Once again, let us return to the dictionary and ponder why some journalists in our age are having trouble using a basic scientific term that has become all too common in our news.
The word of the day is “fetus.” Look it up and you’ll find the following information or something close to it:
fe·tus … pl. fe·tus·es
… 2. In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth, as distinguished from the earlier embryo.
Now, GetReligion readers may recall that the word “fetus” became rather controversial during the trial of the infamous Dr. Kermit Gosnell. At the heart of that trial were debates about the accuracy of allegations made by Gosnell’s coworkers that he regularly delivered late-term “fetuses” (as many news reports said) alive and then killed them.
Of course, there’s the journalism issue — clear as day. Gosnell was not killing “fetuses,” because these children had already been delivered. With the snip of his scissors, he was killing, one after another, newborn babies. What part of “to the moment of birth” is so hard for some editors and reporters to grasp?Clearly, language used in press reports was being shaped by larger debates about law, abortion, morality, religion and science. Religion? Yes. More on that in a minute.
I thought this mainstream-media argument ended with the Gosnell trial, when The New York Times tweaked its published reports on the trial.
Apparently not, as the still Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway recently tweeted:
AP says preliminary reports suggest baby born alive. Insist, contra science, on calling it a fetus http://t.co/gskPT6g0tz
— Mollie Z. Hemingway (@MZHemingway) October 19, 2013
And what did that language look like in the Associated Press report?