Here at Women’s Voices for Change, we have never believed that women could—or should—speak in one voice. We welcome comments and debate on this piece, as its author clearly does on the issue she so articulately spotlights here.  –Ed.

Recently, a number of news outlets reporting on federal court rulings and legislative initiatives used the term “Obamacare.” Opponents of what is correctly termed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” began using that name as a pejorative, linking their personal antipathy to the president of the United States to a piece of legislation they find objectionable. But there is no need to adopt the factually incorrect and politically loaded term for this legislation. No, I’m not in favor of stifling debate; I’m in favor of accuracy.

Opponents of Social Security fought vigorously to prevent its enactment. They warned of a federal government grown too big and powerful, a Constitution under assault, and dire economic consequences should the law take effect. They made their points quite well, without using the term “Rooseveltsecurity.” One eloquent adversary, Congressman James W. Wadsworth (R-New York), noted gravely that “This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendents.” Wadsworth didn’t need to attack President Roosevelt or engage in clever name-calling to make his point.

A few decades later, opponents of Medicare in the politically charged Cold War era labeled it “socialized medicine.” They didn’t call it “Johnsoncare.” These critics engaged in an all-out media blitz to suggest that a federally administered system of health insurance for those 65 and over would lead America down the slippery path to something like a Soviet dictatorship. The debate was contentious and extensive, but it wasn’t about demonizing a president; it was about the contents of the legislation and what it threatened (or promised) to do for Americans.

In the coming months and years we’ll undoubtedly continue the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. How about if we agree to call it that? News outlets can still air and post material from opponents and supporters of the legislation. Supporters can still praise it as a crucial building block of the nation’s continuing greatness; opponents can still decry it as an assault on our democracy. But in these heated times, when political debate can too easily spin out of control, names matter and responsible media organizations should be using the right one.  It won’t stifle vigorous debate; it will elevate it.

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