“Spontaneous abortion” is the medical term for a miscarriage. Many people have expressed confusion and hurt regarding this phrase, believing that it’s trying to equivocate between a miscarriage and an elective abortion or that it’s suggesting a woman gets an abortion casually. As someone who has had two miscarriages, I understand the gravity and sensitivity of the issue. I wanted to clarify the phrase here.
The word “spontaneous” is commonly used to mean “impulsive” (like definitions #1 and #2 of the screencap: “resulting from a natural impulse” and “given to acting upon sudden impulses.” If you search “spontaneous” on thesaurus.com, the top synonyms are “impulsive,” “willing,” “casual,” and “impromptu.”
This understanding of “spontaneous” is not the usage meant in the phrase “spontaneous abortion.” Instead, in this usage, the word “spontaneous” is referring to definitions #3 and #5 of the screencap: “arising from internal forces or causes; independent of external agencies,” and “produced by natural processes.” It means that the embryonic death happened naturally, not because of external action or effort. “Spontaneous abortion” is in contrast with induced abortions, in which people take actions to cause the pregnancy loss.
The phrase “spontaneous abortion” isn’t pro-choice propaganda; it’s a definition of “spontaneous” used more commonly in studies of chemistry and biology (and medicine) than in day-to-day language. I think people who have studied any of these fields may forget the more popular definition of “spontaneous” and fail to realize how “spontaneous abortion” can sound to others.