DISCUSSION: Do Pro-Lifers Need to Change Their Language?

DISCUSSION: Do Pro-Lifers Need to Change Their Language? September 15, 2023

Some Senate Republicans are saying that pro-lifers  need to change their terminology.

From David Zimmerman, Senate Republicans Consider Moving away from ‘Pro-Life’ Term as Abortion Losses Mount:

Steven Law, a former aide to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), reportedly presented poll results to the senators on Wednesday, showing voters increasingly viewed “pro-life” and “pro-choice” language differently since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last June.

“What intrigued me the most about the results was that ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ means something different now, that people see being pro-life as being against all abortions … at all levels,” Senator Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) said.

Well, yes.  That’s what being pro-life means.  Then Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) weighed in:

“Many voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things,” said Hawley. “So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific.”

And I thought Hawley, my senator now that we live in St. Louis, was hard-core!  This strikes me as politicians weaseling, trying to hang on to the “pro-life” vote while supporting early abortions.

Never mind that, as Zimmerman reports,

Specific polling was not included in the NBC News report, but Gallup showed 44 percent of American respondents identify as pro-life and 52 percent identify as pro-choice this year. Compared to last year before the Dobbs decision came out, the pro-choice number is down from 55 percent and the pro-life number is up from 39 percent.

But maybe different terminology would be helpful.  The “pro-choice” side now calls itself “supporters of women’s health.”  One of the Republican senators, Todd Young (R-Indiana), said he advocated “pro-baby policies,” but that didn’t go anywhere.  I kind of like that.  It has the virtue of being concrete, of conjuring up a visual picture of what we are talking about.  As opposed to what George Orwell says is characteristic of deceptive political language, the effort  “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

To be sure, it would be good to know with more precision exactly where our politicians stand.  Are you pro-life after six weeks?  Are you pro-choice until viability outside the womb, whereupon you become pro-life?

Do you have any suggestions for new language in our abortion debates?


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