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Mainstream media’s ban on ‘heartbeat’ language to describe pro-life bills is simply unscientific

Jonathon Van Maren Jonathon Van Maren Follow Jonathon

June 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As the pro-life movement gains ground in the United States, the primary opponents of pre-born human rights are beginning to get worried.

Last month, Cecile Richards noted grimly that Roe v. Wade is “hanging by a thread.” Abortion activists are raising cash to create abortion funds for women who live in states where abortion is nearly impossible to procure. And liberal states continue to make abortions supporters look positively ghoulish, with Vermont recently legalizing abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and Illinois legalizing partial-birth abortion and eliminating conscience protections for doctors.

One of the reasons abortion activists have been panicking is because the pro-life laws passing on the state level have been so effective at creating a conversation about the human being developing in the womb, with bills protecting the child after the heartbeat begins or fetal pain bans specifically highlighting an aspect of the child’s humanity or the horror of the abortion procedure. These bills, even if Roe prevents their implementation, have a steady impact on public opinion. This has rendered some feticide enthusiasts almost apoplectic, with abortion activist Dr. Jen Gunter penning a furious column in the Huffington Post titled, “Dear Press, Stop Calling Them 'Heartbeat' Bills And Call Them 'Fetal Pole Cardiac Activity' Bills.”

In Gunter’s mind, these bills are dangerous because they draw attention to the child’s humanity. She explained why the media is enabling pro-life activists in a column fairly dripping with hatred:

It’s bad enough that these bills exist, but the press needs to do a better job of calling them what they are. If politicians want to play doctor they should be using medical terms. If they refuse to use the correct terminology the press should correct them. People who vote for the assholes who write these sh*t shows know them as “heartbeat bills” not because they follow them as they groan through committee, but because that is how they read or hear about them in the news. The politicians know exactly what they are doing as a “heartbeat” bills is a way of making a 4 mm thickening next to a yolk sac seem like it is almost ready to walk.

It didn’t take long for Gunter’s suggestion to catch on. The media seemed almost relieved that someone was telling them how to slant their coverage even further, despite the fact that nobody has ever heard of “fetal pole cardiac activity” used to describe a baby’s heartbeat. My wife and I are expecting our second child, and from the very first ultrasound the doctor happily told us about the baby’s heartbeat, not the “fetal pole cardiac activity.” Then again, the doctor wasn’t trying to dehumanize our baby in order to help justify an abortion. But The Guardian, of course, jumped right on board:

The Guardian will no longer use the term “heartbeat bill” in reference to the restrictive abortion bans that are moving through state legislatures in the US…

 “We want to avoid medically inaccurate, misleading language when covering women’s reproductive rights,” the Guardian’s US editor-in-chief, John Mulholland, said. “These are arbitrary bans that don’t reflect fetal development – and the language around them is often motivated by politics, not science.”

Of course, it is not as if The Guardian would insist on medical accuracy by, say, publishing photos of the human being in the womb at six weeks so that everyone could be crystal clear as to what exactly is happening during an abortion, because that would defeat their actual point, which is to push back against growing public awareness that abortion violently ends the life of a human being. The Guardian even quoted Gunter in their explanation, and explicitly stated that their shift in language is a response to the successes of pro-life activists:

“These bills present the idea that there’s something that looks like what you or a person on the street would call a baby – a thing that’s almost ready to go for a walk,” said Dr Jen Gunter, a gynecologist in Canada and the US who runs an influential blog. “In reality, you’re talking about something that’s millimeters in size and doesn’t look anything like that.”

The Guardian’s updated style guide comes as a wave of restrictive abortion bans are sweeping the US: between 1 January and 20 May, 378 abortion restrictions were introduced across the United States. An unprecedented 40% of them have been abortion bans that prohibit terminations after a certain gestational age or for another specific reason, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Just to ensure that nobody will confuse them for an objective news source, The Guardian also ends each article on abortion with the statement in bold letters that “Reproductive Freedom is a basic human right.” In the US, NPR has also re-released their standards for how to discuss the abortion debate, which included this delusional paragraph:

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. Use "unborn" only when referring to the title of the bill (and after President Bush signs it, the Unborn Victims of Violence Law). Or qualify the use of "unborn" by saying "what anti-abortion groups call the 'unborn' victims of violence." The most neutral language to refer to the death of a fetus during a crime is "fetal homicide."

This is a truly boneheaded collection of semantic nonsense. “Fetus” is simply Latin for “young one,” which means that you are calling the child a baby in a different language. Not to mention the fact that fetus doesn’t actually tell you what something is, it tells you how old someone is, something that anyone even remotely familiar with the scientific terminology would know. But again, the game the media is trying to play is a simple one: Hide the truth about the baby developing in the womb. A quick viewing of National Geographic’s magnificent documentary Inside the Womb should be required viewing for these hacks.

Fifty years after Roe v. Wade clumsily imposed abortion on all fifty states, every advance in science and medical technology has revealed just how cruel abortion activists actually are. We are doing surgeries on babies in the womb, and preemie babies are surviving earlier and earlier. The media generally celebrates these feel-good stories with appropriate joy, while publishing other articles discussing babies the same age in language specifically designed to cover up the fact that those babies aren’t being healed by a medical professional, they are being torn apart. The fact is that the media is willfully complicit in attempting to cover up the greatest human rights violation of all time, and history will not judge them kindly. 

Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he interviews Nigerian pro-life leader Obianuju Ekeocha. They begin by discussing Ekeocha's rise within the pro-life movement and move into drastic differences between African culture as a whole and Western culture. You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: 

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Jonathon Van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.