In the abortion debate, one of things that often puts pro-lifers at a disadvantage is the improper and sloppy use of language. We often shoot ourselves in the foot with language that implies that the unborn are less than human or worth less than those who are born (as one pro-life Missouri representative did). Or we get labeled as “anti-choice” or “forced birthers” or any number of other names that make us sound bad. Liberals in general, and pro-abortion advocates in particular, are very good at twisting language to make themselves look better and the opposition look worse.
They also deal in cutesy slogans and emotive labels that color perceptions in ways that are favorable to themselves. Well, it’s time we pro-lifers started fighting back and winning the language battle.
To help you in your fight against the abortion mindset of our culture, here are a few ways you can change your language in order to encourage a more pro-life mindset in those around you.
1. Use the phrase “commit abortion.”
Using this language points out that abortion is a wrong that one commits against another person. Just as theft or murder or rape are “committed” against someone else, so too is abortion.
2. Never refer to the unborn as “it.”
We don’t refer to born humans as “it” and we shouldn’t give the unborn any less respect and dignity. Humans are either male or female from conception onward. And, of course, conception is also when that human life begins. So refer to the unborn as he or she or use terms like “the child” rather than a dehumanizing “it.”
Since, classically, the male pronoun is used to refer to a generic human, I tend to use “he” or “him” when referring to the unborn. This also allows me to contrast “him” (the child) with “her” (the mother) more easily in conversations. It also points out, though rather subtly, that the child in a woman’s womb is often of a different sex than she is. He certainly isn’t part of her body.
3. Refer to the “abortion industry.”
Abortion is big business. Abortionists aren’t committing abortions (see what I did there?) out of the goodness of their hearts. They aren’t non-profits. They’re in it for the money. And it’s a lot of money too. Multi-billions of dollars per year kind of money. It’s an industry, not a humanitarian aid society. Point it out, loudly and often.
4. Use “abortion mill” and “abortionist.”
In the spirit of the previous point, refer to abortion facilities as abortion mills. Again, this points out that the money, rather than the good of women, is the goal of such places. It also emotively conjures up pictures of dirty conditions, debris lying around, and abortionists trudging from woman to woman, callously pulling dead babies from their wombs and then moving on to the next, in a long line of impersonal “procedures.” While not all facilities that perform abortions are like this, some certainly are. And if the opposition can use emotive language to influence people, I am not above doing it too in order to save lives.
Using terms like “abortion mill” or “abortionist” also helps to strip away the image of abortions as a medical procedure. Terms like “abortion clinic” make it sound so clean and medical. They lead the ignorant to believe that abortion is health care, administered by professional doctors just like any others. This is not accurate. Abortion is not health care and abortionists are usually not doctors in the usual sense of the word. Using better terminology helps point this out.
5. Say “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice.”
I’ve written about this one before. People who call themselves “pro-choice” aren’t usually in favor of choices across the board (like school choice, the choice to own guns, or the choice to drink giant sodas). They only apply this language of “choice” to a woman’s pregnancy. What choice is it that the "pro-choice" crowd is in favor of? It's the choice to have an abortion. The fundamental issue is that "pro-choice" people think it is okay to make the choice to abort, and that makes them pro-abortion.
Just as a person who thinks that a man should have a legal, legitimate choice of whether or not to rape a woman is pro-rape, a person who thinks a woman should have a legal, legitimate choice of whether or not to abort her child is pro-abortion.
The reason the other side likes the “pro-choice” label isn’t because it’s more accurate, but because it sounds better. It’s a euphemism. And, like most euphemisms, it’s designed to cover up the reality of the topic being discussed by framing it in more palatable terms. But if they really think abortion is perfectly fine, why don’t they own up to their views and come right out and admit to being pro-abortion? Why do they need a euphemism to make them feel better about their position? Using the term “pro-abortion” can help point out just exactly what they are standing up for, and make them face up to it, rather than letting them hide behind a nice-sounding label that conceals the truth.
6. Avoid using language that hints of birth as the beginning of life.
We’ve all done it. We talk about a friend having a baby "on the way” or we tell newborns “Welcome to the world.” But these kinds of phrases really aren’t accurate and only perpetuate the idea that the unborn aren’t people and that human life begins at birth. The truth is, once a woman is pregnant, she doesn’t have a baby "on the way" – the baby is already there, inside her. A newborn hasn’t just entered the world – he’s been in the world for roughly 9 months already.
Now, obviously, I know what people mean when they say these things. I don’t mean to quibble unnecessarily. But language is important. With millions upon millions of unborn lives snuffed out in the past few decades, a little bit of care in choosing our words is a small price to pay to help change the perceptions of those around us and support a culture of life.
7. Use the terms “discrimination” or “bigotry” to speak of the pro-abortion viewpoint that the unborn are not people.
When someone has a view that some human individuals are not people or shouldn’t have the same legal protections as all other people (i.e. people like themselves), that is bigotry and discrimination. Whether they base their views on race, age, disability, gender, or level of dependency, they’re still discriminating against some human beings. All humans have the same inalienable rights by virtue of being members of the human species. And thus, all humans should have the same legal protection. To claim otherwise is to look down on people who are not like you and try to deny them the protection you wish for yourself. That’s ugly and wrong, no matter how you slice it. Calling out this bigotry helps point out that the unborn are humans and that legal abortion is denying them equal rights. The injustice of abortion won’t stop until we force people to recognize the bigotry of the idea that unborn humans are not worthy of protection.
These are just a few ideas to help you modify your language in order to foster a more pro-life culture. There are many other ways to do this, but hopefully these provide some food for thought and a starting point for reminding ourselves and others of the humanity of the unborn.
As a final note, it is probably worth pointing out that there are circumstances where using these terms is not the most effective thing to do. I don’t recommend using them in all circumstances, but only when their use will help further the pro-life mindset or provide clarity and contemplation of the problems with the pro-abortion stance.
When speaking to a woman who has had an abortion, it’s not likely to be very kind or very effective to speak of her going to an abortion mill to commit abortion. When talking to people who are trying to converse rationally and calmly about the topic of abortion, it may not be best to continually call them pro-aborts.
So using a little wisdom in how you insert these terms into your speech is recommended. But please be bold in standing for all human life and in pointing out the injustice of abortion. We need everyone on board, standing for life, if we are to make a difference.