Bozell Column: Ban The Word 'Fetus'

The Democratic presidential race is turning into a snippy identity-politics battle waged around the question: Is America more racist or more sexist? Is America too racist to deserve Barack Obama? Or too sexist to deserve Hillary Clinton? Liberals think this is a real puzzler, since they assume America is bigoted both ways. It’s going to be a long, America-accusing election year no matter who wins.

This is nuts. Our system of laws in this country contains energetic remedies for discrimination against blacks and women. Discriminatory attitudes still exist in isolated, politically irrelevant pockets whose existence is then magnified one hundred-fold by those in the media who want this picture of discrimination to exist. Blacks and women simply are not as a rule denied their humanity, as evidenced by a black and a woman vying to become America’s next president.

If we don’t want this year to be an exercise in liberal accusation and intimidation, we should force the Democratic front-runners to answer a different question. If we want to identify the one segment of American humanity that is routinely disregarded, we should ask them: when will you recognize the civil rights and humanity of the unborn baby? When will America overcome this injustice of destroying human lives in the name of "choice"?

While Gloria Steinem is fussing on National Public Radio about why the B-word isn’t taken as seriously as the N-word, perhaps pro-lifers need to really accuse America of insensitivity to what they’ve long seen as an F-bomb: "Fetus."

What a cold, humanity-negating word that is. Happy pregnant women carry "babies." But indecisive or panicked pregnant women carry a "fetus." How discriminatory that sounds in regard to an innocent human life.

"Fetus" has a dictionary definition: the young of a mammal that resembles its parents in physical form, in our case, a human with hands and feet and eyes and a beating heart. But to our media and political analysts, it has a different definition: a subhuman appendage, a disposable mass of tissue, a slave to our whims, and too often, a casualty of our irresponsibility.

The media drop this version of the F-bomb all the time. On January 14, the networks took up the awful case of Marine Corporal Maria Lauterbach, whose burned body was found in the back yard of another Marine she had accused of sexual assault. CBS reporter Jeff Glor uttered the offensive word: "Over the weekend, police found what they believe to be the charred remains of missing Marine Maria Lauterbach and her unborn fetus." Glor repeated the offense an hour later: "Lauterbach was eight months pregnant, and her badly burned body and that of her fetus were found in a shallow grave in [suspect Cesar] Laurean's back yard over the weekend."

ABC was only half-offensive on "Good Morning America," a show that has accused America repeatedly of inherent racism and sexism. Reporter Jeffrey Kofman noted the investigation into "Maria Lauterbach and her unborn baby will continue." But an hour later, news anchor Deborah Roberts reported "The remains of Maria Lauterbach and her fetus were found buried" in Laurean’s back yard.

We saw the same standard in the case of Laci Peterson, another woman murdered with an eight-month-old baby five years ago. When a pregnant woman is murdered, shouldn’t the news media show a preference for the term "baby," since the murdered woman clearly intended to have the baby, and, in these cases, the baby would have been viable outside the womb?

Pro-lifers could press harder for the media to label this a "double murder." This is one small civil-rights advance for the unborn: the Unborn Victims of Violence Act recognizes the murdered baby as a fully human victim of homicide, which President Bush signed (to dismissive media yawns) in 2004.

On the same day as these network reports, the January 21 issue of Newsweek arrived in the mail, complete with a story on impressive advancements in medical imaging technology. The story carried two golden-toned photos of babies inside the womb, in three dimensions. But the Newsweek caption offended: "The latest ultrasound technology allows doctors and patients to view the developing fetus with breathtaking clarity."

Newsweek also has a clarity that’s breathtaking. It’s clearly not convinced that a baby should be defined as a human being until it is born. Later in the caption, Newsweek added the improved images have allowed "expectant parents to bond with their babies much earlier." But the next sentence points the reader to a picture of a "13-week-old fetus."

Our media elite prides itself on an official or unofficial policy of not using insulting or offensive terms about women or minorities in its daily news content. It’s about time they took the same approach to the unborn baby, and nixed the word "fetus" as too demeaning of human life.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center