A note on terminology in abortion debates

By | November 9, 2014

I’ve noticed a consistent pattern from both sides of the abortion debate in the specific terminology chosen to refer to the target of the abortion:

  • Those in the pro-abortion camp invariably refer to it as a “fetus”.
  • Those in the anti-abortion camp invariably refer to it as a “baby”, or sometimes “child”, often with “unborn” tacked in front.

This actually exposes the fundamental disagreement at the root of the abortion debate: one side doesn’t think of them as human. (Or at least, tries not to.)

Abortion supporters will go out of their way to correct people: “we don’t abort a baby, we abort a fetus.” This is a clear attempt to dehumanize the baby/fetus; everyone would feel bad about killing a baby, but “fetus” is a dry clinical term that doesn’t usually conjure up people’s protective instincts. It’s the only way they can win, because those protective instincts are really strong. Humans as a whole are hardwired to go to virtually any length to protect our offspring.

Abortion opponents use the opposite tactic: we do our absolute best to humanize the baby/fetus. After all, nobody would kill a baby.

It’s pretty obvious which side of this I’m on, but I thought this observation on terminology might be interesting to people.

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