are quite explcitly ‘pro-life’ or ‘Christ-centered’ etc.

    Point is, most of these places do not seem to conceal their premises, and it’s not clear that it would amount to ‘false advertising’ if they did. First Resort, the organization referred to in the article, does not mention a religious affiliation on its website (maybe it doesn’t have one) or identify itself as ‘pro-life’, but neither does it list abortion among its services or deny its services to those who elect to have abortions elsewhere. So it would be interesting to know precisely where the ‘false advertising’ is alleged to occur. Are the SF authorities alleging that ultrasounds are not a good idea or that First Resort, with its pro-life disposition, is incapable of providing “a supportive, caring, non-judgmental environment” even to women who eventually elect to have an abortion? Are there examples where women were lured in under the pretense that they would receive ‘neutral’ abortion counseling and then ‘coerced’ out of having an abortion? Is persuasion tantamount to coercion?

    Unless it can be shown that the advertising is indeed false, that these places are conveying demonstrably false medical information or portraying themselves as abortion providers and then pulling a bait and switch, then the issue of ‘false advertising’ seems like a red-herring.
    What is really being sought here is a judicial fiat that declares abortion to be not simply an option, but part of the very definition of reproductive care and of a ‘crisis pregnancy’.

    Until the charge is adjudicated at that level of detail, the suggestion that failing to include the full range of options within the definition and response to a ‘crisis pregnancy’, lest the woman somehow be misled, rings even more hollow. One would have to be a lemming not to know that abortion is one of the available options, and one would have to stumble into one of these places off the street, without foreknowledge or dispostion, not to have a sense of its predisposition toward birth or toward abortion. Women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy may be desparate and scared, but they are not blank slates.

    I need a journalism take, so I’ll just conclude by saying that the coverage of these issues could be dramatically improved if we were more honest with ourselves and stopped pretending to be dumber than we are.

    p.s.–Karen, you seem to know something about the breakdown of Planned Parenthoods services–83% gynecological and 3% abortion related–though I would be interested to know whether that is percentage of services rendered or percentage of revenue. I wonder if you might therefore be able to answer my earlier question. For the women who come to Planned Parenthood in a state of indecision about pregnancy, what proportion of those pregnancies end in abortion, and what percentage end either in adoption or in a decision to have and keep the baby? That wouldn’t tell everything of course; people come with all sorts of internal and external conflicts and can change their minds in both directions. But it would seem to give at least some indication of the extent to which abortion counseling at Planned Parenthood is ‘neutral’–though I find it interesting that you seem to consider the presentation of abortion as indifferent (or as not killing) to be a ‘neutral’ position that does not frame, and therefore influence, ‘choice’. There is no such thing.

  • MoonChild02

    “Only 3% of Planned Parenthood services are related to abortions.”
    Ha. Let’s look at the actual numbers.

    NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner found that Planned Parenthood gets about 3 million patients per year, and they perform a little over 300,000 abortions per year. That’s about 10%, not 3%.

    From the latest (2008) Planned Parenthood annual report:
    * Annual abortions performed at Planned Parenthood: 305,310
    * Average cost of abortion: $450 (This is based on what Planned Parenthood across the country has told Live Action staff, although it is slightly higher or lower depending on what part of the country it is.)
    * Total income from abortions: $137,389,500
    * Total health center income: $374,700,000

    This means that fully 36.7% of Planned Parenthood health center income comes directly from aborting unborn children.

    Looking at a 2010 fact sheet from their own website, Planned Parenthood provided 324, 008 abortion services, 2,405 adoption referrals, and 9,433 prenatal services in 2008. When calculated, abortion services accounted for 96% of the services provided to pregnant women.

    So, abortions account for 96% of their pregnant patients, 10% of all patients, and 36.7% of their income. That’s a far cry from 3%.

    The numbers only come out at 3% because all of the requirements to have an abortion, such as a pregnancy test, an ultrasound, a gynecological exam, counseling, etc. All of these are counted separately from abortion, and so the numbers are skewed.

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Some interesting points on all sides of this discussion. But for me, the bottom line is that I have a difficult time imagining this lede in the Times:

    SAN FRANCISCO — Seeking to stem what they call misleading advertising, San Francisco officials on Tuesday began a two-pronged attack on “family planning centers,” which are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice, but often use counseling to encourage abortions.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    . I therefore favor the “Abortion Alternatives” advertising of one chain of such centers as truth in advertising. And, no those quotation marks aren’t scare quotes but something in between.

    Which did not ward off the recent legislative attack in New York. So, where is the “false advertising” there?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    MoonChild02 – This website is about journalism proper. If you want to discuss abortion specifically, there’s an ‘off-topic, anything goes’ forum called the Coffeehouse for such things.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    You are technically correct, Ray Ingles, but Moonchild was responding to false information in #24, which arguably belonged at the coffeehouse, as well.

  • Mollie

    Friends,

    Yes, keep comments focused on journalism or, as Ray Ingles has noted, please take it over to the coffeehouse.

    Thank you!

    The MGMT

  • Mollie

    Karen wrote:

    Given that the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are contraceptive (83%), gynecological and STD services, “Family Planning Center” is appropriate.

    The reason I pointed out that family planning isn’t put in scare quotes is because of the fact that family planning services are almost always about anti-family planning. Whether it’s condoms, IUDs, the birth control pill or abortion or what have you, much of what these family planning clinics offer are services designed for the prevention of building a family.

    One of my friends joking calls her visits to these clinics the “anti-baby” visits and her pills the “pills against the baby.”

    And frequently when I see family planning mentioned in the Times it’s for just these kinds of contraceptive or abortive services. But we don’t see scare quotes. But crisis pregnancy centers are scare quoted. Intriguing.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/ Nicole Neroulias

    But “family planning” doesn’t mean never having kids — that would mean predominantly offering services like vasectomies, hysterectomies, etc. — it means planning for them. Do you also think that the Catholic Church’s Natural Family Planning, primarily aimed at preventing pregnancy until a couple is ready to have a child, is a misnomer?

    Meanwhile, as some of us have already observed, the story itself is about the controversy over whether these centers, in their names and ads, are presenting themselves accurately. I could see your point more if you were complaining about “crisis pregnancy center” being placed in quotes in a different kind of story, though I would still agree with editors who consider the term as unfamiliar or confusing to most readers and want to make it clear that it’s a self-described label. (Not to veer too far off topic, but journalistic caution with political football labels is fairly common style practice; see also: Ground Zero mosque vs. mosque near Ground Zero.)

  • http://www.michmorethanwords.com gfe

    Trying to parse that lede probably too carefully, I don’t see those quote marks as scare quotes, but as a legitimate use of quote marks to indicate that something has an idiomatic meaning.

    Again, parsing probably too carefully, my main objection as a copy editor is with the “but” in the sentence — it suggests that giving advice and encouraging a particular course of action are mutually exclusive. That’s not so. Even biased advice is still advice.

    I’d probably recast the lede to something like this: “Seeking to stem what they call misleading advertising, San Francisco officials on Tuesday began a two-pronged attack on ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ which they say are billed as places for pregnant women to get objective advice but often use counseling to discourage abortions.”

    I think that simple rewrite is not only grammatically clearer, but also slightly better at explaining what the dispute is all about.

    With that change made, I wouldn’t see the article as particularly biased, although I do think it would have been helpful to provide an example of what the centers’ critics see as deceptive.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Passing By – I was referring to MoonChild02′s direct response to me in #25.

  • http://www.abbottepub.com/tyndale21gospels.html Stephen A.

    The bottom line issue of “scare quotes” is indeed a legitimate one. When reporting on an issue, one should take care not to take sides by using them as if the words are somehow illegitimate.

    Using quotes around crisis pregnancy centers in this article’s lede seemed to telegraph the illegitimacy of the term, and the rest of the sentence proved that’s the effect one was going for. Adding quotes around “pro-choice” would be a balance if the pro-life side was being examined as well, for example.

    I have to question (as I always do when reading ledes and the full articles) whether the editor added these or the reporter. It’s an important distinction – at least to the reporter, because the reporter should know better and should be trained to avoid demonization via scare quotes. If an editor plugged them in to reflect his/her bias or that of the paper’s, it was an introduction of editorializing, and is a VERY common practice in my experience.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    The reason I pointed out that family planning isn’t put in scare quotes is because of the fact that family planning services are almost always about anti-family planning. Whether it’s condoms, IUDs, the birth control pill or abortion or what have you, much of what these family planning clinics offer are services designed for the prevention of building a family.

    And as Chesterton pointed out, “birth control” means “birth prevention”.

  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com R.F. McDonald

    Mollie, your paragraph confuses me.

    “The reason I pointed out that family planning isn’t put in scare quotes is because of the fact that family planning services are almost always about anti-family planning. Whether it’s condoms, IUDs, the birth control pill or abortion or what have you, much of what these family planning clinics offer are services designed for the prevention of building a family.”

    For the prevention of building a family at the right time, yes. None of these methods–not even abortion–preclude the possibility of building a family at a time and/or place more convenient to the user of family planning services of any kind.

  • str

    it’s widespread public knowledge that places like Planned Parenthood provide advice/counseling on all the options (abortion, adoption, morning-after pill, contraception, etc.)

    Actually, it’s widespread knowledge that PP prefers certain options, i.e. those that end up with a dead child.

    It is hypocritical of reporters when they scandalize other facilities clearly preferring other, more humane options.


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