The failure of a red wave to materialize at the recent midterm election has been attributed by some to the issue of abortion. We will never know, but there is no doubt that abortion is a highly motivating force on both sides of the issue.
It would also appear that having had an abortion, which was once a mark of shame, has been elevated almost to a badge of honor. This change in attitude regarding abortion is due, in my opinion, to the pro-abortion forces gaining control of the language used in the discussion of abortion.
They call themselves “pro-choice,” and they have succeeded in getting almost everyone else to refer to them as “pro-choice.” They even refer to those who are anti-abortion as “anti-choice.”
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But they aren’t talking about “choice” as if they are supporting the right to choose between chocolate and vanilla. The only choice they support is abortion. They aren’t protesting that the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs took away a woman’s right to choose to ultimately give birth to a baby. They are demanding that she have the right to end the developing life within her at any time prior to birth.
They choose to call themselves “pro-choice” as opposed to “pro-abortion” because it sounds much more humane. They correctly believe that if they can control the language they can win the war over abortion. I refuse to refer to them as pro-choice, and I encourage all those opposed to abortion to stop using “pro-choice” when referring to them. They are “pro-abortion.” Abortion is the only choice they support. A pregnant woman doesn’t have to “choose” to carry her baby to term; that will happen if she does nothing. She does have to “choose” if she wants to abort her developing baby.
The pro-abortion forces seek to control the law regarding abortion by controlling the language that is used. They are aided in this effort by a very complicit media. Abortion is called “reproductive healthcare.” Under no circumstances can abortion be considered “reproductive.” It is clearly the opposite. And it is certainly not healthcare for the developing life that is being deliberately ended. In the case of abortion on demand, it is not even healthcare for the woman. Unless the pregnancy presents a serious risk of harm to the woman’s physical or mental health, abortion is not healthcare.
The pro-abortion forces want to use their control over the language to influence the thinking about abortion. They seek to focus only on the pregnant woman and not on the developing life within her. They do not want people to think of that developing life as a baby. To them it is merely a group of cells, or an embryo, or a fetus. A baby is something we all love. It is cute and cuddly. A fetus is something else. A fetus is not cute or cuddly. Indeed, it is difficult to form a mental image of a fetus without seeing a baby in the womb. But that image is not cute or cuddly.
What gets ignored in the debate over abortion is that neither men nor women have the legal right to do whatever they want with their bodies.
The reality is that abortion kills a developing human life, that when wanted is referred to as a baby. The pro-abortion forces don’t want it called a baby; they want it called a fetus. But when a baby is wanted, it is never referred to as a fetus. It’s a baby. The expectant mother never says “I just felt the fetus kick.” She felt the baby kick. No one ever refers to a “fetus bump.” It’s a baby bump. It is only unwanted babies that are denied the “baby” label.
By focusing on “women’s rights” the pro-abortion forces divert attention from the fact that an abortion ends the life of a preborn baby. To them the only being that matters is the woman. To them it is her body and her right to choose. But the choice they are demanding is the right to end a life that has begun to develop.
What gets ignored in the debate over abortion is that neither men nor women have the legal right to do whatever they want with their bodies. Until after the Vietnam war men have been subject to conscription for the military. They have been sent to war where many were killed in battle. Those were clearly their bodies, but they could not choose not to go without legal consequences.
In most states we have laws against prostitution. There are laws against public nudity. These laws clearly limit what a person can do with their bodies. In the Judeo-Christian community, there is a prohibition in the Seventh Commandment against adultery. Adultery is clearly the use of one’s own body. So far, however, I have yet to hear any Christian or Jewish clergy who support abortion rights call for repeal of the Seventh Commandment on the grounds that it interferes with a woman’s right to control her own body.
It is time to focus on the preborn babies rather than women’s bodies.
Howard Lurie is Emeritus Professor of Law, Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University.