The Language of Abortion


With the coming and going of the 41st anniversary of the infamous Roe v Wade decision this week, once again the explosively divisive issues surrounding abortion “rights” are on the front burner. Hundreds of thousands of motivated pro-lifers descended on Washington, DC earlier this week in the massive March for Life–a similar walk occurs as I type this in San Francisco, liberal bastion of the West.

While Twitter in particular was abuzz with activity marking the events, the mainstream media, sadly though unsurprisingly, largely couldn’t be bothered. As with their scandalously absent coverage surrounding the court case of Kermit Gosnell and his house of horrors, so too do these events inexplicably escape their notice. Perhaps the next march needs to run a course straight through their newsrooms. It’d be hard to ignore at that point, what with chants of a half million demonstrators reverberating in their craniums from a meter away.

But, alas, one shouldn’t get lost in a flight of fancy. The media is firmly entrenched and won’t do the cause any favors. Though spreading the message without them is harder, perhaps, with the sheer–and growing–numbers of the pro-life movement, they probably don’t even need the media anyway. Their strength is in the message, not necessarily in the medium of its propagation.

What’s noteworthy, however, isn’t the lack of interest among the media or the Left in covering pro-life marches or the ghastly instances of abortion mills, though they’re certainly deserving of such. Instead, it’s the language they employ to justify their position.

Among the more intellectually vacuous arguments that gets bandied about by abortion supporters–one that I take particular umbrage with–is that, as a function of a fetus being a mere “blob of cells”, the practice of abortion is no more injurious than the shedding of thousands of skin cells, or the picking scabs from our bodies. Certainly removing an embryo or a fetus amounts to–roughly–the same thing?

Only to the wildly ignorant. On a purely biological scale, the relative capabilities of a newly formed zygote (fertilized egg) to a skin cell hover somewhere between the capabilities of a Ferrari to a tricycle, respectively. Or perhaps, a modern-day Alienware desktop to an abacus.

As a zygote begins it’s first cell divisions, every resultant cell right up to implantation in the uterine wall is totipotent; each is capable of forming an individual human–identical twins result from such cells separating and developing independently. Even after those cells lose their totipotentiality, each stem cell is still capable of forming any of the roughly 200 cell lines in the body. The mechanism that directs a cell into one line over another is driven by complex pathways that activate and inactivate particular genes at key points in development.

Skin cells–or any mature cell for that matter–are incapable of such feats. The cells found in scabs are highly specialized, and while still containing the very same DNA as those totipotent stem cells, its genetic pathways are limited to those making it a skin cell. Once cells begin differentiating, they’re forever locked onto that path, excepting outside manipulation. Which is why when you shed skin cells, new you’s don’t start growing (which would, admittedly, be pretty wild).

The point: there is incredibly novel biology going on during gestation, and pregnancy itself represents the most synchronized, delicate and highly sophisticated biological process over the course of human life. It’s the earliest stage of human development–scabs, rightfully called “blobs of cells”, is not–and until a skin cell is capable on its own of generating a new human being, suggesting that an embryo is a run-of-the-mill “blob of cells” is factually fraudulent.

Then there’s the idea that abortion is somehow synonymous with “women’s health”. Only if you’re trying to state that pregnancy itself is a medical condition requiring a cure. Then sure, women’s health. At least for the mother, anyway. I very much doubt that a female fetus would agree. “Women’s health” to the mother becomes “women’s execution” to the fetus. For all the putative “wars” on women being “waged” by the Right, there’s the forgotten battle by the Left, content to whistle absentmindedly at the liquidation of 27.5 million future women since 1973. Of course, being “blobs of cells”, what difference at this point does it make?

Sidebar: It’s also amusing to ascribe “women’s health” to a procedure that has left scores of women either dead, or otherwise in serious medical trouble due to abortionists bungling the operation. At least it would be amusing if it weren’t also such a damn shame. Severe blood loss, intractable infection, being rendered infertile, leaving body parts inside or otherwise pushing them through perforations in the uterus. Sounds like “women’s health” to me. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

The language the Left trots out in the abortion debate is necessarily sterile. It must be in order to obfuscate the realities surrounding the procedure and render it as impersonal as possible. Which is why “blob of cells” is such a popular refrain. Casting off a scab is no big deal, and if an embryo or fetus can be equated as such, abortion becomes no biggie as well. Just a quick snip and it’s over.

Except abortion is anything but impersonal. There is absolutely nothing impersonal about reaching into a purposefully protective womb and using the functional equivalent of barbecue tongs and a Dyson vacuum cleaner to dismember and suction up a living human. Anyone in their right mind would harbor thoughts along the lines of “Hey, knock it off!” if some creepy dude in a mask cornered you with Metzenbaum scissors, intent on shoving them into the back of your head before relieving you of your brain stem. Why should–and do–we inoculate ourselves to such happening to the unborn? The procedure is quite personal, and brutal. Let’s call it what it is.

The impersonal nature of the Left’s argument contributes, as Pope Francis said–the Left conveniently ignored until now that he is quite pro-life–to our “throw away culture”. He hits the mark. Abortion is a sanctioned escape hatch engineered to insulate most people (I speak of the elective variety) from the reality that actions have consequences. Rather than own the consequence, it’s easier to eliminate them. And to rationalize it as morally permissible, to themselves and the rest of us, they cloak it in language designed to diminish the worth of that being destroyed, and to make a brutal procedure as emotionally sterile as possible.

Control the language, control the argument. Fortunately, a growing number of activists are seeing through the fog purposefully generated around abortion by the Left, and won’t be fooled by language that denies the truth that all life is of inestimable worth, and deserves the chance to flourish.


About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA

3 Responses to “The Language of Abortion”

  1. I would suggest that you should read your bible far more thoroughly. The language of abortion is much older than Roe v Wade. Read all of Job chap 10 for starters. Not just those scriptures most appealing to you. In closing, “The people of Samaria shall bear their guilt, for they have rebelled against their God. Their young men shall fall to the sword, their infants dashed to death, and their pregnant women ripped open.” NIV

    • Are you equating the specific judgement of the Samarians for their specific sins against God to the modern day practice of abortion mainly as a means of contraception? Because I’m not sure I’m following your train of thought, as the two instances are nothing alike. I never even referenced the Bible in this column.


  1. One Cell Is All It Takes | The Right Argument - January 21, 2015

    […] written before of the necessity of pro-choicers to adopt such language. If the practice you advocate women having a “choice” in involves willful destruction of life, […]

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