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Baby Talk



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Further to Andy’s and Shannen’s notes on abortion and language, I see that even those commentators tipping a belated toe into the sewage of the Gosnell trial still can’t bring themselves to address what the guy did. Howard Kurtz mentioned it on CNN yesterday — except that, in one crucial sense, he didn’t:

But just a couple sentences after agreeing the media hasn’t given the story enough attention, Kurtz accidentally revealed why. He says “Kermit Gosnell is on trial for allegedly running a house of horrors, storing all kinds of mutilated fetuses, some of which were brutally killed.” [Emphasis added.]

Fetuses? Gosnell is not on trial for murdering fetuses, he’s on trial for murdering babies (and one adult woman). Here are the first two lines of the grand jury reportThis case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.”

One one hand I’m sure this was just a slip of the tongue, but I think it’s fair to say in this case–the Kermit Gosnell case–the line between fetus and baby is decidedly not a minor rhetorical point.

No, it’s not. This guy is on trial for killing babies. There’s no argument about this. No one’s accusing Gosnell of killing “blobs of matter” — that’s perfectly legal in America, and it’s the biggest fetus-killing machine in the Western world. But this case is about babies: It’s in the first sentence of the first page of the first section of the grand jury report. And, if you can’t even bring yourself to use the B-word in those circumstances, you’re part of the problem.

Our NR colleague Ross Douthat wrote about the media and the Gosnell trial in the New York Times yesterday. The word “baby” does not appear. Instead:

It’s how you end up with a press corps that went all-in for the supposed “war on women” having to be shamed and harassed — by two writers in particular, Kirsten Powers in USA Today and Mollie Ziegler Hemingway of GetReligion — into paying attention to the grisly case of a Philadelphia doctor whose methods of late-term abortion included snipping the spines of neonates after they were delivered.

“Neonates”? I wonder if that was Mr. Douthat’s word, or a compromise painfully negotiated with his alert editors at the Times. Ah, what a lovely neonate; she’s got your eyes.

So now we’ve advanced linguistically from euphemisms for abortion to evasions for infanticide. Progress! By the time the president weighs in and says that if he had a male neonate he’d look like the contents of Gosnell’s refrigerator, we’ll hardly notice it.



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