Associated Press Goes All In for Abortion

By Published on December 21, 2022

A sacred text for journalists is the Associated Press stylebook. AP style governs everything from grammar and punctuation to what words to capitalize and which numbers to spell out.

The stylebook is the definitive resource, as important as a press pass to reporters and an indispensable tool to copy editors. I was a newspaper reporter and editor for 30 years, and I always had two copies of the latest stylebook, one in the office and one at home. I could quote it verbatim.

The Beginning of AP’s Descent

I can’t say precisely when the stylebook started getting political but I noticed it around the immigration issue. Reporters were using the term “illegal aliens” to describe those who crossed U.S. borders illicitly. An edition of the stylebook from the late 1990s or thereabouts instructed us to discard that term in favor of “undocumented immigrants.” This didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

Priests for Life had already plucked me from the sinking ship of newspaper journalism before the transgender craze had taken over, but I remember being truly shocked when I started finding references to “they” and “them” in stories referencing a single individual. It confuses me still. But for many outlets, what the AP says is gospel. If a person thinks he or she is two — or more — people, then “they” it is.

AP’s ‘Abortion Topical Guide’

Now the stylebook has waded into the abortion battle. In its new “abortion topical guide,” reporters are instructed to use the term “cardiac activity,” rather than “fetal heartbeat,” and they are told to avoid saying “late-term abortion” and to say “abortion later in pregnancy” instead.

Those are nitpicky changes, in my view, but it gets worse. The term pregnancy resource center is to be avoided because it fails to convey “that the center’s general aim is to prevent abortion.” So these centers can’t be called what they are — places where women can turn to find the resources that might help them choose life.

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Also, reporters must avoid describing someone as an abortionist, “because that connotes a person who provides clandestine abortions.” So LeRoy Carhart, whose specialty is killing babies “later in pregnancy,” is not an abortionist, but a physician devoted to healing? No one is buying that, least of all the family of the woman he killed performing an abortion at 33 weeks.

On fetal pain, which is still very much a debatable topic, AP has come down solidly on the side of the very pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to say, “a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24 weeks.” If the 20-week fetus being torn from the womb limb from limb could talk, “they” might have a different opinion on that.

At Least AP Says ‘Pregnant Women’ is OK

There has been a little good news in the AP’s update on what journalists can and cannot say regarding those of us with two X chromosomes.

“Pregnant women or pregnant girls, or women seeking abortions/girls seeking abortions, is acceptable phrasing,” AP tells us, but then adds it’s also acceptable to say “pregnant people,” two words that make me crazy every time I see them together.

But in a slight nod to how ridiculous our woke craze is, AP advises: Do not use overly clinical language like people with uteruses or birthing people.

Those phrases are not overly clinical. They are ridiculous. People with uteruses are women. Birthing people are women. Chestfeeders, “individuals with a cervix” and “people who menstruate” are women. Always have been, always will be.

Journalists may rely on AP style, but biology is non-negotiable, including what it says about men, women and babies.


Leslie Palma is the Director of Communications at Priests for Life.

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