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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Linguistic Sabotage

I believe that language plays a huge role in the abortion debate. And while the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" have been analyzed to death (no pun intended) by countless authors, there are many words and phrases, used in everyday life, that affect our cause in more subtle ways. Many are unwittingly used by pro-life advocates who don't realize how it undermines our message. Without further ado, I present my top life-related linguistic pet peeves.

"First days/weeks/months of life" (referring to newborns)
This one is pervasive, and I've heard it from awesome pro-life people who should know better. If a baby boy was born three weeks ago, he is not in the "first weeks" of life; he's in about the 43rd week of life. The life of a human individual begins at fertilization, and those months in the womb should count.

Fortunately, there's an easy fix. If you catch yourself about to say this, just change "of life" to "after birth." Speaking about the first days, weeks, or months after birth is perfectly accurate, doesn't sound weird, and doesn't erase the prenatal period of life.

"Rapist's child"
This phrase bothers me in a specific context: "It's so brave of you to raise your rapist's child." Really? Did the rapist help change the child's diapers? Sing the child to sleep? Take the child to soccer practice? Yes, of course the rapist is a biological father. But the child also has a mother, who is clearly the superior influence. The phrase "rapist's child" is degrading.

We absolutely should honor women who choose life in the difficult situation of a pregnancy caused by rape. All I'm saying is that we need to do so in a way that does not suggest that the child "belongs" only to the scumbag rapist source of sperm.

"Expectant parent/going to be a parent"
This is a fine phrase for people who are trying to conceive or adopt. It is a very poor phrase for people who are pregnant or whose partner is pregnant. If life begins at fertilization, so does motherhood and fatherhood. This also applies to other family members; siblings are siblings at conception (no "You're going to be a big brother," tell him he IS a big brother); aunts and uncles are aunts and uncles at conception, and so on.

Got any more examples of inaccurate language that sabotages the pro-life message? Share them in the comments or email them to info@secularprolife.org.

12 comments:

Sarah L Terzo said...

I would also say that pro-lifers should refrain from referring to babies or unborn children as "it." Use He or she.

Amber-Faith Miller said...

I don't like the term "unborn," because it reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fzb7BLqetY The more correct term is "pre-born," which refers to the gestational period that occurs before a person is born.

EducaciĆ³n Sexual p/ CR said...

A real prolife shouldnt refer to the zygote as a fertilized ovule (follow us in twitter: @edsexu).

Authentic Choice said...

Since academic research and other evidence shows that the majority of abortions involve coercion in many often insidious, synergistic, often escalating forms (See Rue study and Forced Abortion in America flyer, ad and Special Report) often including violence, negligent, conflicted or high-pressure "counseling," or abuse of authority ... the word "choice" in its authentic meaning shouldn't be presumed. "Her abortion" is more accurate, but it may well have been directly or indirectly, often by withdrawal of essential support or emotional blackmail, someone else's "choice" for her. Evidence-based fact sheets: http://www.theunchoice.com

Authentic Choice said...

"Safe" abortion, "botched" abortion or "complications" of abortion. Since most abortions involve coercion and forced abortions happen in America (homicide is #1 killer of pregnant women) and many clinics screen for profits and social agendas, but aren't required to screen for coercion, "safely" abusing, traumatizing (65% suffer PTSD symptoms) and/or killing both women and child (see maternal death rate studies) plus abuse/homicides before abortion, it is not only not "safe," (an understatement) it is an internationally recognized (but not enforced) human rights abuse to women, not to mention it puts babies at risk when pregnant women get coercion to abort if their pregnancy is not supported by their support networks. Better words: aftereffects, impact, negligent, coercive or conflicted and unethical medical practices. Facts: http://www.theunchoice.com

Kara Baylog said...

I'd like to add to your second point. Even if you are talking about before the changing diapers and the soccer practice, that puts the "nurture" into true parenthood, half of that child is genetically speaking, the mother's. So it isn't "the rapist's biological child" anymore than it is the mother's child. Refer to the child as of the mother, because the child is hers.
Even in healthy relationships, I see this often ("she's carrying my child"), and I suspect this comes from ages past where paternity was not able to be confirmed except socially, but let's get in the habit of acknowledging the fact that a baby in the womb is biologically a mother's child. No matter what.

Lilian Stoltzfus said...

Nice thoughts! Sarah is right also - we can refer to the preborn individual as "he or she" from the moment of conception, and do so accurately, since sex is by and large determined then!

Someone said...

I second that one! I've been trying, though occasionally 'it' slips.

wat said...

Yeah. Speaking as a zombie apocalypse fan, "undead" means someone who died and came back. So "unborn" would mean someone who was born and went back. Pretty horrific image. :P

xuinkrbin said...

So, would that make Oedipus one of the "unborn"? ;-)

xuinkrbin said...

How about avoiding "Woman/fetus" and instead using "Mother/Child"?

Denver said...

I think its also best that pro-lifers don't refer to fetuses as unborn children, no matter how much we think of them like that. Until recently I used to say "unborn child" but after studying fetal science I've learnt that they are extremely different to children(but no less significant as human life). It just makes us look ignorant when we claim to have science on our side but don't use correct scientific terms. We wouldn't call a child an "immature adult".