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the birds, the bees, and the tubes

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 20, 2011

Savor this opening sentence from a Washington Post article on Catholic health-care institutions, mentioned today in our CWN headline coverage:

In Texas, a Catholic bishop made two hospitals cease doing tube-tying operations for women who are not going to have more babies.

A "tube-tying operation" is usually called "sterilization." Why would the Post writer chose an awkward, colloquial construction rather than the simple, accurate term? Perhaps because the writer doesn't want to alert readers to the essential problem here: that the Catholic Church opposes sterilization.

We're not done with the sentence yet. These "tube-tying operations" are performed on "women who are not going to have more babies." And why aren't they going to have more babies? Because their tubes have been tied. A bit circular: rather like saying that you plan to pour water on a fire that is not going to give off any more heat. 

The Post story, on the other hand, is designed to give off heat. The trick for the writer, as evidenced by that remarkable lede, is to produce heat without shedding light.

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  • Posted by: Gaby - Jan. 21, 2011 2:01 PM ET USA

    So it should have read: "A Catholic bishop forbid two Catholic hospitals from performing sterilizations on women who want to enjoy sex without restraint but who don't want any kids to ensue from it." Hum. Can't think why the Post didn't go with that...

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jan. 21, 2011 1:22 PM ET USA

    All the same, Hoorah for the bishop. May his tribe increase.

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