This article is a continuation of a two-part series on rhetoric and the dangerous misuse of words by pro-abortion apologists. In it we will continue to discuss key terms and bring to light hidden agendas within pro-abortion arguments most people tend to miss. Rhetoric, or the use of words and phrases, is very powerful.
The misuse of rhetoric by changing the meaning of words, replacing words, or creating new words altogether is foundational to pro-abortion argumentation.
In Part I of this series on rhetoric, we learned the true significance of popular pro-abortion terminology, including the term “pro-choice.” In this second and final installment, we will continue exploring common “pro-choice” rhetoric and its effects on the abortion debate.
We will begin with a word which is well-known and well-loved all over the world: “baby.”
What comes to mind when you hear this word? What image do you see? A newborn cradled in the arms of his mother? An older infant crawling or toddling around? The Gerber Baby? Your own child, or the child of someone you know? Regardless of the particular image, most, if not all, of us have a positive reaction when we hear this word. We think of already-born children, and the thought of them makes us smile.
However, when it comes to children in the womb, society has the hardest time calling them “babies.” No, they are “fetuses,” “embryos,” and “zygotes.” We do not think of them as babies. When we talk about abortion, no one wants to admit it is the killing of a human baby.
Yet, think about the expectant mother or father who actually wants their child. Do you ever hear the mother who just learned she is pregnant call her friends and say, “I’m going to have a fetus!” or “I’m pregnant with an embryo!”
Of course not. But why not? Shouldn’t the terminology be consistent?
This use of euphemisms is particularly dangerous. Why does the abortion industry refuse to call a preborn human a baby? Why bring in so many alternate words? First we must examine the specific words used — “fetus,” “embryo,” and “zygote.” Are these accurate terms to describe a human in the womb? Technically, yes. They are scientific terms to describe different gestational stages inside the womb.
A zygote is a preborn human at the moment it exists, i.e., fertilization, the union of sperm and egg. “Embryo” and “fetus” describe a preborn human at a very early gestational stage. So, it is factual to use these terms to describe a child in the womb, but this does not make them accurate.
Our society has accepted the use of clinical, scientific terms to describe a preborn baby only when referring to an act of killing said baby. We resort to factual but cold terms. But are they even the most accurate? Think about when you had to dissect animals in school. How were you taught to refer to the animal dissected? You called them, for example, fetal pigs.
The term “fetal” is not a noun, it is an adjective. It is a descriptive term used to identify the animal in the earliest stages of development. So, if we are going to use more accurate rhetoric, babies in the womb are fetal humans, not fetuses.
Pro-abortionists’ insistence on using “scientific,” yet inaccurate, terminology to describe preborn humanity is an attempt to sterilize and in turn normalize the act of killing a human. If the preborn child were called a “baby,” or even a “human,” society would have a much harder time accepting abortion as “a woman’s right.”
In that light, let us consider the act of abortion itself. If a human child is killed outside the womb, we call it “infanticide,” “homicide,” or “murder.” If a large number are killed we call it “serial killing” or “genocide.” If the killing takes place inside the womb, we call it “abortion.” This is the term accepted by society. As pro-lifers, this is the term we should use; but we must not forget abortion is synonymous with infanticide and homicide.
A popular claim by those who promote the act of killing babies is abortions are “safer than pregnancy.” Safer. Safer for whom? Safer for the mother, they claim, because more women die in childbirth than from having abortions. Many pro-abortion activists who have had abortions themselves claim they stand by their decision because it empowered them and furthered their rights as women.
They claim abortion was the best way to preserve their lives. Consider the rhetoric used in these claims. By saying it is safer to have an abortion than to carry a child to term and deliver that child, pro-abortion activists are essentially saying the rights of the child are not equal to those of the mother — the mother’s rights to convenience are more important than the life of the defenseless child in the womb.
Rarely will you hear it put this way in mainstream abortion marketing. Think about it. When was the last time you saw an advertisement from an abortion clinic which read, “Come pay us to kill your child?” Never.
The abortion industry’s marketing campaign is based one hundred percent on misleading rhetoric in an attempt to deceive — a very successful attempt. Planned Parenthood presents itself as a “women’s healthcare provider” while performing over 300,000 abortions per year.
On some abortion websites the act of abortion is described as “gently taking the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus” — not “ripping apart a preborn child.” Notice it is not even called a “fetus” anymore. Instead it is mere “tissue,” implying abortion is akin to having one’s gallbladder removed.
The phrase “gently suction” is even more misleading. Former abortionist Anthony Levatino clarifies exactly what abortion by aspiration consists of. He explains, “the suction machine has the force of approximately ten to twenty times that of a normal household vacuum cleaner.” This is definitely not “gentle.”
Not only is a mass genocide of defenseless humans taking place, it is being downplayed to sound as innocent as possible. The number one cause of death in America — the elective abortion of preborn children — exists today because we as a nation have bought into the manipulation and lies instead of speaking truthfully.
Lest you think this use of rhetoric only applies to the act of abortion itself, let me assure you it does not. It is also used to justify the after-effects.
Millions of post-abortive women and men suffer as a result of abortion, and their voices are constantly silenced. They do not have a place in the public square to share their horrible experiences. We do not hear from the countless women who regret their abortions.
Many post-abortive parents look back on their abortions as the worst decisions they ever made. “They haunt me to this day,” post-abortive mothers share. “I still wonder what my child would have looked like.” “I still wonder how my child would have laughed.” “What kind of mom would I have been?” The amount of suffering these women are going through is incalculable, yet they are silenced for the sake of continuing this barbarity.
An industry which proclaims, “Shout your abortion,” locates the few women who, on the surface, claim to have no regrets, no suffering, and no ill effects as a result of abortion. Those women are given a platform in an attempt to normalize and justify the decision to abort.
This is a campaign designed and marketed to make us accept not only that the act of killing preborn humans is morally agreeable, but Mom and Dad are just fine afterwards. This is clearly not the case, yet many Americans accept it as truth.
America has swallowed the “pro-choice” movement, with all its dangerous rhetoric. We have accepted it as truth. The “pro-choice” movement is a rhetorical nightmare designed by pro-abortionist marketers to make a deadly act “empowering” and “righteous” when in reality, it is quite the opposite. This Leftist rhetoric has gone so far as to feed us the idea that truth is not necessarily true. They have introduced the deadly idea of moral relativism.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t agree with abortion, but I’m not going to tell a woman what to do with her body”? Doesn’t that sound nice, tolerant, and accepting? Politicians use similar language all the time. Though it sounds agreeable, it is actually very dangerous.
If morality is relative, there is no absolute truth because everyone has their own. Saying you merely “disagree” with abortion and would never “tell a woman what to do with her body” completely mischaracterizes the act being committed.
As mentioned in Part 1, this is identical to saying you personally would not rape someone, but you think that others should be free to make the choice to do so. This is the same argument being made by the “pro-choice” movement. The movement itself deflects away from moral grounds. In reality, an act is right or wrong.
There is no middle ground when it comes to life and death, but pro-abortionists claim otherwise, and tell us the “truth” is whatever the mother says it is. We must realize that all rhetoric is designed to influence one way or another. There is no middle ground.
Perhaps the most dangerous result of this manipulative rhetoric is how it affects the Church — the greatest asset to the pro-life movement with the greatest opportunity to end abortion.
Christians hold the firm belief we are all created by God in His image, which gives us an indescribable value at the moment of conception. In modern society, the abortion debate has been intentionally labeled a “political issue.” Why? Because it keeps the Church out of it.
As devout, law-abiding Christians we often find ourselves stepping back when confronted with political issues because we think getting involved in politics is inconsistent with our call to spread the Gospel.
This could not be further from the truth. Not only is it an arguable duty of Christian Americans to engage in politics and culture to be the shining lights Jesus commands us to be, but regardless — abortion is simply not a political issue. It has become politicized, but it is ultimately a spiritual issue.
When a human life created in the image of God is taken, it automatically becomes a spiritual matter. It belongs in the Church more than any other place. It makes complete sense the Church would be the primary defender of life and treat the act of abortion for what it is.
Christians should not shy away from the fight, but approach head-on the twisted rhetoric to what the issue is really about: protecting the defenseless image-bearers of God.
There is one thing you should take away from this discussion on rhetoric. If we are believers; if we are a group of people who deeply care about words, and their usage, we must choose our words carefully.
We must constantly be aware and willing to study the rhetoric being presented to us. We must be willing to defend the truth, lovingly, compassionately, and gracefully, all while making sure we use the correct verbage. By doing this, we have the power to righteously expose the lies which have been sold to America for over 50 years.
You can find an expansive audio version on the topic of Rhetoric on The Human Element Show, a podcast by our friends at Human Coalition which combines incisive commentary and accessible apologetics to not only communicate the pro-life worldview, but also engage Americans in ending the abortion genocide in our lifetime.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.