Accurate language for abortion

This “Life Quote” from Lutherans For Life was in our bulletin Sunday, strong words from apologist John Stott:

“How can we speak of the termination of a pregnancy when what we really mean is the destruction of a human life? How can we talk of therapeutic abortion when pregnancy is not a disease needing therapy and what abortion effects is not a cure but a killing? How can we talk of abortion as a kind of retroactive contraception when what it does is not prevent conception but destroy the conceptus? We need to have the courage to use accurate language. Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any society that can tolerate this, let alone legislate for it, has ceased to be civilized.”

John Stott, English Christian leader and Anglican cleric

via Lutherans For Life | Life Quotes.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    Use strong language, but can we also ask that consistent language be used? Both sides should be able to agree on that the circumstances behind an abortion should be irrelevant in determining the moral value of a fetus. Even if the woman’s life is in danger from a pregnancy, if she has an abortion, is it not the case that she killed her own child to save her own life?

    In addition, if a fetus is a person, then the development of that fetus is also irrelevant. Therefore,we should condemn fetus killed by chemical means such as emergency contraception and the birth control pill every bit as much as later-term fetuses killed by surgical means.

  • Michael B.

    Use strong language, but can we also ask that consistent language be used? Both sides should be able to agree on that the circumstances behind an abortion should be irrelevant in determining the moral value of a fetus. Even if the woman’s life is in danger from a pregnancy, if she has an abortion, is it not the case that she killed her own child to save her own life?

    In addition, if a fetus is a person, then the development of that fetus is also irrelevant. Therefore,we should condemn fetus killed by chemical means such as emergency contraception and the birth control pill every bit as much as later-term fetuses killed by surgical means.

  • MarkB

    @1
    Good luck on getting the “Pro Choice” side of the argument to agree to that. The reason that they, the “Pro Choice” side uses different terms is to obfuscate the obvious.

  • MarkB

    @1
    Good luck on getting the “Pro Choice” side of the argument to agree to that. The reason that they, the “Pro Choice” side uses different terms is to obfuscate the obvious.

  • Gottfried

    Slightly adapted:
    Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any church (the ELCA) that can tolerate this, let alone pay for it, has ceased to be Christian.

  • Gottfried

    Slightly adapted:
    Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any church (the ELCA) that can tolerate this, let alone pay for it, has ceased to be Christian.

  • J

    Easy for a man to say.
    A culture that demands the death of a woman who’s life is endangered by her pregnancy has ceased to be civilized. So is a culture that protects an insurance company’s right to refuse health coverage on grounds that pregnancy is a pre-existing condition.

  • J

    Easy for a man to say.
    A culture that demands the death of a woman who’s life is endangered by her pregnancy has ceased to be civilized. So is a culture that protects an insurance company’s right to refuse health coverage on grounds that pregnancy is a pre-existing condition.

  • rlewer

    Who has demanded the death of a woman whose life is endangered by her pregnancy? This has never been a legal issue even before Roe v. Wade?

  • rlewer

    Who has demanded the death of a woman whose life is endangered by her pregnancy? This has never been a legal issue even before Roe v. Wade?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    As usual, Dr. Stott is spot on. I’ve said before to people that I have no problem with calling abortion what it is: murder, plain and simple. It is as dehumanizing in theory as it is abominable in practice.

    BTW, J @ 4, VERY RARELY, if ever, is there a medical situation that demands an either/or choice for the mother or baby. I’ll bet you a whole lotta money (do Lutherans bet?) that the overwhelming number of abortions are not conducted for the sake of the preservation of life.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    As usual, Dr. Stott is spot on. I’ve said before to people that I have no problem with calling abortion what it is: murder, plain and simple. It is as dehumanizing in theory as it is abominable in practice.

    BTW, J @ 4, VERY RARELY, if ever, is there a medical situation that demands an either/or choice for the mother or baby. I’ll bet you a whole lotta money (do Lutherans bet?) that the overwhelming number of abortions are not conducted for the sake of the preservation of life.

  • fjsteve

    J. Dean, you may want to look up ectopic pregnancy.

  • fjsteve

    J. Dean, you may want to look up ectopic pregnancy.

  • SKPeterson

    Hmm. Not aware of too many insurance companies that won’t insure a pregnant woman. Now, there may be restrictions on the level of coverage for a pregnant woman who purchases insurance directly and not through a company plan if she does do so after she has become pregnant. That is not uncivilized, it is common sense, and if a lack of common sense is what defines “civilization” we are becoming more and more “civilized” every day it seems. It is entirely akin to someone taking up smoking and then being aghast that the insurance company will charge them a higher premium for coverage.

    There was a post about a month or so ago that cited a British health survey from the government that indicated that about 98% of all abortions are done entirely for the convenience of the mother. The instance of consideration for the health of the mother is almost never a true option. Further, it was not established that the remaining 2% actually did require an abortion to save the life of the mother, only that her health may have been jeopardized or at elevated risk. So, it would seem we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2% of potential abortions as cases of acute distress and care, similar to those factors surrounding triplets, quadruplets, etc., or premature birth.

  • SKPeterson

    Hmm. Not aware of too many insurance companies that won’t insure a pregnant woman. Now, there may be restrictions on the level of coverage for a pregnant woman who purchases insurance directly and not through a company plan if she does do so after she has become pregnant. That is not uncivilized, it is common sense, and if a lack of common sense is what defines “civilization” we are becoming more and more “civilized” every day it seems. It is entirely akin to someone taking up smoking and then being aghast that the insurance company will charge them a higher premium for coverage.

    There was a post about a month or so ago that cited a British health survey from the government that indicated that about 98% of all abortions are done entirely for the convenience of the mother. The instance of consideration for the health of the mother is almost never a true option. Further, it was not established that the remaining 2% actually did require an abortion to save the life of the mother, only that her health may have been jeopardized or at elevated risk. So, it would seem we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2% of potential abortions as cases of acute distress and care, similar to those factors surrounding triplets, quadruplets, etc., or premature birth.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2% of potential abortions as cases of acute distress and care, similar to those factors surrounding triplets, quadruplets, etc., or premature birth.

    That is what Germany does.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2% of potential abortions as cases of acute distress and care, similar to those factors surrounding triplets, quadruplets, etc., or premature birth.

    That is what Germany does.

  • helen

    7 fjsteve October 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm
    J. Dean, you may want to look up ectopic pregnancy.

    Rare… and the fetus won’t survive in that situation anyway…

  • helen

    7 fjsteve October 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm
    J. Dean, you may want to look up ectopic pregnancy.

    Rare… and the fetus won’t survive in that situation anyway…

  • fjsteve

    helen,

    Actually, ectopic pregnancy is not all that rare. It happens in about 2 % of pregnancies in North America. Also, only half of them spontaneously miscarry. That means the rest continue to develop and risk the mother’s life if not aborted. One could call this a technicality because the embryo will, in all likelihood, die. Nonetheless, treating ectopic pregnancy does involve abortion.

  • fjsteve

    helen,

    Actually, ectopic pregnancy is not all that rare. It happens in about 2 % of pregnancies in North America. Also, only half of them spontaneously miscarry. That means the rest continue to develop and risk the mother’s life if not aborted. One could call this a technicality because the embryo will, in all likelihood, die. Nonetheless, treating ectopic pregnancy does involve abortion.

  • fjsteve

    My mistake. I rechecked by facts and about 68-77 % of ectopic pregnancies result in spontaneous miscarriage. That still leaves 0.5% that will require medical intervention.

  • fjsteve

    My mistake. I rechecked by facts and about 68-77 % of ectopic pregnancies result in spontaneous miscarriage. That still leaves 0.5% that will require medical intervention.

  • Michael B.

    “So, it would seem we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2%”

    I’m not sure what the exception percent is going to be. You should know that some ectopic pregnancies have resulted in a live birth. Furthermore, there are many other conditions that can make pregnancy risky. At some point you’re going to have to draw the line and accept that some women will have to be hurt if we want abortion to be illegal. Especially in the area of mental health. Every pregnancy carries some degree of risk. However, far more fetuses will die if one keeps abortion legal. Basically, something has got to give.

    Also, when the pro-lifer concedes that abortion is okay under any circumstance, he is essentially admitting that the fetus doesn’t have a right to life — that the state determines who can get an abortion, and that under some circumstances, it’s okay for a mother to kill the fetus to save herself. Practically, you can still say that the majority of abortions would still be illegal, but you’ve shattered your argument of the fetus as a person. Again, we have to ask the question: Even if the mother’s life is at risk, is it not the case of a mother killing a child to save herself? Here’s an article I’d love to see discussed on here sometime: http://www.visionforumministries.org/issues/life/why_the_life_of_the_mother_is.aspx

  • Michael B.

    “So, it would seem we could outlaw abortion and then handle the remaining 2%”

    I’m not sure what the exception percent is going to be. You should know that some ectopic pregnancies have resulted in a live birth. Furthermore, there are many other conditions that can make pregnancy risky. At some point you’re going to have to draw the line and accept that some women will have to be hurt if we want abortion to be illegal. Especially in the area of mental health. Every pregnancy carries some degree of risk. However, far more fetuses will die if one keeps abortion legal. Basically, something has got to give.

    Also, when the pro-lifer concedes that abortion is okay under any circumstance, he is essentially admitting that the fetus doesn’t have a right to life — that the state determines who can get an abortion, and that under some circumstances, it’s okay for a mother to kill the fetus to save herself. Practically, you can still say that the majority of abortions would still be illegal, but you’ve shattered your argument of the fetus as a person. Again, we have to ask the question: Even if the mother’s life is at risk, is it not the case of a mother killing a child to save herself? Here’s an article I’d love to see discussed on here sometime: http://www.visionforumministries.org/issues/life/why_the_life_of_the_mother_is.aspx

  • fjsteve

    Michael B.,

    That’s the same kind of black and white thinking that Pro-Lifers are blamed for, which leads me to believe you’re just using it as a debate tool and its not something you truly believe. Of course there are grey areas. You can’t say that either the baby has a right to life or no right at all. Just like you can’t say either the mother has a right to end her pregnancy at any time for any reason or she doesn’t have the right at all. Would you say that? If you would, I’d say your logic is as faulty as you claim those who oppose your position.

  • fjsteve

    Michael B.,

    That’s the same kind of black and white thinking that Pro-Lifers are blamed for, which leads me to believe you’re just using it as a debate tool and its not something you truly believe. Of course there are grey areas. You can’t say that either the baby has a right to life or no right at all. Just like you can’t say either the mother has a right to end her pregnancy at any time for any reason or she doesn’t have the right at all. Would you say that? If you would, I’d say your logic is as faulty as you claim those who oppose your position.

  • fjsteve

    Revision to #14 above.

    Since we’re talking about using accurate language, I’d better revise my statement:

    You can’t say that either the baby’s right to life overrides all others’ right to life or the baby has no right to life at all. Just like you can’t say that either the mother has a right to end her pregnancy at any time for any reason or she doesn’t have the right at all.

  • fjsteve

    Revision to #14 above.

    Since we’re talking about using accurate language, I’d better revise my statement:

    You can’t say that either the baby’s right to life overrides all others’ right to life or the baby has no right to life at all. Just like you can’t say that either the mother has a right to end her pregnancy at any time for any reason or she doesn’t have the right at all.

  • rlewer

    No one is proposing that abortion to save the life of the mother should be illegal. It never was illegal. It has always been a choice of the people involved. Why raise false issues?

  • rlewer

    No one is proposing that abortion to save the life of the mother should be illegal. It never was illegal. It has always been a choice of the people involved. Why raise false issues?

  • Marie

    I believe the “life of the mother” cases and treatments are just described differently by the anti-abortion and pro-abortion camps. No one believes a woman should (against her will, anyway) die needlessly to save a baby with a slim chance of survival outside the womb.

    An anti-abortion person would not describe the procedure (such as a laparoscopy or laparotomy to treat an ectopic pregnancy) as an abortion (in the popular sense). The unborn is removed to save the mother’s life; unfortunately, usually the embryo can not be subsequently implanted in the uterus. This is an unfortunate effect of the main point, to save the mother. (However, I believe someone, somewhere is working to make this fallopian-to-uterus transfer possible, and I hope they are successful.)

    A pro-abortion person would say the procedure primarily aborts the embryo, and the happy result is saving the mother’s life. However, I would argue while the human embryo dies to save the mother, it is not essential. At least in an ectopic pregnancy, if the embryo can be kept alive and inserted in the uterus, the woman will not die. Her life does not depend essentially on her baby’s death, but rather the removal of the embryo from her Fallopian tube.

    Removal of an embryo or fetus may be necessary to save a mother’s life. Unhappily, sometimes he/she can not survive apart from his/her mother. But the death itself is not essential.

    It is unfortunate that abortion now is associated with willfully ending a life. I rather like the word’s etymology (aborare comes from aboriri “to pass away, disappear, to be lost,” from ab “away” and orire “to appear, arise, be born, to be created”). Aboriri was used to mean miscarry, what we now call “spontaneous abortion.” The Romans also had aborare, “to cast its young”, and it means what our abortion means, because of course late Roman culture was also a culture of death.

  • Marie

    I believe the “life of the mother” cases and treatments are just described differently by the anti-abortion and pro-abortion camps. No one believes a woman should (against her will, anyway) die needlessly to save a baby with a slim chance of survival outside the womb.

    An anti-abortion person would not describe the procedure (such as a laparoscopy or laparotomy to treat an ectopic pregnancy) as an abortion (in the popular sense). The unborn is removed to save the mother’s life; unfortunately, usually the embryo can not be subsequently implanted in the uterus. This is an unfortunate effect of the main point, to save the mother. (However, I believe someone, somewhere is working to make this fallopian-to-uterus transfer possible, and I hope they are successful.)

    A pro-abortion person would say the procedure primarily aborts the embryo, and the happy result is saving the mother’s life. However, I would argue while the human embryo dies to save the mother, it is not essential. At least in an ectopic pregnancy, if the embryo can be kept alive and inserted in the uterus, the woman will not die. Her life does not depend essentially on her baby’s death, but rather the removal of the embryo from her Fallopian tube.

    Removal of an embryo or fetus may be necessary to save a mother’s life. Unhappily, sometimes he/she can not survive apart from his/her mother. But the death itself is not essential.

    It is unfortunate that abortion now is associated with willfully ending a life. I rather like the word’s etymology (aborare comes from aboriri “to pass away, disappear, to be lost,” from ab “away” and orire “to appear, arise, be born, to be created”). Aboriri was used to mean miscarry, what we now call “spontaneous abortion.” The Romans also had aborare, “to cast its young”, and it means what our abortion means, because of course late Roman culture was also a culture of death.

  • Marie

    I should add I agree with Stott that the language surrounding the politics of abortion is dishonest. This is why I have no problem saying I’m anti-abortion. And I call folks who disagree with me pro-abortion. (If we understand abortion as the willful killing of a human embryo or fetus.)

    I also have no problem calling unborn babes human embryos and fetuses. It does not obliterate what they are (human) and what they will be apart from their mother (a baby).

    The DNC’s speakers’ overuse of the passive voice and euphemisms when referring to “women’s health” was embarrassing to this English major. It was as if they were speaking in code (and on my behalf, no less!) I have more respect for honest Marxists and Classical Liberals and Traditionalists–those who say what they mean and mean what they say, no matter how wrong or how much I disagree with them–than the current ruling political classes.

    I also have more respect for the folks who promote infanticide or say “Yeah, it’s a human baby. So what? Abortion should still be legal,” because at least they are arguing logically.

    J, we paid cash for our second baby. Hospitals, especially the Catholic and Lutheran kind, are very generous with aid and payment plans. I’m not sure what your insurance point is. And we’re “poor,” according to the US government (30K, 6 people in our family).

  • Marie

    I should add I agree with Stott that the language surrounding the politics of abortion is dishonest. This is why I have no problem saying I’m anti-abortion. And I call folks who disagree with me pro-abortion. (If we understand abortion as the willful killing of a human embryo or fetus.)

    I also have no problem calling unborn babes human embryos and fetuses. It does not obliterate what they are (human) and what they will be apart from their mother (a baby).

    The DNC’s speakers’ overuse of the passive voice and euphemisms when referring to “women’s health” was embarrassing to this English major. It was as if they were speaking in code (and on my behalf, no less!) I have more respect for honest Marxists and Classical Liberals and Traditionalists–those who say what they mean and mean what they say, no matter how wrong or how much I disagree with them–than the current ruling political classes.

    I also have more respect for the folks who promote infanticide or say “Yeah, it’s a human baby. So what? Abortion should still be legal,” because at least they are arguing logically.

    J, we paid cash for our second baby. Hospitals, especially the Catholic and Lutheran kind, are very generous with aid and payment plans. I’m not sure what your insurance point is. And we’re “poor,” according to the US government (30K, 6 people in our family).

  • Michael B.

    @fjsteve

    “That’s the same kind of black and white thinking that Pro-Lifers are blamed for”.

    It is black and white. Let’s get back to Gene’s post of the language of abortion. Gene quotes a cleric: “Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood.” The means used to perform the abortion doesn’t change the fact that it’s knowingly killing the fetus. And the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy doesn’t change the moral status of the fetus. Put another way, if any abortion kills a baby, they all do.

    If we were to rewrite that cleric’s quote using your thinking, it would sound something like this:
    “Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood. However, there are exceptions. If the probability of death for either the mother or fetus reaches a certain threshold, you can just disregard what I just said. (Add in exception for rape and incest here if you believe that too.) You’re no longer killing an innocent baby under these circumstances. The mother is having what the Catholic Church calls an “indirect” abortion. But if some girl who sleeping around gets knocked up and then decides to have an abortion, well, now the fetus is her “baby”, and a “gift from god”. Her abortion makes her a “baby killer”.

    Circumstances aside, and morality aside, abortion is abortion, and a fetus is a fetus. Either all women who decide to get abortions are baby-killers, or none of them are. Perhaps we can argue that abortion is morally justified in various circumstances, but we can’t change what abortion is.

  • Michael B.

    @fjsteve

    “That’s the same kind of black and white thinking that Pro-Lifers are blamed for”.

    It is black and white. Let’s get back to Gene’s post of the language of abortion. Gene quotes a cleric: “Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood.” The means used to perform the abortion doesn’t change the fact that it’s knowingly killing the fetus. And the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy doesn’t change the moral status of the fetus. Put another way, if any abortion kills a baby, they all do.

    If we were to rewrite that cleric’s quote using your thinking, it would sound something like this:
    “Abortion is feticide: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood. However, there are exceptions. If the probability of death for either the mother or fetus reaches a certain threshold, you can just disregard what I just said. (Add in exception for rape and incest here if you believe that too.) You’re no longer killing an innocent baby under these circumstances. The mother is having what the Catholic Church calls an “indirect” abortion. But if some girl who sleeping around gets knocked up and then decides to have an abortion, well, now the fetus is her “baby”, and a “gift from god”. Her abortion makes her a “baby killer”.

    Circumstances aside, and morality aside, abortion is abortion, and a fetus is a fetus. Either all women who decide to get abortions are baby-killers, or none of them are. Perhaps we can argue that abortion is morally justified in various circumstances, but we can’t change what abortion is.

  • http://cranach don

    My sister-in-law had an extopic pregnancy. She was in agonizing pain. My brother took her to the hospital where an abortion was performed. If there had not been an abortion, my brother would have been a widower and his children orphans. Where an abortion to save the life of the mother occurs, both the baby and mother would die. The baby has no chance of survival. The same can be said of cancer of the womb or any place in the boby when chemo is used to cure the mother’s cancer.

  • http://cranach don

    My sister-in-law had an extopic pregnancy. She was in agonizing pain. My brother took her to the hospital where an abortion was performed. If there had not been an abortion, my brother would have been a widower and his children orphans. Where an abortion to save the life of the mother occurs, both the baby and mother would die. The baby has no chance of survival. The same can be said of cancer of the womb or any place in the boby when chemo is used to cure the mother’s cancer.

  • Marie

    don, did you read my comment? I know a few very strongly anti-abortion women who are so “extreme” they don’t use contraception (or even “nfp”), and are approaching multiple digits of offspring. They also have had ectopic pregnancies and surgery to remove the embryos (which of course subsequently died). Their consciences are quite clear. They would not support “except to save the life of the mother” clauses, because no one is talking about outlawing laparascopic surgery or taking chemo for uterine cancer. The myth is perpetuated and accepted that before Roe v Wade no pregnant ladies could get any medical help that might affect their baby adversely because it was against the law. People didn’t think in the anti/pro-abortion political lines they do now. Surgeries to remove the baby when necessary happened with clear consciences.

    Robert Lawson Tait saved 40 women with ectopic pregnancies back in the 188os. No one called it “abortion to save the life of the mother.” That’s a political slogan.

  • Marie

    don, did you read my comment? I know a few very strongly anti-abortion women who are so “extreme” they don’t use contraception (or even “nfp”), and are approaching multiple digits of offspring. They also have had ectopic pregnancies and surgery to remove the embryos (which of course subsequently died). Their consciences are quite clear. They would not support “except to save the life of the mother” clauses, because no one is talking about outlawing laparascopic surgery or taking chemo for uterine cancer. The myth is perpetuated and accepted that before Roe v Wade no pregnant ladies could get any medical help that might affect their baby adversely because it was against the law. People didn’t think in the anti/pro-abortion political lines they do now. Surgeries to remove the baby when necessary happened with clear consciences.

    Robert Lawson Tait saved 40 women with ectopic pregnancies back in the 188os. No one called it “abortion to save the life of the mother.” That’s a political slogan.

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  • Kyralessa

    Ectopic pregnancies are not pregnancies. A fetus that implants outside the womb is not viable.

    Outlawing abortion would not force women to die from ectopic pregnancies, because they are not true pregnancies. Ending them is not abortion.

  • Kyralessa

    Ectopic pregnancies are not pregnancies. A fetus that implants outside the womb is not viable.

    Outlawing abortion would not force women to die from ectopic pregnancies, because they are not true pregnancies. Ending them is not abortion.


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