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Abortion, from the choice to the patients to the procedure, is a nuanced, personal, and sometimes difficult decision. When reporting on any aspect of abortion, the procedure and the patient should be treated as such. Below are some tips for accurate and sensitive reporting on young people and abortion:
Do’s and Don’ts
DON’T judge or make assumptions. Patients, including young people, have abortions for a myriad of reasons, and feel a variety of ways about it.
DO center the stories and feelings of young people who have actually had abortions. Back up claims that aren’t experience-based with data; if an article is about a senator claiming that having an abortion causes depression, show the stats, too. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, not to their own facts.
DON’T assume that a person’s abortion story follows a certain pattern because of their age. Young people have as much variety in their circumstances as older people.
DO educate yourself about the special legal issues facing minors who need abortion.
DON’T use gendered language when referring to people who’ve had abortions/are pregnant. DO use language that is inclusive of trans and non-binary people, like ‘abortion patients’ or ‘pregnant person’. DO be sure about what pronouns your interview subject uses and how they identify. DO include transgender and nonbinary folks in the discussion. Abortion is not just a women’s issue- not all women have uteri and not all people with uteruses are women.
DON’T use loaded terminology. Avoid using language that isn’t medically based like ‘partial-birth’ or ‘unborn child’ abortion because it isn’t accurate, and it creates more bias than understanding. DO use language that is medically correct, and/or used by the abortion patients you interview. Educate yourself; understand the (important) difference between medicated and surgical abortions, when a zygote becomes an embryo becomes a fetus, when fetal cardiac activity becomes an actual heartbeat.
DON’T use exaggerated, altered or doctored images. Images are powerful, especially around abortion and pregnancy so make sure the ones that you include aren’t fake, inaccurate or meant to bias. DO use medical graphics and diagrams that accurately represent what the article is about- if you’re writing about a 6-week abortion ban, don’t use a picture of a patient who is 9 months pregnant or an ultrasound of a fetus at 30 weeks.