At the beginning of the month we looked at the various and sundry ways the mainstream media reported on the stabbing of an 8-months-pregnant woman and the kidnapping of her baby. Some people called the child, who was taken from the mother's womb, a "fetus" while others called it a "baby." So it was interesting to see the way the Associated Press dealt with the death of an unborn child in the following report out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana:
The Christian rock band MercyMe canceled a show Saturday in the St. Louis area after its tour bus collided with a car in northeastern Indiana, killing two passengers in the car and the pregnant car driver's unborn baby.
The loss of life is very sad indeed. I think it definitely makes sense to use the word "baby" over "fetus" and it only highlights how much more odd it was to call a child that had been born -- albeit under gruesome circumstances -- a "fetus."
This brief story, for what it's worth, includes information indicating that the bus driver was not at fault and a quote from the band:
"MercyMe would like to express their incredible heartache over this horrible accident," the band said in a statement. "They are praying for the families of all who this will affect, and are asking others to please pray as well."
We have looked at the use of the word "fetus" to describe an unborn child for years. But it seems to me that -- apart from the note above -- I've seen more use of the language that people use when describing a pregnancy.
My nearest AP Stylebook doesn't have an entry on the matter but it's also more than a bit dated. But there's this interesting Q&A from an Associated Press Stylebook chat earlier this year:
Q. We reported on an accident in which a woman who was several months pregnant died and so did the unborn child. We went with 'fetus' but the question came up of proper usage. Should it be 'fetus' until born, 'unborn child,' or is there another locution? Thanks. -- from Escondido, CA on Tue, Jan 06, 2009
A. Human fetus describes eighth week of development to birth. Unborn child usually refers to a late-stage fetus that could survive outside the womb if born prematurely.
So it looks like the AP sees some leeway for which term should be used.