Linguistic Sabotage, Part II
Last week’s piece on terms that pro-lifers should avoid got a great response. Many of you had suggestions for additional phrases that we should remove from our vocabulary. Others had comments on the original three.
Secular Pro-Life member Sarah Terzo kicked things off with a suggestion so clearly right, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t include it in the original article: “I would also say that pro-lifers should refrain from referring to babies or unborn children as ‘it.’ Use he or she.”
|Above: a fitting shirt for the child of a pro-life
advocate. Used with mommy’s permission.
Speaking of which, several people said that they don’t like the term “unborn” child, for various reasons. They prefer “preborn.” I myself don’t find “unborn” to be dehumanizing at all, and would note that this is how people typically refer to their own children in the womb when abortion is not on the table. But I like “preborn” too.
LifeNews picked up the piece, which got lots of comments on their facebook page. I’ll highlight four.
- Cherie Brewer pointed out that “some of this phrasing would help those of us who have experienced a miscarriage as well. Often, we are made to feel that our loss is viewed as less of a loss because of the wording often used to describe pregnancy or unborn babies.”
- Jim Burke had three additions to the list: “Avoid ‘doctor’ when referring to an abortionist. Avoid ‘clinic’ when referring to an abortion facility. Avoid ‘telemed’ when referring to webcam abortions. Although many people working in the industry have good intentions, it’s hard to use terms associated with affirming life and healing with abortion.”
- Daina Alise Reynolds shared the story of how after her third child was born, “I was filling out some form in the hospital that read (in part) ‘x days of life.’ I don’t know if I’d filled out a similar paper before or not, but for some reason, it really pissed me off. I scratched out ‘of life’ and wrote ‘after birth.’ Life doesn’t begin at birth, after all.”
- Shannon Elizabeth Abdul also had a story of pro-life language in action: “This is why my daughter wears a ‘Big Sister’ shirt and not ‘I am going to be a Big Sister’ shirt. I am pregnant with our second child and the moment that I conceived this baby, she became a big sister.”
Christian blogger J. Warner Wallace came across the piece on LifeNews and responded with an argument that we should not use the word “fetus.” Although “fetus” is scientifically accurate (unlike “x days of life” and “going to be a parent”), Wallace says that it is not emotionally accurate.
It’s like the difference between “metacarpal appendage” and “hand”. I can accurately say that I held my wife’s metacarpal appendage last night on the way home from dinner, but most people will have difficulty seeing this as an act of affection. My language has abstracted her hand and the nature of my actions. If I want to accurately (and emotively) communicate my actions to folks without a scientific background, I need to pick words that are rooted in our common experience rather than scientific concepts.
Finally, I reached out to several people I know who were conceived in rape for their thoughts about the phrase “rapist’s child.” They unanimously agreed that pro-lifers should not use it. Pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling compared it to other dehumanizing and outdated terms, such as “bastard” and “illegitimate child.” And Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation added, “I also hate the phrase ‘child of rape’ or ‘product of rape’ (because it especially reduces one’s humanity). ‘Born of rape’ or ‘conceived in rape’, I feel, are better descriptors. I’ve evolved, too, on some of the language. I may even have some of these phrases in old articles.”
May our language continue to evolve in a pro-life direction! Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this important conversation.
Interesting. I don't have an issue with "unborn" as opposed to born. It simply means not yet born, to be delivered. Obviously the context tells us if we are talking about an unborn living child or unborn dead child. Is there a legal distinction between unborn and pre-born?
Another thought, on my blog I sometimes refer to a woman who is going to have an abortion as the mother-to-be-aborted. Delivered, miscarried, aborted, with a still born, the woman carrying a child is always a mother.
did "fertilized egg" make anybody's list?