When Is An Abortion Not An Abortion? When the Media Says So.

Shortly before the new year, a number of religious organizations were given protection from the HHS abortion and contraception mandate.  While social conservatives and defenders of the First Amendment cheered, numerous prominent media organizations manipulated basic scientific facts to deny that the mandate—required by federal law—forces people to fund abortion-inducing drugs.

Media Matters did this at least twice, on January 1 and January 2, with the The New York Times and NBC News doing likewise.  While Pew Research did not deny that the mandate requires abortion funding, its weaselly assessment of the debate surrounding the mandate was almost as bad.  To wit, Pew stated that many with religious beliefs “oppose abortion and believe that using emergency contraception like the morning-after pill is akin to abortion” (emphasis added).

Like Pew, Politico tried to have its cake and eat it, too (emphasis added):

While the FDA calls those products [i.e., intrauterine devices (IUD) and “morning-after pills” like Plan B and ella] contraception, many organizations say that they could prevent the implantation of a fertilized embryo, which they consider akin to abortion.

These excerpts are symptomatic of the media’s aggressive push to frame the HHS mandate as a contraception issue.  But the coverage of potentially abortifacient drugs like Plan B and ella, as well as indisputably abortifacient intrauterine devices (IUD), makes this an abortion issue as well.

As pointed out at JustFactsDaily.com last February:

[R]egardless of whether Plan B, Next Choice, or ella cause abortion, the Obama administration is forcing insurers, and thus, their customers to pay for devices that destroy embryos before they implant, which many doctors, scientists, and citizens consider to be abortion.

And this says nothing about IUDs, of which HHS’s own Office of Women’s Health says, “It [sic] fertilization does occur, the IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.”

So how do Media Matters, the Times, and others justify their claim about the mandate’s abortion requirements?  They say life begins at implantation, not fertilization, and thus drugs and devices like Plan B, ella, and IUDs do not cause abortions.

This is a Clintonian strategy: it all depends on what the definition of “conception” is.  Also “pregnancy,” “contraception,” and “abortion.”

First, “conception”: in 1965, the American Congress (then the “College”) of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed its definition of this term to denote implantation of a human blastocyst in the uterine wall, rather than the union of spermatazoon and ovum to form a unique single-celled human organism.  Under this new definition of “conception,” any drug or device that destroys the new human being after fertilization but before attachment to the mother’s uterus is a contraceptive rather than an abortifacient.

But doctors are not above being wrong.  And with a moment’s scrutiny, even the average citizen can tell that this definition is absurd.

First and foremost, one can find ample scientific evidence that human life begins at fertilization. Likewise, embryology textbooks declare fertilization, not implantation, the beginning of a human’s existence.

One can also simply apply common sense: are we human beings because of what we do (implant in our mothers’ uteruses), or because of what we are (living organisms with human DNA)?  The latter definition resonates on a fundamental level—indeed, advocacy groups from abolitionists to suffragettes have used it to push for rights and privileges based on common, inherent humanity, not on actions or behavior.  Even homosexual activists use this tactic to great effect.

With the above understood, one’s definition of “conception” will necessarily color what one means when referring to “contraception” and “abortion.”  Using ACOG’s—and Planned Parenthood’s—”implantation” definition of conception (and, therefore, pregnancy), there would have to be six to twelve days when a woman’s body shelters and supports a new human life—yet, according to ACOG, she is not pregnant.

Semantic gyrations like these are as ludicrous after nine months as they are after nine days.  Take the other end of the pregnancy spectrum: the left often defines abortion as “termination of pregnancy,” which means that even C-sections and births by induced vaginal delivery qualify under this absurd definition, as do miscarriages.

It’s clear that when one uses the accurate definitions of “conception” and “pregnancy”—founded on fertilization—any drug or device that prevents implantation in the mother’s womb is an abortifacient.  The copper IUD, included in HHS’s mandate, qualifies without question, because it is designed to kill a baby after fertilization and before implantation.

Regarding Plan B and ella, there is intense debate about whether these drugs, and others like them, interfere with implantation.  However, Plan B’s own packaging warns that the drug may destroy a newly conceived human being (referred to as “a fertilized egg” on the box), and the scientific evidence strongly indicates that ella kills “a fertilized egg.”

One might think the media was blissfully unaware of these facts.  However, last week, NBC let the mask slip when its editors changed an originally correct article from noting that the mandate requires abortion coverage to the following (italics in original):

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated the Affordable Care Act requires companies to offer health-care coverage that provides abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. It does not.

On Twitter, NBC News White House Producer Shawna Thomas—listed as a contributor to the article—doubled down on the faulty “correction”:

@DustinSiggins I contributed some info to the piece but was not the author. Originally article mistakenly said abortion-drugs were required.

— Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews) January 2, 2014

@DustinSiggins Contraception mandate covers Plan B. Sometimes this is erroneously called an abortifacient.

— Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews) January 2, 2014

But as the above information proves, for Thomas and her media colleagues to state that the HHS mandate does not require abortion-inducing drugs is disingenuous in the extreme.  And while Pew and Politico do not go as far as their mainstream colleagues, they do give the impression that the mandate may end human life in the womb—even though IUDs unquestionably do this, and Plan B and ella likely do as well.

In 1973, the Supreme Court infamously decided that even though it “[was] not in a position to speculate as to the answer” of “when life begins,” it would err on the side of death.  Over 40 years later, the media is setting the stage for the Obama administration to make the same fatal mistake.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared simultaneously at LifeSiteNews.com and American Thinker on January 6, 2014 and is reprinted here with permission of the authors.


Drew Belsky is the deputy editor of American Thinker and communications director for Live Action. Dustin Siggins is the D.C. correspondent for LifeSiteNews.com and a co-author of the forthcoming book Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation.

  • lifeknight

    Nicely done. Thank you

  • Vinnie

    At my age I’ve read and heard this truth many times. However, it must constantly be repeated because time goes by quickly and there are, continuously, many younger people who are not aware of this reality. We must continue to fight the media’s “Ministry of Truth.”

  • Kris Athomescience

    This is not limited to the media but also extends to most of the medical community. Most textbooks will now refer to a baby during the time from conception until implantation as a “pre-embryo” and any manipulation of the viability of this “pre-embryo” is not an abortion. They consider implantation the way Catholics and other pro-lifers consider conception. The chief of emergency medicine at the Catholic hospital where I worked, while adhering to the guidelines required of those who practice at a Catholic hospital, made it quite clear that he did not consider contraceptives or Plan B or Ella abortifacients because they had their effects prior to implantation.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Most textbooks will now refer to a baby during the time from conception until implantation as a “pre-embryo” ”

      And we are reminded of the Bard’s thought about a rose by any other name smelling as sweet.

      • Guest

        Re-define the words and re-define reality. Well, at least for most people.

    • Guest

      The public does not understand science and certainly does not grasp the influence of politics and ideology on science. When I read about some “medical” organization and their position papers I immediately need to parse out the ideology and then consider the science.

      People need not only more education, but need to stop accepting “expert” advice when the expert is biased or poorly trained.

      • Adam__Baum

        “People need not only more education, but need to stop accepting “expert” advice when the expert is biased or poorly trained.”

        I think the average person accepts the views of the expert when it buttresses some visceral reaction or previously conceived idea and they can use the expert’s visibility or celebrity to convince themselves of their own rectitude.

        • Guest

          Yes, and I would say that is part of our shallow culture. How many of us lead an examined life?

          • zcastaux

            Yes, the Nazis also had medical experts (see R Lu’s article elsewhere, though not on medicine); and they were skilled doctors who recommended, among other things, the ‘destruction’ of the elderly and the mentally ill… (Lethal injections were also performed medically in England in the 1930’s, a little-known further ‘twist’ to the long story of ‘international medicine’.)

  • Kris Athomescience

    Most OB/GYN textbooks have added a new stage of development since the time I trained as a PA 20 years ago. The “pre-embryo” stage is the time from fertilization until implantation, so this notion is systematically taught to the entire medical community. The chief of emergency medicine at the Catholic hospital where I worked, while adhering to the guidelines required of him while working at a Catholic institution, told me he did not consider Plan B or Ella abortifacients and did not understand why the hospital prohibited their use for emergency contraception (which is mandated by law in Massachusetts to be provided in rape cases.)

    • zcastaux

      What happened to the medical term, ‘zygote’? I believe it refers to the very early stage at which a mass of cells is (clearly, demonstrably, scientifically) reproducing rapidly and differentiating, by millions, into a, shall we say, ‘pre-human being’, (it certainly isn’t a frog or a toad); but has not yet implanted. At the very momant after fertilization, an extraordinarily-rapid multiplication of (yes, HUMAN) cells begins to happen. But the zygote (?) is so small, it still cannot be seen with the naked eye…. AKA, does not ‘exist’? Is this the new ‘twist’ to say that the reproducing cells are not ‘human’ at that stage? Or that they are not really ‘there’?

      • Kris Athomescience

        The whole point is not to comment on the human status of the zygote or pre-embryo, we would agree that it is human. Rather they are changing the meaning of the word “pregnant” thereby altering the meaning of the word “abortion.” Abortion does not occur in a woman who is not pregnant, and she is not pregnant until implantation. And why would the medical community bother even to change its entire vocabulary in this area other than as a response to the Catholic Church.

        The priest, an accomplished ethicist, at that same hospital charged with overseeing that physicians practice in accordance with Catholic teaching, counseled me to be sure rape victems receiving contraceptives be given a truly informed consent, explaining exactly how these meds work. Sayimg simply that they prevent “pregnancy” is not sufficient because the entire rest of the world understands that to happen at conception.

  • Barbara

    Hmmm, I believe then, that the “pre-embryo items” would be 1) egg, and 2) sperm. Would not this be accurate?

  • mary’s child

    This is a great article for those who believe that the pro-abortion industry stands on the premise that the human embryo is not human. My recent experience with pro-abortion people is that they don’t care that it is a human being they are murdering. They consider that the mom has a right to her life without the baby so murdering the unborn child is ok. This is a fundamental change in recent years. One the that finds euthanasia acceptable. This is truly horrifying.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Mary’s Child is right.

      In France, Art 1 of the Veil Law (Law No. 75-17 of January 1975, concerning the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy) declares, “The law guarantees respect for every human being from the outset of life. There shall be no derogation from this principle except in cases of necessity and under the conditions laid down by this Law.”

      It goes on to allow an abortion to be performed before the end of the tenth week of pregnancy by a physician in an approved hospital when a woman who is “in a situation of distress” because of her pregnancy requests the abortion. If two physicians certify, after an examination, that the pregnancy poses a grave danger to the woman’s health or if a strong probability exists that the expected child will suffer from a particularly severe illness recognized as incurable, an abortion may be performed at any time.

  • Caritas06

    The thing that I find really heart-breaking is that, on so many liberal blogs, one finds people referring to a fetus even many months along in gestation as” a blob of cells” or worse yet, “a parasite” on the mother – not a child, but a parasite. It is as if we hate our own kind.

  • Pingback: When is an abortion not an abortion?()

  • Tony

    The media have a lot of nerve calling anybody a parasite. I should like to direct their attention to a pane of silver-coated glass backed with lead, sometimes known as a “mirror.”
    Mary’s Child below is quite right. All of their arguments are in bad faith. The plain fact of the matter is that they don’t give a damn whether the products induce abortion or not, or whether the aborted child is human or not, and there’s an end on’t.

  • Pingback: What's Wrong about Casual Clothing at Mass - BigPulpit.com()