Publication date: August 6, 2004
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
When people start playing with the meaning of words, they are actually meddling with reality, and when the meaning of words is manipulated to an extreme, individuals and societies suffer.
It was the fictional Humpty Dumpty who said, rather contemptuously, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” What Humpty was referring to, of course, is the assumed authority to create his own meanings. This is exactly the power over words that abortion apologists have seized and continue to maintain today with the assistance of the ever-present dominant media culture.
The first and most open admission of word manipulation appeared in a 1970 editorial in the journal, California Medicine:
Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if
they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.
Just like Humpty Dumpty, abortion apologists set out to make words mean what they wanted them to mean. When they use a word (often as contemptuously as Humpty), it means just what they choose it to mean—neither more nor less—even at the expense of the truth. As Senator Hiram Johnson said in 1918, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” Make no mistake, we are in a war of words when it comes to the defense of human life.
William Brennan is his book, Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives, begins by writing, “the power of language to color one’s view of reality is profound.” This book is a marvelous treatise on how, when words are used to deprive individuals of their human qualities, violence against those very people is justified. This is especially true when one analyzes the debate over abortion. Illusion, ambiguity, disinformation, deception, contradiction, propaganda, and sometimes out and out lies are used in an attempt to control language and ultimately, thought.
Think for a moment how the language describing the unborn has changed since that 1970 editorial. At that time physicians and others knew that human life began at fertilization. Now, some thirty-four years later, many of the so-called elite insist that no one knows for certain when life begins. The only thing that has changed is the language, not the humanity of the unborn.
In 1947, Dr. Alan Guttmacher, who served as president of PPFA for twelve years, wrote in his book, Having a Baby, that “the new baby” is created at the exact moment of fertilization. Ten years later in his Pregnancy and Birth: A Book for Expectant Parents he wrote, “…[the obstetrician] simultaneously cares for two patients, the mother and infant. Each has an individual right to life.” By 1973, however, he was supporting abortion and referring to the unborn as “potential life.”
What changed? Did something about the unborn child change or did Dr. Guttmacher, the then-president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, acquire ChoiceSpeak as his second language? Since abortion became legal and ChoiceSpeak was adopted, Planned Parenthood has emerged as the largest single committer of abortions in this country and the world’s most aggressive advocate of abortion on demand.
Planned Parenthood is the epitome of ChoiceSpeak. Even its name is an illusion. One would think that an organization named “Planned Parenthood” would in fact be all about planning for parenthood. Instead, it is all about avoiding parenthood even at the expense of destroying a developing child. Planned Parenthood leads the fight for “reproductive freedom” which in reality has nothing to do with the freedom to have children, but instead stands for the freedom not to have children.
We must not allow Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion allies control the language because, as William Brennan so aptly states, “Those who control language control thought, and eventually semantic corruption leads to the adulteration of thought itself.”
As people standing resolutely for the truth, we must continue to challenge the use of ChoiceSpeak and insist on words that convey reality. When the euphemisms “reproductive health care,” “choice,” “pregnancy termination,” “selective reduction,” “interruption of pregnancy,” “removal of uterine contents,” or other terms used to hide the facts are used, we must expose the reality of what these words mean.
While “fetus” is an accurate medical term for the developing child, it is typically used by abortion advocates in a dehumanizing manner. They just cannot bring themselves to call a developing child in the womb, a “baby.” And yet, when is the last time you heard a pregnant woman say, ”oh, the fetus just kicked.” Have you ever heard anyone say, “when is your fetus due?”
Magazines and newspapers in their “people” section typically report that a woman “lost her baby” when the she suffers a miscarriage. Of course, when discussing the abortion debate, that baby is somehow reduced to “fetus.” Interestingly, in October 2001, USA Today reported on a scientist who had cracked open un-hatched dinosaurs and guess what these unborn dinosaurs were called—you guessed it, “baby dinos,” not fetal dinos. Un-hatched dinosaurs are “baby dinos,” but unborn humans are fetuses.
We must not stand by silently and allow ChoiceSpeak to be the language used to educate and shape our culture on the life issues. We must kindly, but firmly, counter these messages with the truth—beginning in our own circles of influence—and we must never give up speaking the truth in love.