April 13, 2021

What’s in a Name?

Business Card The short answer is: A lot.

Everyone knows that the context of a statement can be more powerful than the actual statement itself, and no one is more aware of this than the media.  Where this is glaringly obvious is in the whole Abortion debate.


First, let’s get some basic terms which we can use to make the point.  For the moment I’ll be glossing over some nuance (the reasons which I’ll explain as we journey forward) and so we’ll use the following:

  • Position A: These people believe that abortion is wrong in all cases because abortion ends a life.
  • Position B: These people believe that abortion is a viable option for a woman to have in choosing what happens with her pregnancy.

Position A’s Terminology

Position A originally started out as “Anti-Abortion”.  The problem with this term is that it’s a negative.  Any negative is harder to sell than a positive, and always gets the negative portrayal (especially when juxtaposed with a positive.

So, then Position A created the term “Pro-Life”.  Much better, in terms of a positive, and is hard to actually come out against.  Who wants to be known as the person that’s not for life?

Position B’s Terminology

Position B has actually gone through two names as well.  Originally, they were “Pro-Abortion”.  They had the positive term, but as the truth came out about exactly what abortion did to the unborn, and the realization that there were many that would not personally have an abortion but did not want to impose their preference on someone else.

That’s when they came up with the term “Pro-Choice”.  This term is extremely positive– it keys into the individualist mind-set of Americans and is empowering.  But in its shift in perspective and the masking of its original name, it has muddied the argument.

Pro-Choice = Pro-Abortion

You see, there are many people that would actually grab onto the name “Pro-Choice” but would not get anywhere near the term “Pro-Abortion”.  However, it’s a logical fallacy.

First, you have to ask yourself the question: “What choice or choices are Position B in favor?”

  • Birth Control
  • Abortion
  • Adoption
  • Birth

And that’s all fine.  However, the term is implying (and herein lies the fallacy) that the Position A side are not in favor of choices.  Ask the same question of those in Position A:

  • Birth Control (though this varies depending on the person)
  • Adoption
  • Birth

In fact, the only difference between the two is Abortion– one is for it another is against it.

And This is a Problem Because?

The major media outlets have decided to let you hear the massaged name of Position B, but have decided to use Position A’s less desirable name.  Pro-Life is much more on target with Anti-Abortion than Pro-Choice is with Pro-Abortion, but knowing the power of names the media have revealed where their thoughts lie.

In the middle of a discussion about whether or not to call Iraq a Civil War, there’s a discussion about what Brian Williams thought of the change.  Check out this sentence:

They often made changes to the network stylebook — and had long ago stopped using phrases like “homosexual lifestyle” and “pro-life” — without any fanfare.

Notice the phrases.  Both of these statements reflect a world-view– one that NBC decided they will not support.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether our news people should be allowed to load words to support a point of view while continuing to pretend that they are unbiased.

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8 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I’m not the biggest watcher of the news (no TV), but I’ve never heard the term pro-abortion used. Even the enemies of pro-life (even if it is a misnomer, no one is anti-life) refer to the pro-abortion side as pro-life.

  2. Which is why, to me, the whole “let’s not call it pro-life” in the media is so repulsive to me. The media know how strong terms are and that’s the very reason why they choose to use and not use the terms they do.

    The article was all about whether or not to call what’s going on in Iraq a “civil-war”– why? Because the term has connotations and is inflammatory. A lot of people in online debates use name calling and terms precisely because they know that it’s a way to get people fired up.

    All I’m saying is that if you are pretending to be balanced you should use the common terms and not slight a side that you disagree with.

    BTW – Nice to see you again, Loc.

  3. Glad to know I was missed, and sorry about the late response, my email is notirolusy hard to check.

    On the subject. Could you give me a link to an article or a video were the news has used the terms anti-abortion or anti-life. I’ve never heard the term used.

  4. Thanks for the link Min. Now that that’s clear up, I have to say I don’t agree with you. The media has just as much right as anybody else to take a side, and I don’t feel that we should be critizing their expressing their opinion. Critize the opinion yes, but the expressing of it no.

  5. I don’t have a problem with the media espousing a point of view– if that is declared. For example, there are plenty of shows all over cable that state that they have views from the right or the left. When a news organization feigns being unbiased and yet is biased, then it’s lying to its audience, and that shouldn’t be tolerated.

    That leads me to a corollary question: Do you think that news can be reported in an unbiased fashion?

  6. Honestly Min, I don’t think its possible. Even if the news is just reporting facts without interjecting any opinion, the news is still choosing what facts to be presented.

  7. I totally agree with you. Which is why you need people to be straightforward about what they believe or where their biases are, and stop pretending that they aren’t biased. Balanced I can believe– if both sides are represented.

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