Calling abortion reproductive healthcare is like calling the death penalty rehabilitation.

This column is about language and it, as in, “Get rid of it.”

Those who support legal abortion know that if they call the fetus a baby, their cause is lost. They know that as long as they can control the language, they can win. They are imposing “Newspeak” upon us. George Orwell warned us about Newspeak in his novel “1984:” 

“Newspeak was designed not to extend, but to diminish the range of thought…” Newspeak was expected to supersede “Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it)…”

And so far, those who support abortion have been doing a very good job of controlling the language. They are not pro-abortion or even pro-abortion rights. They are pro-choice, and their opponents are anti-choice. They have even succeeded in getting the media – and many who are anti-abortion – to succumb to using their language, and referring to them as pro-choice rather than pro-abortion.

Giving people a right to choose seems laudable. But there is a big difference between having a choice between chocolate and vanilla and going to McDonald’s or Burger King. In these cases, the alternative choices are equally acceptable. In the case of abortion, however, the alternatives are equally acceptable only if one considers the killing of an unborn baby a legitimate alternative to allowing it to be born. One has to be pro-abortion to equate the two alternatives.

To those who support abortion, however, this life is not a baby. It is merely a group of cells or only a fetus. They don’t view abortion as killing a baby. A baby, like a puppy, is warm and fuzzy. Use the word “baby,” and people tend to picture an adorable, smiling infant. As long as they can keep us from picturing a baby in our minds, half the battle is won. No one ever saw a fetus smile. A fetus is not warm and fuzzy.

Abortion supporters rail against those who oppose abortion by asserting that pro-lifers don’t care about children as much as they care about a fetus. They call this brand new life a fetus long after that term is appropriate. When a baby is wanted, it is a baby even when, technically, it is only in the embryonic stage. An expectant mother is often asked: “When is the baby due?” A wanted baby is never referred to as a fetus. When, tragically, a woman miscarries, the expectant parents do not grieve over their lost fetus. They grieve the loss of their baby. Only an unwanted baby is never a baby. For abortion supporters, an unwanted baby has no right to be born, to live, to breathe, to smile, or to cry. It does not get to choose.

At the recently concluded Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – ‘the most radically pro-abortion ticket in U.S. history,’ according to the National Review.

To those who support abortion, even the word “abortion” is to be avoided. It has negative connotations. “Terminating a pregnancy” is much more acceptable language. Pregnancy is just a condition. To those who support abortion, pregnancy is an unfortunate condition, and terminating it is a good thing, like getting over a cold. To them, the woman has as much right to terminate her pregnancy as she does to take an aspirin for her headache. Terminating her pregnancy is not killing her unborn baby. It is accessing her reproductive healthcare.

Even the National Abortion Rights Action League decided to avoid the word “abortion” and became NARAL Pro-Choice America. Being in favor of choice is being in favor of freedom, so long as you don’t think about what it means. And we all know what it means. We just don’t want to think about it. So, we must use Newspeak to help us get over that obstacle.

Abortion in Newspeak is reproductive healthcare. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth would love it. It could be added to their three slogans:




That is part of the effort of pro-abortion forces to control thought. To them, anyone who opposes abortion is trying to deny women access to reproductive healthcare. At the recently concluded Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – “the most radically pro-abortion ticket in U.S. history,” according to the National Review. The party’s platform barely mentions the word abortion. Repeatedly, it mentions reproductive health care, the preferred euphemism for abortion.   

Abortion, of course, is not reproductive, and pregnancy is not a disease to be cured. Except in a very few situations, an abortion is not healthcare for the woman, and it certainly isn’t for the unborn baby. And it would be difficult to describe the treatment some women received at Kermit Gosnell’s West Philadelphia abortion clinic as reproductive healthcare. At least one woman died while undergoing an abortion by Gosnell. According to a grand jury report, he “botched surgeries and then failed to summon emergency help when it was needed.” Nonetheless, despite receiving reports of his practices, the state Department of Health allowed him to continue.  

Of course, the Ministry of Truth is not really concerned with the truth. It is concerned with controlling thought. If it can control how we think, it can make us believe that abortion is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. Of course, the U.S. Constitution does not mention a right to abortion. But according to the Ministry of Truth, or, as the U.S. Supreme Court said in Roe v. Wade, if you look closely enough, you will find it there in the “penumbras of the Bill of Rights.”





Howard Lurie is Emeritus Professor of Law, Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University

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