Hey journalists: Please look up ‘fetus’ in a dictionary

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:

And what did that language look like in the Associated Press report?

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NYTimes finally makes some changes on the fetus front

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Oh to have been a fly on the fall during any editing discussions at The New York Times national desk during the time between the newspaper of record’s early report on the verdict in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell case and the final version that is currently online.

Yes, there were a few changes.

Now I — naive old me — failed to save a copy of the early story. Frankly, I thought the Times team would leave that online as the early, deadline version and then publish a separate second-day story. Yes, I am naive every now and then.

However, the Newsbusters crew wrote a commentary that included some of the language that I also saw early on. It interesting that when you click on the URL in this commentary that is supposed to lead to the early Times report, you now head over to the radically changed final version. Slick.

The key statement in the early text is that the “verdict came after a five-week trial in which the prosecution and the defense battled over whether the fetuses Dr. Gosnell was charged with killing were alive when they were removed from their mothers.”

Now, that is an accurate statement, from one perspective. The whole point of the trial was whether Gosnell’s coworkers were speaking the truth when they reported that he regularly delivered late-term fetuses alive before killing them. Then again, as your GetReligionistas have been noting, there is no such thing as a fetus that has been delivered. Once it’s delivered, it’s an infant or a baby. Look it up.

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.

What part of “to the moment of birth” is so hard to grasp? One really doesn’t need get into arguments about abortion, morality, religion, science and law to read the a few words in a dictionary.

However, it is also important to note that the Times team was challenged with reporting, accurately, the claims of voices on both sides. Gosnell’s defenders were clearly using “fetus” language and it was important to quote that language as part of his case. Thus, the early Times report also stated that “Dr. Gosnell was acquitted of one first-degree murder charge involving an aborted fetus.”

Right. The jury apparently did not believe that the evidence of a live birth was as strong in one of the “snipping” cases. But what about the victims in the three guilty verdicts?

Over at The Washington Post, the early report went with the simple language of the trial itself — a good choice. The attributions are clear and strong.

PHILADELPHIA – After a two-month trial and 10 days of deliberation, a jury on Monday decided that Baby A, Baby C and Baby D lived a few fleeting moments outside their mothers’ wombs before their spinal cords were severed at Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic in West Philadelphia.

The way those brief lives ended didn’t amount to abortion but to three acts of first-degree murder, jurors concluded.

So what happened in the revised Times report? Let’s walk through that one, starting with the blunt lede:

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Death penalty in Cleveland horrors? Wait, who died?

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Once again, let’s turn to the dictionary and that tricky word “fetus,” which has through the decades been at the heart of so many bitter newsroom arguments about abortion, morality, religion, science and law.

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.

Obviously, your GetReligionistas have been discussing this term lately because of the ongoing, and ongoing, trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and the fact that some elite media have been saying things like the following (care of the industry scriptures, The New York Times):

PHILADELPHIA – Through four weeks, prosecutors have laid out evidence against Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider on trial on charges of killing seven viable fetuses by “snipping” their necks with scissors and of causing the death of a pregnant 41-year-old woman during a procedure.

The problem, once again, is that at the heart of the Gosnell nightmare were the reports that he was DELIVERING late-term fetuses and THEN killing the infants — after delivery. In other words, these infants were no longer “fetuses,” according to the dictionary, when the abortionist snipped their spinal cords.

Now, we are seeing some interesting, and related, issues emerging in Cleveland, where prosecutors are preparing to throw the book at the alleged kidnapper and torturer Ariel Castro. Note the language in this New York Times report, which resembles that seen in many other mainstream media accounts. Here is the lede:

CLEVELAND – As more grim details emerged … about the long captivity of the three women rescued from imprisonment in a dilapidated home here, one official compared the victims to survivors of a P.O.W. camp, and prosecutors said they would seek murder charges against the man held in the abductions, accusing him of forcing at least one of the women to miscarry.

Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said the miscarriages, which at least one of the women described to the police, could be grounds for seeking the death penalty for the suspect, Ariel Castro. Mr. Castro, a former bus driver, enticed the women off the street with offers of a ride home, the authorities say.

And later on, there is this linked to the torture of Michelle Knight:

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Journalism and the first few minutes after childbirth

There is nothing new about journalists arguing about the loaded language that surrounds our public debates about abortion.

For starters, there is the whole “pro-choice” vs. “anti-abortion” thing and all of the years in which editors in so many mainstream newsrooms granted one side of the debate it’s positive, vague, self-chosen label while slapping a label on the other side that was, for many, too negative and too narrow. Most of all, only one side of the debate had to wrestle with the ugly word “abortion.” Who can oppose “choice,” the ultimate buzz word of the American Way of Life?

I have also heard my share of newsroom debates about the word “fetus.” For example, in a news story about a pregnant woman, some journalists argued that it was best to avoid direct quotes in which the mother referred to her “baby” if, in the next paragraph, the reporter would be using the newsroom-approved term “fetus.” Didn’t that clash look awkward? Perhaps it would be best to paraphrase the mother to remove that tricky language?

Obviously, in the eyes of some journalists, it was always better to paraphrase all of the quotes from those religious nuts who kept inserting the words “unborn child” or “unborn children” into their soundbites.

Everyone knows that an “unborn child” is actually a “fetus.” After all, the dictionary says:

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.

However, if this is the case, what in the world is going on in the top paragraphs of the following story in USA Today?

PHILADELPHIA – One clinic worker testified that she saw aborted fetuses moving, breathing and, once, “screeching.” Another described a 2-foot-long fetus that “didn’t have eyes or a mouth, but it was like … making this noise. … It sounded like a little alien.”

A third witness recalled how, as ordered, she used surgical scissors to snip the spine of an aborted fetus she’d found in a toilet, its arm still moving. “I did it once, and I didn’t do it again,” she said. “… It gave me the creeps.”

The creeps are an occupational hazard for jurors in the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, accused of running a clinic where seven babies were allegedly killed after botched abortions and an adult patient was given a fatal overdose of Demerol.

Now, isn’t the whole point of this aspect of the Gosnell trial — as opposed to many other hellish issues being raised in that courtroom — that associates of the abortionist have testified that, when performing late-term abortions with viable fetuses, it was his practice to administer drugs that induced labor, to deliver the children and then, after the births, to use the “snip” technique to kill them?

So the whole point is that the viable child was outside the mother’s body — past the moment of birth. Has anyone disputed that this happened in some cases, in a number of cases that needs to be determined?

If that is the case, why are some journalists using “fetus” language to describe the newborns that are being “snipped”?

Perhaps this new and, for me, bizarre journalistic debate has something to do with this other passage drawn from that USA Today piece:

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Vote! Which is the worst Gosnell lede?

A few positive thoughts before we look at coverage of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s trial.

(1) I can not begin to thank you for all the kind words and support you’ve sent my way, publicly and privately, during this time. It is appreciated and it helps. Yes, I took some heat, which is to be expected. But the kind words of support, ranging from embarrassingly effusive to constructive advice, were wonderful to receive. A thousand thank yous.

(2) I joked at some point that one bright thing to come out of this craziness is that at least now my family understands what a media critic does.

(3) While this expose of Gosnell disparities did lay bare what a huge problem we have with how the media handle a wide variety of issues in this country, I want people to know that I heard from a great many newswriters, producers and editors throughout major national media as well as many local and regional outlets. The Gosnell brouhaha enabled some helpful conversations about the struggles these fair and honorable journalists have in newsrooms throughout the country. Some people merely thanked me for bringing the issue to light. Others told stories of how they have to fight for better coverage of various topics.

So here is something to remember: If you’re despairing about journalism in general, keep in mind that many journalists throughout the country are worried about the diminishing credibility of their industry, as a whole.

Yes, I know some news folks still think that denying the problem is the way to go. Such defensiveness only further harms credibility. The first step to addressing a problem is, well, admitting that you have a problem.

Anyway, a reporter sent me a link to a recent Gosnell story and asked if it didn’t contain the worst lede in the history of the world:

Say what you will about abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, the man was something of a naturalist.

Yikes! And it goes on like that, sort of a charming and fluffy feature about Gosnell’s love of plants and animals in a place where he is accused of butchering untold humans. It is a tone-deaf lede but probably suffers more from bad timing in this media climate. It ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer and comes from a reporter who actually has been covering the trial. So forgive me if I think other journalists need more criticism. When you’re covering a weeks-long trial, you look for new and interesting angles. That’s how I view this fluffy feature on the man who may be one of history’s greatest serial killers.

A different journalist pointed out another lede on this story that may be even worse. It comes from the New York Times piece headlined “Online Furor Draws Press to Abortion Doctor’s Trial” (and mentions my work):

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None dare call it “baby”

human_infant_newborn_babyHave you ever asked someone about their pregnancy only to find out that they weren’t pregnant?

I did it years ago at a party. I thought this woman told me that she and her husband were expecting. She didn’t look terribly pregnant but she was also wearing one of those tent shirts where you can’t really tell. Later I asked her when she was due. Let’s just say she still won’t talk to me. As a result, I won’t ask women about their pregnancy unless they are in labor — I’m just that scared.

That same fear and uncomfortableness is present in most mainstream media discussions of pregnancy. Talk about the overuse of euphemism! To euphemize is to substitute an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Which is how we get terms such as “termination of pregnancy” and “fetus.” Fetus is from the Latin for “offspring” and simply means the unborn young. You may also recognize it as a word that is used by a microscopic percentage of pregnant women. Well, let’s put that another way. Fetus is a more common term of use for babies that the parents don’t want. Those that are wanted are called babies from the get go.

Anyway, sometimes the use of ‘fetus’ is ridiculously overdone. Let’s take, for example, the heartbreaking story of an eight-months-pregnant woman who was killed when her uterus was cut open and her baby was stolen. I can hardly bear to think about it. The story was all over and news outlets struggled with how to describe the human that was stolen. As we read earlier, a fetus is an unborn baby. Even those untimely ripped from their mother’s wombs, as this baby was, are born.

Verum Serum has a comprehensive, GetReligion-style list of headlines showing how the mainstream media treated the baby-snatching. Here are some of the headlines, beginning with Fox News:

Pregnant Massachusetts Woman Killed, Fetus Taken

Also Fox News:

Woman Suspected of Cutting Baby From Massachusetts Mom’s Womb Held on $2M Bail

ABC News 1:

Mom-to-Be Darlene Haynes Killed, Cops Search for Her Fetus

ABC News 2:

Baby Cut From Slain Mom’s Womb Found Alive

ABC News 3:

Slain Pregnant Woman Lived in Same Building With Accused Fetus-Stealer

Fetus-stealer? I can understand headline writers trying to drive home the point that this baby was taken from the mother’s womb, but there are better ways to do that.

Verum Serum
has many more examples from the Boston Globe, CNN and others. There’s also a discussion of what the use of these terms mean. The oddest example was probably this one from the Boston Herald:

Officials search hospitals for victim’s fetus

No, they were looking for a baby, not a fetus. She was a baby when she was ripped from her mother’s womb. She was a baby when she was kidnapped. And she was a baby when she was, thankfully, found safe.

Maybe it’s just because I have a uterus and have had two children — or maybe it’s just because I think journalists should speak clearly and avoid euphemisms — but it would actually be okay to call an unborn child one month from anticipated delivery what everyone else in the country does, too: a baby.

Journalists ignore life’s beginnings

ignore2Two major newspapers published front-page stories yesterday about a proposed Bush Administration rule that would seek to protect health-care workers to not provide abortions, or contraceptive devices they regard as tantamount to abortion. The proposal would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan, or other entity that does not give employees a right to refuse to participate on conscience grounds.

In The Wall Street Journal, reporter Stephanie Simon focused on the potentially far-reaching effects of the rule. Her lede began this way:

Set aside the fraught question of when human life begins. The new debate: When does pregnancy begin?

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying “the life of a human being.”

Later, Simon elaborated about the politics of the proposed rule as well as that of other similar state measures:

With its expansive definitions, the draft bolsters a key goal of the religious right: to give single-cell fertilized eggs full rights by defining them as legal people — or, as some activists put it, “the tiniest boys and girls.”

As long as Roe v. Wade remains in effect and abortion remains legal, that goal can’t be fully realized. But in recent years, abortion opponents have scored notable successes. For instance: Several states now define a fertilized egg as a legal person — an “unborn child” — for purposes of fetal homicide laws, which allow criminal prosecution when a woman miscarries as a result of an assault.

In South Dakota, abortion doctors must tell patients — whatever their stage of pregnancy — that they will be “terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” with whom they have an “existing relationship.” In Colorado, voters this fall will weigh a state constitutional amendment that would confer full personhood on fertilized eggs, as well as embryos and fetuses. And embryonic stem-cell research is restricted through a variety of state and federal policies.

In The Washington Post, reporter Rob Stein also focused on the political and legal effects of the rule:

Because of its wide scope and because it would — apparently for the first time — define abortion in a federal regulation as anything that affects a fertilized egg, the regulation could raise questions about a broad spectrum of scientific research and care, critics say.

Simon and Stein could not ignore writing about the rule’s political and legal implications. But their exclusive focus on them gave readers an incomplete and misleading picture. They glossed over the biological aspects of the rule. And Simon used scare quotes to describe human biology– “the life of the human being” and “unborn child.”

As I wrote last December, embryologists and biologists have reached a rough consensus about when human life begins. In the vast majority of cases, an individual human life begins at the end of fertilization or conception.

Take the definition in Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia:

In humans, the organism is called an embryo for the first seven or eight weeks after conception, after which it is called a fetus.

Or consider the definition in Columbia Encyclopedia:

Among humans, the developing young is known as an embryo until eight weeks following conception, after which time it is described, until birth, as a fetus.

Not all authorities agree with this precise definition. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary and Oxford University define an embryo as that which begins at implantation. Yet this definition relies on an exception to the rule: the case of twins or triplets, etc. In those cases, the first human life begins at fertilization, and the second when the embryo splits or divides. Yet the life is undoubtedly human.

It’s fine for reporters to write about the law and politics. But when it comes to bio-ethical issues, they also need to write about the biology. Avoiding the topic is simply a journalistic sin of omission.

We call it ‘selective reduction’

LizaMundyIn recent weeks we’ve seen a couple of really good articles about the ethics and values of abortion supporters. Liza Mundy, a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine, had another excellent entry that relates to the topic with her Sunday piece on women pregnant with more than one fetus who wish they had fewer.

Mundy, who just wrote the book Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World, speaks with mothers of multiple fetuses and one of the doctors who ends the lives of some of them. In an online chat the Post provided the day after the article ran, Mundy says she supports what advocates of the practice call “selective reduction.” Having said that, the piece balances that sympathy with some of the most shockingly straightforward details I’ve seen in abortion-related reporting. She also looks at the psychological suffering and ethical qualms of the women who end the lives of some of the fetuses inside of them. To wit:

And, sure enough, on [sonographer Rachel] Greenbaum’s screen were three little honeycombed chambers with three fetuses growing in them. The fetuses were moving and waving their limbs; even at this point, approaching 12 weeks of gestation, they were clearly human, at that big-headed-could-be-an-alien-but-definitely-not-a-kitten stage of development. Evans has found this to be the best window of time in which to perform a reduction. Waiting that long provides time to see whether the pregnancy might reduce itself naturally through miscarriage, and lets the fetuses develop to the point where genetic testing can be done to see which are chromosomally normal.

. . . So far, there was nothing anomalous about any of the fetuses. Greenbaum turned the screen toward the patient. “That’s the little heartbeat,” she said, pointing to the area where a tiny organ was clearly pulsing. “And there are the little hands. There’s the head. The body.”

“Oh, my God, I can really see it!” the patient cried. “Oh, my God! I can see the fingers!”

“Okay!” she said, abruptly, gesturing for the screen to be turned away. She began sobbing. There were no tissues in the room, so her husband gave her a paper towel, which she crumpled to her face. The patient spent the rest of the procedure with her hospital gown over her face, so she would not see any more of what was happening.

The fetus is killed — or “eliminated” and “deleted” as the Post article puts it — through an injection of potassium chloride to the heart. The article reminded me of Stephanie Simon’s excellent write-up of her day inside an abortion clinic for the Los Angeles Times. In fact, Mundy did camp out at the doctor’s office for two days while she met with women carrying multiple fetuses. One compelling story was that of lesbian couple Emma and Jane, who had decided they would terminate the lives of two of their quadruplets by looking for chromosomal abnormalities, fetal position, medical instincts and, finally, sex. All four of the fetuses were healthy:

“I used to be totally not willing to talk about gender,” elaborated [Doctor Mark] Evans, who has pieced together his own ethics during more than 20 years of practice. At the outset, he worked with a bioethicist to develop guiding principles. For years, he says, the majority of sex-selection requests came from Asian and Indian parents, who tended to want to keep the boys. That he would not do. Increasingly, however, what people want is the Holy Grail of the modern two-child family: one boy and one girl. He finds that morally acceptable.

Emma positioned herself on the table for her sonogram, while Jane scrutinized the four fetuses on the screen. “They are all tucked in really nicely into their little nests,” she said, fascinated. “The most I’ve ever looked at in utero is two.”

. . . Jane wanted to safeguard Emma’s pregnancy but was feeling some ethical qualms. “It’s killing me that we’re going to do this,” Jane said. “I never thought I would feel that. I’m the most pro-choice person. I’m vehemently pro-choice.”

It’s interesting that it’s not morally acceptable to kill a girl if it’s because Indian and Asian parents prefer boys, but it is morally acceptable to kill a girl if it’s because she already has a sister. I wish Mundy had explored that more. What is the logic behind that? The article also covers a woman from Puerto Rico whose mother pushes her to terminate one of the three girls she is carrying:

Evans worked for a while trying to get the needle into the right spot.

“I’m not in,” he said at one point, tensely. Then he pinned C with the needle, and pushed the plunger to release the chemical. The fetus, which had been undulating and waving, went still. It would remain in the womb, while the other fetuses grew and developed.

Evans explains that what he does is not technically an abortion since that procedure “kills the fetus and empties the uterus.” Since he aims to continue a pregnancy with the dead fetus inside the woman and the living fetuses continuing to grow, it’s not an abortion. The one pro-lifer in the article mentions that this distinction isn’t that noteworthy from her perspective.

Anyway, it made me think back to the term we were using: selective reduction. Remember that big, record-breaking discussion we had when the Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act? I do. Some readers supported mainstream media’s decision to put the term in quotes or refer to it as something only critics of the practice called it. And yet the actual medical term for what Evans is doing is chorionic villus sampling feticide or embryoctony.

Selective reduction, like partial-birth abortion, is not a medical term, but the one used by proponents of the practice. And yet it’s not put in quotes by the mainstream media. Curious. The only time I recall seeing it put in quotes was when someone critiqued a New York Times Sunday Magazine article by a woman who killed two of her triplets so she wouldn’t have to make trips to Costco or move out of the East Village. I’m not joking. The New York Times got in a bit of trouble over that piece — not because of the content but because it failed to mention the woman in question had worked for Planned Parenthood.

Anyway, Mundy gets some explicit religion in the story through the concerns of the sonogram technician who says she sometimes feels like she’s playing God. She justifies her behavior by saying her Jewish beliefs enable her to terminate fetuses for sound medical reasons.

Still, she says: “It’s a very hard procedure, because the baby is moving, and you are chasing it. That is what is very emotional — when the baby is moving and you are chasing it.

I wish the ethics and religious guidelines of each patient had been delved into more because it was fascinating each time Mundy did broach the subject. The doctor used to refuse to terminate one twin, although he is willing now since some patients only want one child. His thinking is that if it’s okay to abort a pregnancy, there’s no logical argument that means it’s not okay to reduce a pregnancy from two to one. Mundy says there is a debate about that notion but she then refers to another doctor who simply talks about how it’s possible to have a healthy pregnancy carrying multiple fetuses. That’s not a refutation of Evans’ logical argument. Mundy also mentions psychological consequences, including severe bereavement and a more complex attachment to the remaining babies.

The lesbian couple ends up selecting for sex. They want a boy and a girl. One of them is worried about the karma of what they are doing, particularly after one of the little ones they selected to terminate is moving and waving:

Evans prepared two syringes, swabbed Emma with antiseptic, put the square-holed napkin on her stomach. Then he plunged one of the needles into Emma’s belly and began to work his way into position. He injected the potassium chloride, and B, the first fetus to go, went still.

“There’s no activity there,” he said, scrutinizing the screen. B was lying lengthwise in its little honeycomb chamber, no longer there and yet still there. It was impossible not to find the sight affecting. Here was a life that one minute was going to happen and now, because of its location, wasn’t. One minute, B was a fetus with a future stretching out before it: childhood, college, children, grandchildren, maybe. The next minute, that future had been deleted.

Evans plunged the second needle into Emma’s belly. “See the tip?” he said, showing the women where the tip of the needle was visible on the ultrasound screen. Even I could see it: a white spot hovering near the heart. D was moving. Evans started injecting. He went very slowly. “If you inject too fast, you blow the kid off your needle,” he explained.

SuzannePoppemaI thought the article — including that last quote — was shockingly straightforward. I was struck by how many comments in the Washington Post chat championed the reporter for sympathizing with women who terminate some of their fetuses. It would be just as easy to praise her for shedding light on the monstrosity of “selective reduction.” I thought it was, like many of Stephanie Simon’s stories, rather balanced — which is interesting because Simon had an abortion story that wasn’t terribly balanced. So there you have it. Apparently I do not offer unending praise for 100 percent of her stories. Anyway, she writes about medical students who want to become abortion doctors.

For the article, Simon speaks with three students and one doctor — all in her home base of Colorado. The doctor is Warren Hern, who is rather notorious for aborting babies throughout pregnancy. I was surprised at the limited scope. It also uncritically parrots the pro-choice talking points, including horror stories from pre-Roe days. She mentions that, while abortions are quite common, a decreasing number of doctors perform them. Abortion opponents suggest the reality of the procedure is too grisly. Abortion rights advocates blame picketing of doctors’ offices and “increasingly” (what does that mean, exactly?) the home:

Physicians who choose to provide abortions also chafe at a lack of autonomy. In many states, every detail of their practice is regulated: the width of clinic hallways, the number of air vents, even how often their staff must take physicals.

On the federal level, Congress has banned a particular technique for ending mid-term pregnancies, known by critics as “partial-birth abortion.” The Supreme Court last month upheld that ban; doctors can be prosecuted for using the method even if they determine it’s the safest approach for a given patient.

Every doctor I know complains about over-regulation — is this managing of hall space limited to abortion clinics? I don’t really know the answer to that, but some comparison must be made. And the second paragraph is just disappointing. That’s not a Stephanie Simon paragraph — it’s a NARAL fundraising letter.

Hern, 68, practices in Boulder, Colo., a liberal college town. Still, he’s afraid to open his blinds at night for fear of a sniper hidden in the bushes. His clinic is protected by a fence and four layers of bulletproof glass.

Abortion is so stigmatized, Hern said, that his fellow physicians shun him. Even his patients often regard him with disgust: “They’ve absorbed so much antiabortion rhetoric, they feel a sense of revulsion that they have to come into my office and seek treatment.”

Having grown up in Colorado and having attending the University of Colorado, I’m familiar with Hern. To put it as gently as I can, he’s a character. He’s completely outlandish and when I was growing up there, he was quoted all the time for his extreme statements. Think Pat Robertson for the pro-abortion crowd. If other physicians shun him, it might not just be because of his chosen line of work.

Anyway, what I love about Simon’s articles is that I learn so much about the topics she covers. She’s also just a wonderful writer who really gets her subjects and explains their perspectives well. This article was very well written, but I’m not sure how illuminating it was.