Abortion ends a human life, but Americans wouldn’t know that from reading recent news reports. Instead, many in the media claim, abortion drugs “terminate pregnancies” and “expel” the “contents” of a woman’s uterus.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted the Food and Drug Administration’s request to reinstate a federal requirement that says women must obtain an abortion drug from a health care provider in person rather than by mail. As media outlets from CNN to NPR raced to report the news, their pieces stood out because of their language – words carrying abortion euphemisms.
The court decision centered on the drug mifepristone, the first step of a “medical abortion,” which can be administered up to 10 weeks in pregnancy. But the case wasn’t about abortion access, Chief Justice John Roberts argued.
“The question before us is not whether the requirements for dispensing mifepristone impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter,” he wrote. “The question is instead whether the District Court properly ordered the Food and Drug Administration to lift those established requirements because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.”
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, disagreed.
“This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” she said of abortion, which carries the risk – nay, guarantee – of ending an unborn life.
To her, abortion was not unlike a miscarriage.
“Medication abortion involves taking two prescription drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which together induce the equivalent of an early miscarriage," she wrote.
Many in the media echoed her.
NPR reporter Jaclyn Diaz identified mifepristone as a “drug used to terminate early pregnancies” on January 13.
“Medical abortions involves taking two prescription drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which together induce the equivalent of an early miscarriage,” she wrote, copying Sotomayor’s description – almost word for word.
New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak also reported on the “federal requirement that women seeking to end their pregnancies using medications pick up a pill in person” on January 12.
He wrote, “The first drug, mifepristone, blocks the effects of progesterone, a hormone without which the lining of the uterus begins to break down. A second drug, misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, induces contractions of the uterus that expel its contents.”
None of the media even hinted that another human person – with his or her own, unique DNA – was involved. Instead, they called the unborn baby either a “pregnancy” or the mere “contents” of a uterus.
“Mifepristone causes tissue within the uterus to break down and separate from the uterus itself,” Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser described on January 12. “A day or two after taking mifepristone, the patient takes a drug called misoprostol, which makes the uterus contract and expel its contents.”
According to CNN reporters Ariane de Vogue and Caroline Kelly, “Medication abortion ... typically entails taking two drugs several days apart.”
“The contested regulation concerns mifepristone, the first drug, which works to block the hormone progesterone, necessary for a pregnancy to continue,” they clarified on January 12.
In other words, for a baby to live.
But not everyone uses such euphemistic language. Dr. Anthony Levatino, an obstetrician-gynecologist who once performed more than 1,200 abortions, partnered with pro-life group Live Action in 2016 to detail abortion procedures. Medical abortion, he said, consists of “two steps.”
“At the abortion clinic or doctor’s office, the woman takes pills which contain mifepristone,” or RU-486, he began. RU-486 blocks the hormone progesterone and causes the “lining of the mother’s uterus” to break down, “cutting off blood and nourishment to the baby.”
A day or two later, the woman takes misoprostol, or Cytotec. Together, he added, RU-486 and misoprostol “cause severe cramping, contractions, and often heavy bleeding to force the dead baby out of the woman’s uterus.”
“The process can be very intense and painful,” he warned, “and the bleeding and contractions can last for a few hours to several days.” Most often, he said, the woman will “sit on a toilet as she prepares to expel the child which she will then flush.”
But before that happens, “she may even see her dead baby within the pregnancy sack.” If the abortion takes place at nine weeks, he revealed, her baby “will be almost an inch long” and she might even be able to distinguish his or her fingers and toes.
In other words, abortion doesn’t just end a “pregnancy” or destroy “contents.” It’s a human life, with growing limbs – and a beating heart. Word choices and language might deceive, but they can’t alter the truth.