Abortion and Language

Hence, the misuse of language to cover a hideous crime.

There were three wonderful pro-life letters printed in the Irish Times yesterday. Each one gives its own honest message towards the indisputable value of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

Letter no. 1


Sir, – Eamonn McCann is correct when he says that language is important in any discussion of abortion (“Are there signs of a ‘pro-life’ group influence in HSE document?”, Opinion & Analysis, July 23rd). However, language is also crucially important when ensuring parents have factual information, and are not being misled, or nudged towards abortion, after a diagnosis of a condition such as anencephaly or trisomy 13 for their unborn baby.

Eamonn McCann’s article repeated much of the misinformation surrounding these conditions – and misinformation is neither helpful to the public debate nor to parents who have received the devastating news that their baby may not live for long after birth. According to figures from the British Department of Health, more than 90 per cent of Irish parents facing a diagnosis of life-limiting condition for their baby do not seek an abortion.

We are parents who have been told that our children were “incompatible with life” or had a “fatal foetal abnormality”, labels which were not just offensive but misleading. We are seeking to ensure that parents in similar situations are correctly informed by medical practitioners, that outcomes for conditions are correctly explained, and that better services are made available to families of very sick unborn babies.

The experience of parents is hugely important. Many of them, such as Sarah Hynes, mother to baby Seán who lived for two days with trisomy 18, speak of their frustration at the lack of information available. “I was told my son had trisomy 18, that he was ‘incompatible with life’ and then I had to go home and Google it to find out any more information,” she says.

It is entirely appropriate that parents who have had first-hand experience of love and loss be a part of a consultation process of improving standards in bereavement care. It is simply astonishing to suggest that these parents be excluded from a consultation process because they do not support a political agenda on abortion.

No child should be described as a “lethal” or “fatal” abnormality, or “incompatible with life” – these descriptions are medically meaningless, misleading and offensive. Surely at the worst of times we should have the best of care available and this includes a language that affirms the reality that no matter how sick our babies are, no matter how short their lives may be, they are not only our sons and daughters but are members of our human family. They deserve to be treated with dignity and their memories respected. – Yours, etc,


Letter no. 2

Sir, – Commenting on my letter of July 29th, Colin Walsh makes the point (July 31st) that the same human rights are not appropriate at all stages of the continuum of human life from conception to old age and hints that the human right to life may not apply in the earliest stages of pregnancy because the embryo is so relatively simple then. Of course there is nothing at all simple about the early embryo. On the contrary it is stupendously sophisticated, bearing the full plan of its whole unfolding along the remainder of the continuum of human life and the means of affecting that unfolding.

I do agree with Colin Walsh’s general point. A right can only apply to one who has the capacity to exercise that right in a meaningful manner, eg you don’t attain the right to vote until you reach your 18th birthday. However, I cannot accept his reservation about the right to life of the early embryo.

The primary human right is the right to life because you must first of all be alive before you can exercise any right. All other human rights are secondary. You are entitled to human rights simply because you are a living human being. Since the human embryo indisputably has the capacity for life and is indisputably human from conception, it seems clear to me that it automatically enjoys the primary human right to life. It will attain further human rights later along the continuum as it develops the capacities to exercise these rights. To argue that for a period from conception onwards the embryo has no right to life is to identify a category of human being who is completely devoid of human rights. That position is, in my opinion, incoherent. – Yours, etc,

WILLIAM REVILLE (Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, University College Cork.)

Letter no. 3

Sir, – Colin Walsh says that “a baby and the foetus in late pregnancy are practically the same entity” but that “there is no such equivalence between a baby and the unborn in the early days or weeks of pregnancy” because of the “vast changes that occur” during a child’s gestation in the womb. Thus he contends that a child in the early stages of pregnancy has a weaker case for the protection of its human rights.

Mr Walsh seems to overlook a serious flaw in his logic. Can it not also be said that there is an enormous difference between a newborn baby and a fully grown adult? In the intervening period, a person develops self-awareness, the skills of mobility, speech and communication, and the abilities to procreate and to live independently. All of these changes are just as radical as the developmental changes which occur within the womb, if not more so in some cases.

I am sure that Mr Walsh would not contend that a newborn baby ought to be entitled to inferior human rights to an adult simply due to its relative lack of development, so why does he contend that a child in the womb should be entitled to some lower threshold of human rights than a newborn baby for this same reason?

If some kind of sliding scale of human rights were to be introduced for a child in the womb, then where exactly would we draw the line at which a child in the womb is entitled to such rights? This is a question which pro-choice advocates remain completely unable to answer and unfortunately Mr Walsh fails to shed any light on the issue. – Yours, etc,


11745424_945972962133607_2979594525564713082_nI am going to include a fourth letter from the Irish Times written a few days ago by a member of ‘The Life Institute’ for the interesting points it brings up, and to repeat once again how the word ‘pro-choice’ has been used to hide the killing of unborn babies (and damage women). 

Sir, – Emer O’Toole’s claim that “science and sociology are on the side of pro-choice” is wishful thinking (“Science and sociology are on the side of pro-choice”, July 27th).

In fact, decades have passed since the amazing advances of science opened a window to womb and proved, beyond all doubt, the humanity of the unborn child.
Public awareness of the scientific facts around foetal development is one reason why the Irish public does not support calls to legalise abortion as a matter of “choice”.

Another reason is that many women are negatively impacted by abortion. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case, not least the work of Dr David Fergusson, whose research found that women who had abortions were 30 per cent more likely to experience mental disorder.

The number of Irish women travelling for abortions has fallen by 45 per cent in the past 11 years. Providing better supports to women in crisis is the more enlightened answer that terminates the crisis, and not the child.

Since the pro-life amendment was passed in 1983, polls show very little movement in public support for legalising abortion on demand.
That’s because the Irish people recognise that there is always a better answer than abortion.

That progressive thinking should be a matter of national pride, not as Emer O’Toole claims “a national shame”, because no amount of wishful thinking can change the fact that abortion kills babies and hurts women. – Yours, etc,

NIAMH UÍ BHRIAIN, (The Life Institute, Dublin)

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19 Responses to Abortion and Language

  1. Perhaps everyone has heard about or seen the anti-abortion videos that are now horrifying and shocking Americans. One of the most grisly (https://goo.gl/ImW3fo), is particularly hard to watch. In one scene, a lab assistant is being interviewed at her workplace. She displays a container full of dismembered baby parts and then uses a pair of tweezers to pick up a tiny hand with a portion of the arm still attached. If you find that last sentence hard to read, I would advise not watching the video.

  2. Michael says:

    The illusions created by the deliberately innocuous sounding language (e.g.; ‘pro-choice’ instead of ‘pro-murder’ and ‘termination’ instead of ‘killing’) used by supporters of abortion, and the sort of ‘logic’ employed by the authors of the articles referred to in these letters (particularly Colin Walsh and the sliding scale of human rights), becomes much harder to sustain when read in the light of what we have seen recently in the expose videos Robert mentions above (I have seen a still of the video he refers to and had to look away quickly – I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video; it really is horrifying).

    Just before I read this piece, I came across the following passage at another blog, which I think summarises rather well what we are experiencing now:

    It has been disheartening and a little bizarre to watch as western civilization has turned on and cannibalized itself these past few years. It’s been leading up to this moment for decades to be sure, but in the last decade or so it has ramped up to hyper-speed. The good news is that at long last the masks are coming off. There is no more hiding behind platitudes and political correctness. People are no longer being fooled as easily. While many useful idiots remain, as history tells us they always do, the lines in the sand between good and evil are being more clearly drawn. It is becoming more difficult to remain neutral or claim ignorance. The clock is ticking. The masque is falling away.’


    No more hiding indeed – it is becoming harder and harder to try and describe the horrors of abortion using the language and rationalisations alluded to in (and rightly criticised by) these letter writers. Many in the West are still trying to throw smokescreens over what has come out via the Planned Parenthood videos (c.f.; Cecil the Lion) but the more people that see these videos, the more people will have to come face to face with the horrifying reality of abortion. Guilt, personal and collective, will help to perpetuate its defence as well, but the clock is indeed ticking, and the masks are swiftly falling away.

  3. toadspittle says:

    So…it’s all right to call anti-abortion, “Pro-life,” but it’s not all right to call pro-abortion “Pro-Choice,”
    I see. Euphemisms, both.
    As is – I suggest – the phrase, “incompatible with life.”
    “No child should be described as a “lethal” or “fatal” abnormality, or “incompatible with life” – these descriptions are medically meaningless,”
    Are “lethal,” and “fatal,” and “abnormality,” meaningless words – medically or etymologically?
    Not to me.
    How can a child be described as a “lethal”?

  4. Michael says:

    So…it’s all right to call anti-abortion, “Pro-life,” but it’s not all right to call pro-abortion “Pro-Choice,”

    Yes, because ‘pro-life’ describes exactly what that person’s stance is, whereas ‘pro-choice’ shifts the goalposts somewhat, so the emphasis is not on the fact that the person who describes themselves as such is in favour of killing children in their mother’s womb, but is in favour of ‘choice’ – a nice sounding word which, in our age of nigh-on limitless individual freedom, has a lot of popular appeal.

    It also frames the debate in terms of feminism vs. patriarchy, insofar as the woman is the one who chooses what she wants to do, and not what some man (or sexist society) tells her she should do. Again, the emphasis is shifted from what is really being defended, which is the killing of an innocent.

  5. kathleen says:

    Yes, Michael, and I can think of plenty of others in the abortion industry’s own particular vocabulary used to cover up and try to justify the killing of babies. Here’s a few that come to mind:

    Pro-choice = pro-murder (the baby doesn’t “choose” to die!);
    Removing an “unwanted” pregnancy = killing an innocent child “wanted” and loved by God;
    Aborted foetuses = murdered babies;
    Lumps of tissue = a living, growing human being in its earliest stages of development;
    Planned Parenthood = Planned Death Camp;
    Operating theatre (in abortion clinics) = butcher shop (where babies are chopped up like meat);
    Medical research (using organs of aborted babies) = illegal human trafficking;…
    (And I’m sure others could add to this list of twisted allegories to hide the true horror of abortion.)

    Even abortion “statistics” that run into the tens of millions of lost lives since records were started, often become just that, statistics – mind-boggling figures, impossible to get to grips with. Yet in reality, this is a human genocide that has legal protection and funding in most countries!

  6. kathleen says:

    Yes, Robert, many of us are affiliates to pro-life movements, or ‘followers’ of their websites, so we have indeed seen and heard these horrific stories coming out from the undercover videos taken at “Planned Parenthood”. (Our BB posted the first one here on CP&S almost as soon as it hit the news).

    These videos are just unbelievable in their cold, cruel, stark reality…. and you are quite right to warn people of the psychological damage that watching such brutality to the most indefensible could have on the mind.
    However, that is not to say that it is wrong to bring such facts to public knowledge. These videos have caused a shock-wave to run through some of even the most hardened of hearts. It is only by bringing such evil out in the open that it can then be confronted.

  7. richeldis says:

    Many years ago I went to a “placenta party” at a hospital in North Wales. It was a perk of a midwife’s job to retain placentas to sell on to face-cream companies, and they would fund social events with the money. In those days, we went “yeuch” at the thought of women putting such stuff on their faces, even though there was nothing morally wrong with recycling inert byproducts that would otherwise disappear down a sluice. As I write this, the thought occurs that it was not only placentas that were sold on, but I don’t think there was quite the brazen commodification of human tissue then (the 80s) that now exists. If so – the junior midwives were certainly unaware.

    Fast forward to the current horror, where defenders of the indefensible are peddling the line that “as the abortion is going to take place anyway, we may as well use the parts”.

    I suppose they try to justify this approach based on the ethics that allow the Dachau Hypothermia experiments to be used as a source in later ethical research on Hypothermia, and for the Rubella vaccine (developed using an aborted child).

    Planned Parenthood is now holed below the waterline. But what of those pharmaceutical companies at the other end of the broker’s chain?

    Complete silence. Go away. Nothing to see here.

    But I want to know(and cannot find out) what is in my face-cream? What is in my child’s vaccine?

    And despite a lot of googling – I can’t. I can find out if it is “suitable for vegetarians” and that’s about it.

  8. GC says:

    One to add, kathleen:

    Reproductive Health = channelling lots and lots of public funds to certain doctors to stop by any means perfectly healthy reproductive organs doing what they naturally do anyway.

  9. toadspittle says:

    Are there any available figures for the number of unwanted, and unplanned, miscarriages in the course of a year?

    “Even abortion “statistics” that run into the tens of millions of lost lives since records were started, often become just that, statistics.
    Whereas the statistics for, say, death from traffic accidents don’t? Why not?

  10. Michael says:

    Yet in reality, this is a human genocide that has legal protection and funding in most countries!

    Absolutely. And one thing that particularly angers me about the attitude towards these things in the West is that our governments seem hell-bent (I mean that literally) on exporting this corrosive mentality to developing countries, usually as part of a deal wherein debt relief or aid is threatened to be withheld if the country in question does not accept same-sex marriage and abortion on demand (the latter usually described as ‘reproductive rights’ – H/T to GC there!).

    Just read a good article over at ‘The Catholic Gentleman’ which questions the framing of the ‘pro-choice’ arguments solely in terms of women’s rights too (as well as making an interesting suggestion for promoting the pro-life cause):


  11. Michael says:

    Whereas the statistics for, say, death from traffic accidents don’t?

    I think there’s a significant difference between traffic accidents and the intentional killing of the unborn is there not? Furthermore, I think the point here is that the numbers of those killed via abortion becomes nothing but a set of statistics – i.e.; they are swept under the carpet, ignored because they are an inconvenient reminder of what we have been doing.

    Traffic accident statistics at least receive some official attention, usually from people trying to find some way of reducing their numbers; abortion figures on the other hand are consistently kept out of sight and mind, and if any official action is taken with them it is usually to make access to abortion even easier (and thus increase the numbers, horrifying as they already are).

  12. kathleen says:

    OK, Toad, I’ll ‘translate’ that for you. 😉

    The numbers of abortions has reached such an enormously high figure it is quite impossible to assimilate the reality. Yet every one of those millions upon millions of our lost fellow human beings (each one with his/her individual right to life, plus the discoveries, talents, possibilities, etc. they will never be able to reveal) was mercilessly ripped from its mother’s womb at the incipience of life, and is now no more than a tragic (and faceless) “statistic”.

  13. Michael says:

    Ah, sorry Kathleen, I thought Toad was quoting from the article – only realised now it was from your previous comment. Thankfully I think our answers are complementary rather than contradictory though!

  14. toadspittle says:

    Well, we all (on CP&S, anyway) agree that abortion is always a bad thing.
    I imagine it’s expensive, and I’m sure it’s potentially physically dangerous to the mother.
    Which leads me to ask:
    1: Why is it so commonplace?
    2: What is to be done about it?

  15. Michael says:

    Which leads me to ask:
    1: Why is it so commonplace?
    2: What is to be done about it?

    1. Selfishness – something ever present in human beings, but nowadays unencumbered by all that pesky nonsense about objective morality and whatnot. Selfishness freed to be the worst it can be by an air of unreflective relativism.

    2. Try as best we can to acquaint people with the terrible reality of what actually goes on in an abortion (and the true nature of businesses like Planned Parenthood) so that their consciences can be woken out of their self-imposed slumber. It is easy enough, it seems, to ignore the fact that abortion really is the killing of a child when the reality of this can be sanitised with the sort of language referred to above; but when one is reminded, through word and image, that we are dealing with a real human life, and what is done to that life, it is a lot harder to pretend to be okay about it.

  16. kathleen says:

    No need to be “sorry”, Michael, our replies coming through to Toad at exactly the same moment, were indeed “complementary”! 🙂

    I have just read another horrific account of the cruellest and most brutal treatment meted out to LIVE UNBORN BABIES in the name of science! On this very good traditional website I had never seen before, after describing the horrible experiments and murders (beware!), the author concludes with these words:

    “If the language of the Planned Parenthood and biotech executives discussing the demand for fetal body parts over wine and salad for lunch is disgusting, perhaps one will find the experimental methods tied to the history of the development of infant formula equally, if not more so, disgusting. These facts have been in the academic record for over 40 years. Was there no outcry? No controversy? What? Did people just trust the academics blindly? I do not know. A million questions can be asked about why anyone thought this kind of research was remotely acceptable. Yet, here we are in 2015 in shock as if all of this behavior began overnight, speculating about whether it is all really true or not. It is true. Those “in vivo” experimental procedures are not speculation, indication, or accusation. They are as true as if the researchers confessed the activities to the public in their own handwriting—because they did.

    If the published works in refereed journals are to be believed, then abortion clinics have indeed provided whole live fetuses for research, even live ones handed over to be used, killed, and dissected as a part of an experiment that feeds an industry. Apparently for decades the use of fetal material has been a research tactic that is 1) considered ethical and legal, 2) coordinated across continents if necessary, 3) funded by governments and private foundations, 4) demanded by industry, and 5) applauded by the scientific community. Planned Parenthood could shut down completely tomorrow, but the use of aborted fetuses and fetal body parts will not stop.”


  17. Michael says:

    Thank you for linking to this Kathleen – it shows just how far we have gone in valuing utility over truth. This is all the more chilling when one realises how matter-of-fact such things seem to have become. I have had several discussions with scientists over the years about the ethics involved in research, and depending on who you talk to, they are willing to accept more or less extreme practices (all in the name of ‘progress’ of course), but by and large one thing that seems to go unquestioned is that ‘the means justify the ends’. It is precisely that sort of thinking that has led to what the article you cite describes.

    Incidentally, this all provides rather a good example of a principle mentioned in several articles posted here at CP&S, and subsequently questioned by amphibians – namely that when you take common belief in God (and all that comes with that – particularly His grounding of objective morality) out of the equation, almost anything becomes permissible.

  18. Mimi says:

    And at a completely new level of horror, there is Ann Barnhardt’s article on the cannibalism of foetuses in China (http://www.barnhardt.biz/2015/08/05/where-this-will-eventually-end-up-fetal-cannibalism/). Be warned that there are shocking images. May God have mercy on us all.

  19. toadspittle says:

    Puts us in mind of Swift’s “Modest Proposal.”
    …Or “Soylent Green.”

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