Abortion rights/ pro-choice, what's in a name?

Words matter. When the folks who seek to deny a woman’s right to control her own body co-opted that “pro-life” phrase, a disingenuous but highly successful sound bite was born. You support reproductive rights? You’re anti-life. Pro-death. It was a brilliant PR move, if not entirely accurate. “Pro-lifers” choose to ignore the millions of women who will suffer if abortion restrictions force them into unsafe, often life-threatening choices. You’re pro-choice? You want to save those lives.

Now, perhaps, a new clarification of terms by NPR Managing Director David Sweeney may nudge us toward more honest dialogue:

Last week, I wrote a post about how NPR identifies people who support or oppose abortion. It engendered a lively debate inside and outside NPR. Today, some top editors got together to review the 2005 policy and decided to no longer use “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

Here’s the memo that was just distributed to all NPR staff:

“NPR News is revising the terms we use to describe people and groups involved in the abortion debate.

This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work.

On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”.

Digital News will continue to use the AP style book for online content, which mirrors the revised NPR policy.

Do not use “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in copy except when used in the name of a group. Of course, when the terms are used in an actuality they should remain.” [An actuality is a clip of tape of someone talking. So if a source uses those terms, NPR will not edit them out.]

It’s a small step in the right direction, and this space would like to offer three cheers to NPR. Thanks for acknowledging my right to be fiercely in support of women’s rights and reproductive rights — while I am also, equally, pro-life.

NPR Changes Abortion Language – NPR Ombudsman Blog : NPR.

A Random Act of Kindness

“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” the victim recalls. The mugger was a teenager, the victim a 31-year-old social worker named Julio Diaz. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

So goes a story that my daughter Sandy somehow discovered and posted on her Facebook page recently. It was on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in May, 2008.

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

So Diaz gave him his wallet and his warm coat, invited him to dinner, and… well, you’ll have to read the story for yourself.

Sandy’s post evoked a long list of responses. Her husband, a hard-nosed newsguy T/S contributor who will remain nameless here, had the audacity to wonder aloud if the story might have been invented. (His wife and son threw something at him.)

I dug up the story, but surely didn’t ask NPR if it had been fact-checked. I mean, if you can’t believe NPR, who can you believe? Plus, with the relentlessness of today’s bad news, is a little good news welcome, or what?

Without giving it all away, we can report that the piece concludes,

“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

This space argues that we can use all the news we can get about people treating people right. If you Google Julio Diaz, may he live long and prosper, you discover multiple pages of people who were inspired by, or even skeptical of, that story when it first appeared. But unless it’s wayyy down the scroll, no one has discredited it. If you should do so, by some cruel twist of historical revisionism, please don’t tell Sandy or me.

A Victim Treats His Mugger Right : NPR.

Super Bowl Ads: Anti-abortion, yes — gay romance, well, maybe

Super Bowl watchers at this house tend to be interested in the ball game. But elsewhere, apparently, the star attractions are the commercials. If you get bored in between the ads, you can even keep your laptop handy and bring up winners — winner commercials, that is — from past decades.

Being only mildly interested in this year’s game and not the least bit interested in whatever is on sale for a gazillion dollars a minute, I had been blissfully unaware of the hype and hysteria surrounding the event — until an e-mail earlier today asking if I knew anything about the anti-choice ad scheduled and simultaneous rejection of an ad that could be termed pro-gay. I did not, but as it turns out, NPR does:

This year, CBS is airing an anti-abortion commercial featuring college football star Tim Tebow, with his mother. The ad is sponsored by the conservative group Focus on the Family. Within a few weeks of that ad’s approval, CBS turned down a commercial for the Super Bowl produced by a new gay dating site called ManCrunch.com.

The Tebow and ManCrunch ads raise questions about not just what networks want in Super Bowl advertisements, but also what potential advertisers really want from the Super Bowl.

The 30-second ManCrunch ad shows two guys on a couch watching a football game. They’re rooting for their respective teams. Then, they both reach for potato chips at the same time. Their hands touch. The music builds. Then they kiss — rather comically.

I have a few problems with Focus on the Family. I have a LOT of problems with those who would have us return to the horrors of pre-Roe v Wade. Without roaming around the site a great deal I think I have a few problems with ManCrunch — but I’m not exactly their target audience. I had no problem at all, before now, with Tim Tebow, who seems a pretty good guy.

But suddenly there are problems all over. Emily’s List is petitioning CBS to toss the Tebow ad. The ad has its own, fast-growing Facebook fan club for crying out loud. Planned Parenthood is weighing in with a YouTube video in response to the tempest in the Tebow teapot.

ManCrunch, meanwhile, left out in the cold with their ad that reportedly cost $100,000, has gotten at least twice that much publicity and will probably have their own Facebook fan club before it’s all over.

Are you ready for some football?

Healthcare: Could We Get A Moral Commitment?

Is there a simple way to get universal healthcare in this country? In a word, yes. Or rather, in two words: moral commitment. If we were to make a moral commitment to what is, after all, only the fair, humane, equitable thing to do, author/reporter T. R. Reid told an audience at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club today, there would be no problem.

Reid, a reporter for the Washington Post, documentary film maker and NPR commentator, was in town to promote his new book, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for a Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care .” In it he tells the story of his journey around the world in the company of a painful shoulder, consultations about which were his introduction to personal encounters with health care systems of every sort. He also met with government representatives and policy makers across several continents.  It is an informative and highly readable (no pun intended, that’s just an appropriate adjective) book.

Reid outlined the four primary models of health care currently in existence on our small planet, each with different versions of who pays and who provides. In Britain’s socialized medicine model, health care is the government’s job and it does both. A “mirror image” of this plan is that put into place in Germany shortly after the country was established in the late 18th century, a “National Health System” in which the providers — doctors, clinics, etc. — are private but the payer — government — is public. Workers are covered through their employers. One advantage to both, Reid points out, is that everyone buys into preventive care. He told of British ads asking passersby if their feet hurt, and urging them to visit a podiatrist right away if so; “It’s free.” Or commercials featuring a coughing “Mum” and giving a phone number to call so a nurse may visit. “It’s free.” Each is aimed at diagnosing other illnesses early, and/or preventing the spread of disease.

The Canadian Medicare (that’s where Lyndon Johnson got the name for our elder care) system now copied by Australia, Taiwan and others would have had Reid waiting an long as a year for consultation and treatment of his shoulder. Although he proclaimed his pain to be a very present issue, it was not seen as an urgent need to the primary care doctor he consulted. It is this often extensive wait for non-urgent care that is most criticized (especially by Americans) about the Canadian system. But Reid got a Canadian answer to that. “We Canadians,” he was told, “don’t mind waiting, as long as rich Canadians have to wait as long as poor Canadians.”

The fourth model cited is the out-of-pocket model, which Reid illustrated with a story of climbing a mountain in Nepal to seek shoulder relief. At the top of the mountain, in an extremely simple one-room building with its four walls painted in four different colors, the doctor explained his payment was generally in whatever the patient could afford. Someone relatively well off might pay in funds, others in whatever they had. Many of the patients could pay only by painting the facility, the doctor said; they seldom had the same color of paint, and thus the many-hued room.

“We have them all,” Reid told a hushed audience: Native Americans and veterans have the British/NHS; over-65, the Canadian Medicare; working people, Germany’s system. But 40+ million Americans have medical care equivalent to Afghanistan or Angola, and tens of thousands of Americans die every year because they cannot afford medical care.

One audience member called Reid on that issue, saying hospitals were required to treat people who came to them, but he was not backing down. True, he replied, if someone is actively dying or about to give birth, hospitals cannot turn him or her away. But for cases (such as one cited at the beginning of The Healing of America) of lupus, or diabetes, or in countless other instances, the inability to pay for necessary care causes ongoing pain and death for thousands.

Other audience questions raised the illegal immigrant issue. In most countries, it simply would not be an issue, he said. Citing Britain as an example, he said “you get (care) whether you’re a citizen or not.” Reid also said the public option is a non-issue elsewhere, because “you don’t need it.” And he threw in another few illustrations that argue for reform: In Britain, you have to cover everyone, you have to pay every claim, and you have to pay every claim fast. In Switzerland, if a claim is not paid within five days, the next month’s premium is free. In Germany you have a choice of well over 100 insurance companies; if you don’t like one, you simply switch to another.

Having set out to answer the question of how other countries provide health care for all of their citizens, Reid said he then turned to the why. Why every other wealthy, industrialized, developed country in the world has universal coverage and the U.S. does not. Others have it, he said, because “they think it’s fairer, equitable, humane, just — and these are moral issues. Health care reflects a country’s moral values.”

It was clear that Reid, like most in his audience, sees the U.S. as having moral values. “If we had the political will,” he commented, “other countries could show us the way.”

But the author was pessimistic about the possibility of universal care coming out of the current reform efforts. Asked how it might somehow come to the U.S., he said it could well be the way Canada’s plan came about; “we might get it state by state.” The Californians listening might have taken heart. Twice that state has passed single payer plans, only to have them vetoed by their governor. Reid suggested that other states might also be ready to implement statewide health coverage.

As to his painful shoulder, its current status was not given. Presumably, it will be necessary to read the book to find out.