A new extension for your Google Chrome browser will change every use of the phrase “pro-life” on a webpage to “anti-choice.” The creators of the tool say that using “pro-life” is harmful, given that it “masks abortion opponents’ true intention of limiting women’s reproductive choices and demonizes abortion rights advocates.”
The extension is called Choice Language, and it was created by the New York-based National Institute for Reproductive Health, which obviously supports abortion rights. The point is to call attention to how often the words “pro-life” are used, even by ostensibly unbiased media organizations. That term is misleading, the NIRH argues. From the description in Chrome’s web store:
Tired of seeing the fraught term “pro-life” used ubiquitously and incorrectly, we conceived of this extension to shift the language of the discussion towards a more accurate framework. Using the language of pro-choice and anti-choice eliminates the sneaky and damning implications of a model built around “pro-life” versus pro-choice language. Pro-choice advocates are not anti-life, anti-choice advocates seek to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. A conversation built on pro-choice versus anti-choice language is a more accurate one, and is one that does not vilify those who identify as anti-choice any further than their own actions would suggest.
The new “anti-choice” wording will also be in bold, which the NIRH says will “foster awareness” of how frequently “pro-life” is used.
Whether “pro-life” or “anti-choice” are more accurate terms, of course, depends on where you fall on the question of abortion. The preferences of individual Jezebel writers vary here; I tend to follow the AP Stylebook, which reads:
Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs a clandestine abortion.
Predictably, conservative websites like Red State argue that is biased phrasing too, but it’s a model that’s widely used: In 2010, NPR changed their policy and decided not to use either “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” arguing that it was the best way to ensure that “the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible.”
I am not “neutral” on abortion—I support everyone’s right to have one, for whatever reason they see fit, and wouldn’t balk at describing myself as “pro-abortion.” But there’s no question that wherever you stand here, language matters; the extension could be helpful whether you’re trying to become more aware of the way the abortion issue is framed in the media or just trying to make your consumption of it a little more bearable.
Screenshot via Chrome web store