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.
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