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November 6, 2009

A Pro-Life Vocabulary Lesson

A recent post on the Rock for Life blog has some advice for "personhood advocates" on some "words and phrases to drop from our pro-life vocabulary". Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Fetus, embryo—These terms are generally used by abortion supporters, but I also notice pro-lifers using these terms often. Fetus and embryo are actually terms referring to stages of development. Their use begs the question, which animal species, during its embryonic or fetal development, are you referring to? For human beings, embryo describes human development from the very beginning of a human being’s life through their eighth week of development. Fetus describes a human being’s biological development from the beginning of their ninth week of development until birth. We should replace these terms with "human embryo," "human fetus" or "human being during their embryonic (or fetal) development."

Yeah, isn't it so annoying when people use medically accurate terminology? And I'm not really getting the whole 'which animal species are you referring to?' thing. If I, a human being, am talking to another human being about my pregnancy or about reproductive rights issues in general, is there a chance that someone's going to get confused and think that I'm actually carrying an ocelot, or that the conversation is about the reproductive rights of llamas?

2. Fertilized egg—This is a dehumanizing term used as a form of pro-abortion propaganda. It is not a legitimate term, since it isn’t scientifically accurate. Human women don’t carry eggs; they have oocytes. Upon first contact of a human sperm and a human oocyte, a newly created human person now exists who is in his/her first embryonic stage of development. It has become popular with abortion advocates these days, in response to the state personhood initiatives cropping up around the country. We need to correct this whenever we see or hear it. Use correct terminology in its place, such as “human embryo.”
It's funny that they act as if pro-choice people just made up the term "fertilized egg" a few months ago. And the rest of this is a good example of the strategy of throwing a bunch of terms and scientific claims around to make it seem as if you know what you're talking about. Here are a few definitions:

Oocyte: A female germ cell in the process of development. The oocyte is produced in the ovary by an ancestral cell called an oogonium and gives rise to the ovum (the egg) which can be fertilized. [MedTerms.com]

Oocytes (ova or egg cells): The female cells of reproduction. [WebMD Sex Glossary]

Oocyte–noun Cell Biology. an immature egg cell of the animal ovary; in humans, one oocyte matures during the menstrual cycle, becoming an ootid and then an ovum, while several others partially mature and then disintegrate. [Dictionary.com]

An oocyte, ovocyte, or rarely ocyte, is a female gametocyte or germ cell involved in reproduction. In other words, it is an immature ovum, or egg cell. [Wikipedia]

Based on those definitions, it almost seems as if this Rock for Life blogger is...wrong, or misinformed, or purposely being misleading. Imagine that. Also, get used to the claim that all sorts of different common terms and phrases are "dehumanizing", because that one's not going away.
3. Mistake, accident, unwanted, unplanned— These terms have very negative connotations and are very demeaning, especially for the child who happens to overhear some mention of the circumstances in which he or she came into being. Every child is wanted by someone and no one is an accident. God creates every single person with a special purpose in life. A positive-sounding term such as “surprise” should be used instead of terms or phrases that imply that God’s creation of a baby is an unfortunate event.
Sure, terms like "mistake" and "unwanted" have a negative connotation, and to a lesser extent "accident" and "unplanned" might too, but they're also sometimes the accurate terms to use to describe a pregnancy. What's unfortunately not accurate is the claim that "every child is wanted by someone", and I know this isn't a new argument, but it would be nice if some of these "pro-life" people spent some more time working on improving the quality of life for mothers and children around the world instead of obsessing over the fight to take away women's reproductive rights.

4. Pro-choice—This term was developed by a marketing firm employed by the abortion lobby before abortion became decriminalized on January 22, 1973. It has been and still is a very effective term, but still very misleading. It begs the question, what is the choice? The child has no choice when threatened with an abortionist’s suction device, knives and forceps. Replace this term with “pro-abortion” or “abortion advocate.”
Obviously there's no winning this one with the Rock for Life crowd. We know that "pro-abortion" isn't an accurate term for pro-choicers because we actually support whatever choice a woman makes about her pregnancy, so I'll just stick to calling them anti-choice (which is accurate) and wish them luck getting "abortion advocate" to catch on.
5. Pregnant woman—This term takes the child out of the equation and can make pregnancy sound like a disease. Abortion is often referred to as “terminating a pregnancy.” Instead, use terms such as “mother,” “pregnant mom” or “expectant mother.”
I think what this one reveals is how much some of these anti-choicers wish they could take women out of the equation. And who really thinks that the term "pregnant woman" makes pregnancy sound like some kind of horrible disease? Anyone?

6. Health clinic/abortion clinic—Health gives the impression that health is being restored to an individual. Similarly, clinic normally denotes a respectable, morally legitimate health care facility. Abortion is murder, not health care, so we should not dignify it with such dignified terms. Replace such terms with “abortion business,” “abortion mill,” “abortion facility,” “abortion center” and so forth.
Well, here's a case of inventing a phrase just to shoot it down, because nobody really says stuff like 'I'm going to health clinic to have an abortion'. But I think I am going to adopt the phrase "morally legitimate health care facility", that really rolls off the tongue.

7. The abortion issue—Taxes are an issue. Paying for education is an issue. Abortion is not an issue; it’s a tragedy. Abortion is a violent crime that kills a human person and leaves his/her mother scarred for life. You can also replace issue with terms such as “question,” “matter,” etc.
Well, this is clearly ridiculous. How can they claim that taxes aren't a tragedy? That's crazy talk. (Yeah okay, so I'm running out of ways to say that this list is stupid. Sue me.)

8. It—A baby boy or baby girl is not an it. Yet that is how many of us refer to children in utero or even at the moment of their birth. I hear this so often: “It’s a (boy/girl)!” Instead, say, “He is a boy” or “She is a girl” or “My/our/their/his/her/the baby is a (boy/girl).”
I understand where they're going with the argument that a baby is a person and not a thing, so you should say he or she and not "it". But I think it's a real stretch to apply that argument to people saying "it's a boy/girl!", which is just a shorthand phrase that people use, and one that does refer to the baby being a boy or a girl. It's also a phrase that's generally only used in situations where the pregnant woman has 'chosen life', so what do you accomplish by making an issue out of this one?

9. I’m going to be a ___!—This phrase usually ends with “mother,” “father,” “grandparent,” “aunt,” “uncle,” etc., But it’s inaccurate and dehumanizes the baby, because actually, it’s a done deal! The person speaking is already a mother (or father, grandparent, etc.). If you catch someone (or yourself) saying this, quickly correct it by reminding them (or yourself) that the child already exists, so they (or you) are already a mother (or father, grandparent, etc.).
If you're at the point of saying 'I'm going to be a mother/father/grandma/etc.!', then clearly the decision has already been made to carry the pregnancy to term, so there's no intent to dehumanize behind that phrase at all. Like the "it's a girl" issue above, this just seems so nitpicky to me, and I can't see how arguing this minor point with an expectant parent or grandparent is going to win you any converts.

Well, I know I'll be making a lot of changes to my vocabulary based on this very helpful list. How about you?

3 comments:

SaynaTheSpiffy said...

The part about removing pregnant women from the conversation is incredibly disturbing. I've already seen them do it, but never before have I seen them explicitly promote using language that ignores the woman.

JoanofArc said...

Wow, the crisis pregnancy centers I am investigating got than memo; they use almost all of these strategies. I have been going undercover, pretending to be pregnant. I am always referred to as 'a mother' and the fetus is 'my baby.' This language can mess with your head too- I wasn't even pregnant, but I still could feel the pressure not to let the imaginary fetus down- after all, it was 'my baby.' If I, a well-educated feminist could feel so much pressure from the specific use of those words, I shudder to think how a scared teen would feel. Language is powerful and these folks know how to manipulate with it. I love your comments- they are all true, but I think it is important to remember that how these issues are framed and the language used to describe them are very powerful and can effect perceptions.

Jessica said...

Wow, they should call this one "How to ruin your credibility in a debate 101"

The minute you start using phrases like "abortion mill" people just assume you are bat-shit crazy and tune you out - no matter where they stand on "the abortion issue"