by Elizabeth Troutman and Tyler O’Neil
The Associated Press added an entry to its style guide directing journalists to put the term “crisis pregnancy center” in scare-quotes, and to use “anti-abortion center” instead, to convey that “the centers’ general aim is to prevent abortions.”
The AP added this entry between Nov. 20 and Nov. 27, 2022, according to The Daily Signal’s search of the Wayback Machine. The guide describes the centers as “set up to divert or discourage women from having abortions” and warns writers against “potentially misleading terms” like “pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy counseling centers.”
“If using the term anti-abortion center, explain later that these often are known as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ (with quotation marks) and that their aim is to dissuade people from getting an abortion,” the style guide entry states.
“It’s disgraceful that so-called journalistic professionals succumb to pro-abortion political activists to do their bidding,” Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, told The Daily Signal. His organization won an important 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case against then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who applied state law forcing pregnancy centers to post information about nearby abortion facilities.
“If they actually cared about integrity, they would know that pregnancy centers seek to help women who are facing unplanned pregnancies with material and emotional support,” Glessner added. “Many centers also provide medical services for free.”
The AP did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment about when, exactly, it adopted this guidance, and how it would respond to criticism about it.
The AP’s pregnancy center definition follows at least 80 attacks against pregnancy centers since the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade in early May, according to the Catholic Vote tracker. Abortion advocates have firebombed and spray-painted the centers, which provide free medical and financial support to pregnant and new mothers, with pro-abortion and anarchist messages and symbols.
“These centers are the backbone of the pro-life movement, serving as boots-on-the-ground representatives of a movement that cares deeply for both mom and baby,” Glessner said. “It’s a disgrace that the media have taken such an active stance against these centers, especially at a time in our history when women really need help, acknowledgement, and someone to lean on during a difficult time.”
The Associated Press is the most common stylebook among journalists and news outlets on the Left and Right, including The Daily Signal. The Daily Signal does depart from AP style when the style guide adopts partisan messaging on abortion, transgender identity, and other issues, however.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska appeared to celebrate the AP style guide change.
“Please see a recent update in AP style, which avoids the use of ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill since this legislation addresses neither a fetus (it’s still an embryo) nor a heartbeat (it hasn’t yet developed a heart),” the pro-abortion organization wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
The Associated Press issued guidelines on abortion in December, prohibiting the use of “pro-life” and instead advising “anti-abortion or abortion-rights.”
The “Abortion Topical Guide” instructs journalists to refer to fetal heartbeats as “cardiac activity,” avoid crediting the “abortion pill reversal process,” and never use the term “late-term” abortion or refer to unborn babies as “pain-capable” until after 24 weeks, despite evidence that the unborn can feel pain at 15 weeks or earlier.
“On substance, the guide is pernicious,” Chuck Donovan, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s research branch, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told The Daily Signal. “The aim of pregnancy help centers is just that, help. They are staffed by medical and counseling professionals and dedicated volunteers who provide an astounding array of free services to women facing unexpected pregnancy.”
“The centers make plain that they do not offer abortion and do not regard it as a practice that benefits women and families,” he added.
Democratic politicians have condemned pregnancy centers, despite the rash of violence these pro-life organizations have faced. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called for a “crackdown” on pro-life pregnancy resource centers in an Aug. 4 Senate speech. She and six other Democratic senators launched an inquiry against Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pro-life pregnancy care centers, in September.
When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning attacks on pregnancy centers last month, 208 Democrats voted against it.
Pregnancy resource centers “offer love and practical resources” to women, according to Donovan.
“[Pregnancy help centers] help everyone and their doors are open to women who seek counseling and support after all forms of pregnancy loss,” Donovan said. “It is well past time that the AP Guide’s authors visit some of the thousands of thriving centers everywhere in the U.S. and get the guide back to a standard of high-quality reportorial content and ethics.”
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Elizabeth Troutman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.
Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal and the author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Photo “Doctor and Patient” by MART PRODUCTION.