Perspectives: Euphemistic abortion words make us feel better

OPINION – The 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision is sparking some much-needed discussion. The case that legalized abortion on demand has not only polarized us politically but also has contributed to the ongoing perversion of our language.

This can be seen in the great care with which abortion supporters choose their words.

To be pro-abortion is to invite unwanted recognition of what actually happens when a viable life is extinguished prior to birth, so the movement cloaks itself in the word “choice.” By placing emphasis on a woman’s right to make reproductive choices, the focus is directed away from the innocent life, which must be taken in order to stop it from growing.

George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” was published long before abortion supporters became known as pro-choice. But Orwell clearly illustrates that deception depends upon language that is imprecise and abstract. Bad politics has long utilized this same tendency to avoid revealing the barbarity of certain questionable policies.

Orwell wrote, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

This practice is still true in our day when the government-sponsored killing of innocent civilians is called “collateral damage” and torture is referred to as “extraordinary rendition.” By carefully camouflaging their language in warm, fluffy euphemisms, policymakers dupe a largely unquestioning public into accepting the unthinkable.

Joseph Sobran often pointed out that so-called pro-choice advocates tend to avoid the word “kill” when describing abortion. He believed that this demonstrated a bad conscience on the part of those who must cherry-pick their words in order to mislead.

Sobran wrote, “Why be coy about it? We don’t mind speaking of ‘killing’ when we kill lower life forms. Lawn products kill weeds; mouthwashes kill germs; insecticides kill bugs; mousetraps kill mice. If the human fetus is an insignificant little thing, why shrink from saying an abortion kills it?”

His point is well taken. How many people would remain indifferent or become supportive of abortion if it were described in language that actually conjures up accurate images of what is taking place? Instead we’re expected to use terms like “fetus” or “products of conception” to fool ourselves into thinking that what we’re dealing with isn’t really human at all.

This is why abortion supporters often use abstract, clinical language to deflect our attention away from the violence of what actually happens by saying that the woman is exercising her “choice” to “terminate” the pregnancy.

Sobran noted that, by this logic, the choice is similar to the one made by slave owners in which they were free to choose whether or not to own another human being, but the slave had no say in the matter.

Politics has a way of corrupting whatever it touches by turning things into a mindless struggle over power. This is particularly true regarding the abortion issue. Under the banner of reproductive rights, the state has facilitated the destruction of a generation of innocent lives. But as long as the language we choose absolves us from the reality of what is being debated, nothing will change.

My personal stake in this battle has nothing to do with denying women reproductive choices. It has everything to do with affirming the courageous choices of the unwed teenage mother who gave birth to me, and the extraordinarily selfless parents who adopted me.

The real battle here is not about wielding political power over what women may do with their bodies, it is over whether human life should be treated with sanctity.

A political tug-of-war has raged for more than 40 years over whether we can hide our last vestiges of human decency under a blanket of linguistic duplicity.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • Snowfield January 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Odd coming from someone who regularly threatens to kill those he disagrees with in this paper over his own property rights.

    • DoubleTap January 21, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Snowfield: In all the years I have known this author, he has NEVER threatened anybody EVER!
      You really need to keep your personal “beef” with this author out of this public forum.

  • Barry Short January 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

    This is the fundamental problem with pseudo-conservatives. They hate government intervention in their lives – until they want to government to intervene to impose THEIR opinions on someone else. Then, an over-reaching, excessive, tax and spend government is exactly what they want. It’s just a matter of WHOSE lives they want government to impose upon.

    The question is, do we want a consistent, limited government, or are we simply political six year olds, doomed to an eternal game of King of the Hill? It’s a great game when you’re on top, but everybody gets their turn at the bottom of the pile, and that’s not so much fun.

    • Roy J January 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Human life is to be treated with sanctity. Absolutely. And speaking of absolutes, a reality doesn’t change because the laws do, or the rhetoric.

  • mark boggs January 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I assume then you make no exception for rape? If human life is sacred, then it is sacred in all circumstances, correct? No matter how it commences? And incestual rape?

    • Roy J January 21, 2013 at 12:07 pm


      Your questions seem to have more to do with the dignity of the human person than the sanctity of human life…distinguish to unite and all that…

      • mark boggs January 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

        So your answer is?

        • Roy J January 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

          The same answer, I think, life invariably gives: that given the chance, the zygote or foetus or human person or nonentity or monster or whatever superficial name we wish to give it will do it’s damnedest to survive and thrive, regardless of parentage or circumstance, and develop into a selfish and separate human being. It really doesn’t matter what other people think or do, given the facts. But maybe that’s just how I see it.

          • mark boggs January 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm

            I’m just trying to get a sense of how far people are willing to go to insure that the life inside a woman, regardless of how it came to be, is to be protected. For instance, if a woman were to go to a hospital after being raped, would the state assign her a medical supervisor to test her for the possible pregnancy and then, assuming a pregnancy has occured, have her under supervision until the baby is born? After that she can choose to give it up for adoption or keep it?

          • Roy J January 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

            @Mark(below): ‘Reply’ is not showing up
            as an option to your comment below, however, to reply: If everybody granted what I said above, and acted on it, the questions you are supposing would answer themselves, I think, though there would probably be alot of different possible answers, better or worse, depending on the circumstances. And people will go to any lengths to get what they want, if they want it badly enough. At least that’s what I gather from human history.

  • Harley Rockwell January 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Snowfield- That’s funny, I’ve listened to Bryan for over a decade now, almost daily and I’ve never once heard him threaten to kill anyone. I guess if you have nothing intelligent to say, the old ad hominem is a good fall back position.

    Short- uh, you just destroyed you own argument against conservatives- so is it ok for the left/ liberals? or whatever you what to call them to enforce their opinions ( in this case killing) on everyone else?

    Unless you are a libertarian you can’t throw the stones at either party, because they both try their best to enforce their value system upon us legislatively.

  • DoubleTap January 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Abortion KILLS more humans than guns do. Where is the rage form the liberals on this??

  • ken January 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

    So why should anyone allow a government to control what is done with their bodies?

  • John Sullivan January 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    It is the duty of government to protect the innocent. This is the proper roll of government. This applies to the unborn, especially to them. God has authored this as it’s jurisdiction.

  • Maggie January 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Americans were united for a brief time after the massacre of those innocents in Newtown. I find it hard to believe there was one dry eye on this earth upon hearing about and watching that unfold. Life is precious,especially young life.

    Many say the protection of the unborn is a battle fought by those who are religious, and church and state should be separate. Yet,I have met athiest who insist that respect for human life and values are not God given, and that many athiest live a value ordered life. Which simply leaves the evil and selfish among us who can support and practice abortion with out understanding that killing innocents at any time of life is wrong. No tears shed for the tiny lives thrown away as medical waste.Out of sight out of mind.

    Actually,people who have gathered in prayer outside of Planned Parenthood centers have been labeled crazies,yet the same people are considered perfectly normal when they shed tears for lives lost at Newtown.
    The people who kill innocents ,with a gun,knife,bat,a suction machine or injection ,sign a bill or support those that do, all have responsibility in this evil. No words can hide facts for long. We have become a nation that accepts the murder of innocents and the best we can do is take away certain guns and bullets to protect some and increase monetary amounts to kill others. All in the name of the rights of adults who have chosen to live their lives irresponsibly. What really does make them that different than the highly publicized “mass” murderers?

  • Wendy Worthington January 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Because calling a single cell zygote that hasn’t even attached to the uterus a human is not euphemistic at all. By any definition of life it is not. What people who are opposed to abortion believe is not that it is human, but that it has a soul. However, there is a growing percentage of the population, myself included, that do not believe in a soul. Thus when a woman has an abortion we do not call it murder because we don’t believe it meets that definition. It’s not selective language it is being true to what we believe. It is also not selective language to say that I am not pro abortion. I am pro choice. I am in favor of reproductive rights (yes reproductive rights, as in the right to choose whether and when to reproduce) being placed in the hands of the person/people most affected by the choice. Sometimes that is the woman alone, sometimes there are other people’s feelings to consider. But my opinion or your opinion of what someone we don’t even know should do should not be considered. It’s not our lives that are affected. Feel free to define abortion in whatever terms fit your belief system, but please don’t sit in judgement of those who define it according to their beliefs,because I’m pretty sure the Christian god was unambiguous about who should do the judging

    • Karla Trujillo January 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Wendy, An abortion is not performed on a single cell zygote! I am pro life and do not base this on whether or not there is a soul but only on the basis of life. If something has a brain, a nervous system, a face with a mouth a nose and eyes, fingers, toes, not to mention a beating heart, then in my book it is alive and if it is inside a human woman then it is a human! It is the right of the people to judge what is acceptable in that society. Its time for the law to catch up with science! When science can show a living, beating heart then its up to society to protect that life. The rest is just uneducated rhetoric. I am all for choices. I just don’t believe killing your child should be an option. There are many other “choices” women can make.

      • Wendy Worthington January 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

        Karla, I was referring to Paul Ryan’s latest personhood bill, which is an extreme example of an attempt at an end run around Roe v. Wade. In it he seeks to define a zygote as a human being. This would make all forms of birth control illegal and firmly remove reproductive choices from the table. There would be no provisions for victims of rape or incest or the health of the mother. I used it as an example of how pro life activists use selective language to force ideologies on people like me who don’t agree with them. The rest of what you said is a valid opinion, but it’s yours not mine. My point is that we should be allowed to make our choices based on the legal options currently available not based on other’s demands that their morality be imposed on everyone else. And by the way you’re wrong about there being many other choices women can make. There is one other choice women can make, to carry the child to term.. And when you eliminate all forms of birth control as well as abortion it is no longer a choice, it is compulsory. That it what those of us who believe in reproductive freedom are fighting to avoid.

        • DoubleTap January 22, 2013 at 8:03 am

          Wendy Worhtington: You are PRO KILLING. Plain and simple. It is my belief.

          • Wendy Worthington January 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

            You can believe whatever you want, it doesn’t make it a fact. That is the point. Your beliefs don’t define me, just as my atheism doesn’t define you.

        • Roy J January 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

          Wendy: Not possible to eliminate all forms of birth control: how will you eliminate abstinence and avoid blowing up the universe with a paradox? Just sayin’…

  • zacii January 21, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Everyone has the right to make choices. But then there are those pesky consequences.

    Choice begins when a person chooses to have sexual intercourse. Then own the consequences. Reproductive activity leads to …reproduction. Who would’ve thought?

    I find it ironic that a woman had a right to choose to have sex, but a fetus has no right to live.

  • Jessa Lee January 22, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Agree 100% with Wendy Worthington. Since when does “protecting the innocents” mean leaving out women that have been raped? What if a woman didn’t make the choice to have sex or to get pregnant? Pro-life means you’re still standing against the woman having a right to live her own life the way she sees fit, even if someone forced this said “life/soul” on her.
    Funny how “pro life” people are usually the ones who are also okay with going to war and dropping bombs on other innocent women and children as long as it’s not going on in our country.
    Funny how “pro life” people usually only have pro-life views based solely on religious beliefs.
    Funny how church and state are supposed to be separate, yet your religious beliefs can be imposed on me and my body if this law wasn’t in affect.
    Funny how “pro life” people in our government are overwhelmingly men who can’t begin to fathom what it’s like to be pregnant, or what it’s like to be raped.
    And I mean funny as in, ironic. Just to clarify.

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