Is the AP using the least biased phrasing in abortion reporting?

I ask the question in the title of this post seriously. It’s not one of those “No they aren’t, and here’s why” write-ups.

I’ve long been a fan of the AP Stylebook, which is the basic style of news writing in the industry. When I went to college, and a few years afterward, I worked in journalism and loved the work. The writing style still appeals to me, and I still write with it, even when doing opinion pieces, like the posts here at RedState.


For the most part, the language in the Stylebook is a lot more neutral than the actual writing we see put out by the organization on the national level. I admit quite readily that the industry I love so dearly is biased towards the Left, and I do often call them out on it (I also frown at things that are too biased toward the Right – news should be neutral, and the readers draw their own conclusions). But most news organizations use the AP Style as a base for their own reporting, with some minor modifications as suits their purposes.

However, I look at the entry in the AP Stylebook on “abortion,” and it reads as follows:

Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs a clandestine abortion.

My concern here is the idea is that one side is called “pro” while the other side is called “anti,” which have their own connotations and could potentially have an effect on a neutral person reading the subject.

I suppose I can understand the logic behind it. When it comes to abortion, each term is a little more accurate/little less abstract. They specifically describe each view with regard to the abortion debate. Someone who is pro-life is anti-abortion, as they dislike abortion in any form. Someone who is pro-abortion right believes that a person deserves the right to choose to have an abortion.


However, pro-life and pro-choice are more equal, however, in that they each have the same connotative prefix, which would decrease the chance of unintentional bias, and they both describe what the goal of each movement is. They are also the traditional self-description of people within each movement.

The issue, of course, arises from the fact that we see in many instances when anti-abortion is used in the media, it’s used in an almost derogatory way. The term itself is essentially neutral, but the connotation with which it is used has a lot of negative feeling. However, I’ve had Right-leaning activists tell me they like the term because it makes them look like active participants in the fight to end a fundamental evil, so I get that argument, too.

I lean toward pro-life and pro-choice, but I can see the arguments for the alternative. Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the language media used, because it would all be inherently neutral. However, as my old football coach once said (and also as [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] said): “Ifs, buts, and candied nuts, it’d be Christmas every day.”



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