NYT Comes Up with New Phrase To Replace 'Fetal Heartbeat'

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The New York Times dropped the term “fetal heartbeat” last week from its coverage of a newly-passed piece of legislation that will heavily restrict abortion in the state of Louisiana.

The bill was passed by a margin of 79-23 in the state’s legislature last Wednesday and signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on May 30, making Louisiana the fifth state in the U.S. to introduce a ban on abortion from the moment a heartbeat is recognized in the unborn child, Fox News reported.

In its news report last Wednesday, The New York Times referred to the fetal heartbeat as “embryonic pulsing.”

“On the heels of a spate of anti-abortion legislation passed in recent months across the South, Louisiana lawmakers voted on Wednesday to ban the procedure after the pulsing of what becomes the fetus’s heart can be detected,” correspondent Alan Blinder wrote.

Binder also described other implications of the bill, which does not provide exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and could restrict abortion as early as week six of pregnancy.

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“The measure would require an ultrasound test for any woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy, and forbid abortion if the test detects embryonic pulsing,” Binder wrote.

The Times is not the only source doubling down on this new terminology.

Writers at The Daily Beast have followed suit, also adopting “embryonic pulsing.”

The introduction of this new phrase comes very close on the heels of a May “Guidance Reminder” issued by NPR, which asks journalists to refrain from using the term “heartbeat” to describe the reverberations and activity that begin to appear in an unborn baby at around week six of pregnancy.

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“One thing to keep in mind about this law and others like it: Proponents refer to it as a ‘fetal heartbeat’ law. That is their term. It needs to be attributed to them if used and put in quotation marks if printed,” NPR Supervising Senior Editor of Standards and Practices Mark Memmott wrote.

“We should not simply say the laws are about when a ‘fetal heartbeat’ is detected. [Emphasis his.] As we’ve reported, heartbeat activity can be detected ‘about six weeks into a pregnancy.’ That’s at least a few weeks before an embryo is a fetus,” he added, also warning against the use of terms like “abortion clinic,” “late term abortion,” “unborn” and “baby.”

NPR’s “Guidance Reminder” says the terms should be avoided for inaccuracy.

Pro-life organizations and figures, however, argue that this claim is false.

“This new terminology is not based on facts or scientific evidence. It’s based on an agenda that supports abortion on demand,” Micaiah Bilger of wrote.

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“‘Embryonic pulsing,’ for example, is such a vague description that it is hard to understand precisely what it means. And it appears to have been used that way on purpose.”

“It disguises the truth and attempts to manipulate the public into believing something different from what they know to be true,” the author added.

Bilger went on to cite scientific research conducted at the University of Oxford in 2016, which found that the unborn may develop signs of a heartbeat “as soon as 21 days of pregnancy,” adding that the bulk of the scientific literature describes these “embryonic pulses” as nothing other than a “heartbeat.”

She says it is her worry that the mainstream media’s new terminology will likely push society at large away from the belief that the unborn have inherent “value and humanity.”

“But the New York Times is known as the newspaper of record in America – the source widely accepted to be accurate and true. And other news outlets, including the Daily Beast, are starting to mirror its dehumanizing language as the abortion debate continues to boil,” Bilger wrote.

The Western Journal has reached out to The New York Times for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.

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Andrew J. Sciascia is the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal. Having joined up as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, he went on to cover the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for the outlet, regularly co-hosting its video podcast, "WJ Live," as well.
Andrew J. Sciascia is the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal and regularly co-hosts the outlet's video podcast, "WJ Live."

Sciascia first joined up with The Western Journal as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, before graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and worked briefly as a political operative with the Massachusetts Republican Party.

He has since covered the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for The Western Journal, and now focuses his reporting on Congress and the national campaign trail. His work has also appeared in The Daily Caller.