J. C. Willke on the Words Pro-Lifers Ought to Use
Words are important. Words are powerful. The words pro-life and pro-abortion activists use shape the minds and value systems of those who listen to us and understand reality through our words. The pro-abortionists’ use of the name “pro-choice” is no accident, for example. It is the last major argument they have: that a woman has a right to choose, while not saying what she is choosing and hoping the listener or reader doesn’t think about it. Every time we call them “pro-choice,” we reinforce their argument and help them kill babies. For the same reason, we need to speak of the “right to life” or “pro-life” movement, not the “anti-abortion” movement.
Some differences are more subtle, depending on the connotations or associations the words have. For example, do not speak of abortionists “doing” or “performing” abortions, but rather of their “committing” abortions. To do so immediately places a cloud or stigma over that abortion being done. Doctors perform life-saving surgery; criminals commit crimes.
I have compiled a list of suggestions that can improve the pro-life movement’s ability to communicate the pro-life message. Do, by all means, take them seriously. Lives hang in the balance, so we must do our best to protect them.
Use This, Not That
Use baby, unborn baby, or fetal baby, not fetus or embryo.
Use kill an unborn baby, not terminate a pregnancy. Everyone reading this terminated his or her mother’s pregnancy—most at nine months. Similarly, use abortion, not procedure. Use human life, not person. Human life is definitive: This is human, this is alive. “Person” can be defined in many different ways, and a government, by its laws, can define who is a person and who is not. For some academics and pro-abortion activists, even an infant or toddler is not yet a “person.”
Use killing a baby during delivery, not partial-birth abortion. The great majority of people in the United States do not know what partial-birth abortion is, and accordingly, many are not opposed to it. If you say “killing a baby during delivery,” you force them to face the reality of what is being done.
Use research cloning, not therapeutic cloning. A living human being is experimented upon and then killed. The word is research. It is certainly not therapeutic.
Use killing the embryo when speaking of an embryo experimented upon, not destroying it. This human embryo is experimented upon and then he or she is “killed.” There is a dramatic difference in the two. “Killing” is biologically correct. When you talk of destroying the embryo after experimentation, you dehumanize, for we destroy things. When you say “kill,” you emphasize humanity.
Use chemical abortion, not medical abortion. Chemical abortion, i.e., RU-486, is accurate and has a negative connotation. Medical abortion insinuates healing, which it is not.
Use human embryo implants, not fertilized egg implants. The fertilized egg stage lasts one day. Using this term dehumanizes this single-cell human being. On day two, cell division occurs, and the proper term is “embryo,” or best of all, “living human embryo.”
Use fertilization, not conception. Fertilization is an exact biological term. The meaning of “conception” has been changed in many peoples’ minds to include implantation in the uterine wall of the mother at one week of life.
Use abortion mill/chamber/killing center, not abortion clinic. A “clinic” calls up the image of a place of healing and help—as in “health clinic” or even “writer’s clinic”—which it is not.
Use abortionist, not abortion provider or doctor. These hired killers do not deserve the dignity of the title “doctor.” Call them abortionists.
Use birth dearth, not population explosion. There is no population explosion. Every Western nation, and increasingly many third-world nations, now has a birthrate sharply below replacement level. The problem before the middle of the century will not be too many people, but too few young people to take care of so many old people.
Use mother, not pregnant woman. “Mother” calls for love and compassion by the reader. For the same reason, use she is carrying a child, not she is expecting a child. She’s not expecting the child, she already has him.
Use womb, not uterus. Womb is a warmer, maternal term. Uterus is coldly medical.
Use fetal handicap, not fetal deformity. Handicap suggests “I want to help.” Deformity suggests revulsion, something to turn away from.
Use place baby in a pair of loving arms, not give her baby away. To “give her baby away” sounds cold and callous.
Use protective legislation, not anti-abortion laws. Pro-life people aren’t against anything; they are for the life of the mother and the child, so protective is proper.
Use permissive or radical abortion laws, not liberal abortion laws. “Liberal” originally meant generous and open-minded and has come to mean concern for the poor and suffering. Permissive abortion laws aren’t generous and open-minded and don’t express care for the baby, or real care for the mother.
Use when a doctor kills a patient, not death with dignity. There is nothing dignified about killing a patient through euthanasia or about having a doctor kill you.
Use National Organization for [Some] Women, not National Organization for Women. Always qualify this. They are not the largest group of women, nor do they speak for most women. They are actually a rather small organization, which has only two major thrusts: they are pro-abortion and pro-lesbian.
Use abortifacient pills, not emergency contraceptives.
Use school-based sex clinics, not school-based health clinics. Calling them sex clinics is accurate. Don’t disguise this by using the word “health.”
Use human life with great potential, not potential life.
“Life Talk” is adapted with permission from the October 2003 issue of Life Issues Connector.
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