My two pet peeves with how politicians talk about abortion

08/11/2012 / blog posts 

This article is written by Jonathon Van Maren, communications director for Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and is re-published with his permission.

I have two huge pet peeves about the way politicians, commentators, and people in general talk about abortion in the public sphere. Well, actually a lot more than two, but two that have bothered me recently and often.

Me.StillMeFirst, politicians seem to have a habit of saying things like, “I believe life begins at conception” or “I believe abortion kills a baby and is wrong.”

You’re probably thinking, What’s wrong with that? Sounds good to me!

The problem with this is that those two statements are not a matter of subjective belief. They are scientific fact. I don’t really care if you “believe” life begins at conception or if you “disbelieve” it. When life begins is a scientific question and science answers that question for us very definitively. To cite only one of many examples, Keith L. Moore’s embryology textbook The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology states that, “Human development begins at fertilization, when a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte to form a single cell, a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” (That’s from the eighth edition, page 15 if you want to fact-check me.) Now imagine if Paul Ryan had said something like that while Joe Biden was trying to explain why he didn’t need to live his faith.

The same goes for those who say that abortion is wrong because they “believe abortion kills a baby.” To those who would like to play etymological gotcha and say triumphantly, “Ha! It’s not a baby! It’s a fetus!” then congratulations. Fetus means “young one” in Latin, so you’ve called it a baby in a different language. And what abortion does, as a matter of medical fact, is use a suction aspirator to vacuum that young one, the young one that Keith L. Moore describes for us in his embryology textbook as “a unique individual,” into bloody scraps. It is then deposited in a garbage can or incinerator alongside dozens of other butchered “young ones,” whose demise unfortunately is not altered based on whether or not we choose to believe it. If the abortion is happening after the first trimester, this scenario gets even more gruesome.

My second biggest pet peeve is that the majority of pro-“choice” commentators have chosen to state that pro-lifers want to “force women to have babies.” Now, obviously I’m not surprised that the hysterical and scientifically illiterate Abortion Justification Squad (or as some call it, MSNBC) needs to use deceit in order to defend their position. But when they use a phrase that implies the non-existence of a clearly existent entity (specifically, the one they want to kill) borders on the (one would hope) unintentionally moronic.

Pro-lifers are not trying to force anyone to “have” any baby. What we are doing is promoting a very, very simple human rights code that says those babies (or fetuses, if you like) that already exist have the right to the most basic of all human rights: life. If, however, by “having” a baby the pro-choice crowd is referring to the change in location that occurs when the child exits his or her mother’s womb through the birth canal (as if this birth canal is a magical place where “personhood” descends upon the child some time in between crowning and full delivery), then I suggest they attempt to find a human rights doctrine based on something less flimsy. Denying a human being the right to life based on location or an idiotic denial that the child (or “target,” as abortionists call them) even exists is a sad reflection on both literacy and ethics.

Life begins at fertilization. Once someone “has” this child—as in, a little girl fetus or a little boy fetus is swimming around somewhere beneath a woman’s ribs—that child has human rights. You may not recognize them, but society is beginning to see through the illiterate arguments that hang like a tattered rag over the abortionist’s gruesome work, the reality of which cannot be ignored regardless of word choice: garbage bags full of tiny, translucent arms, legs, ribcages, heads, and all the other body parts belonging to the real, living children whom you have chosen to ignore.

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