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The Twisted Vocabulary of the Pro-Death Movement


The Dobbs decision, two years old next week, was a bomb dropped on American womanhood. The fallout from the explosion is being felt in so many ways — both overt and insidious — that it’s hard to keep track, even for those of us who keep track.

Fortunately, we have Jessica Valenti to keep track for us. Ms. Valenti’s newsletter, Abortion, Every Day, is now an important resource for understanding how the various states — mostly red, but also blue — are dealing with the very quintessence of hot-button issues.

I’ve been particularly impressed with how she illuminates the through-the-looking-glass language of the anti-abortion forces, a rich vocabulary of euphemisms and code words that celebrate the unborn while threatening the lives of the born.

Much of this vocabulary is worth passing on, as it gives us all a glimpse into the mindset of what I’ve taken to calling the pro-death movement.

At the risk of repeating myself from past posts, I’ve italicized a few of the key words and phrases Ms. Valenti has identified — language currently in use by cynical people trying to convince us that up is down.

Start with fetal personhood, the core idea from which all the worst ideas are drawn — red-state abortion laws, in particular. Once you accept the nonsense that a fetus is a person — with all the rights and privileges that come with personhood — you can then demand equal protection for the preborn, which would legally equate abortion with the murder of a child.

This drags reproductive medicine into areas of criminal and civil law where it has no business going. Existing statutes that are readily available to any prosecutor can now be used to criminalize women — and their doctors — for any pregnancy that isn’t carried to term.

In states that adopt this equal protection standard, aborting a fetus for any reason opens one to charges of homicide. And, yes, the death penalty has been discussed in several state legislatures.

But it’s not just the homicide laws that are in play. There are child endangerment statutes that can be extended to a woman whose pregnancy is compromised. In theory, she can be indicted based on her health habits, her diet, her workout routine, or even the demands of her job. Anything that might have hurt the fetus is suspect. Were she to drink any alcohol, or take the occasional edible, she could be charged with chemical endangerment, another fraught legal theory.

Two weeks ago, the Texas Supreme Court upheld that state’s medieval abortion ban, despite the gut-wrenching, near-death experiences of the plaintiffs. As Ms. Valenti reports:

The justices decided that there’s no problem with the state’s ban, and that the issue was doctors misunderstanding the law—not the law itself. “Texas law permits a life-saving abortion,” the opinion states.

This is, of course, shameless gaslighting. The law is so vaguely written, it’s impossible for any doctor to “understand” the line between legal and illegal, only the punishments for crossing it. Those punishments — loss of medical license, criminal prosecution, or, at minimum, expensive lawsuits — are enough to discourage any doctor from testing the law. And it’s pregnant women who pay the price, in utterly unnecessary risk.

So it’s no surprise that OB-GYNs are now leaving red states in droves, leaving many parts of the country without access to basic reproductive healthcare, let alone abortion. This will inevitably lead to a rise in fetal, infant, and maternal mortality. This is a feature, not a bug — the whole pro-death agenda in a nutshell.

Which brings up the loaded word exceptions, as in “exceptions for rape, incest, or to save a life.” Even when the exceptions are written into law — as in Texas — they are defined so loosely, the medical community can’t apply them without exposing itself to the harsh vagaries of red-state prosecutors and judges.

With no defined standards of acceptable care, it would be a rare doctor indeed who would assume the professional risk of intervening in a nonviable pregnancy. The word ‘nonviable’ itself has been replaced with the term life-limiting, as if being born in a vegetative state is a lifestyle choice.

Meanwhile, the definition of fetal personhood is being expanded to include frozen embryos, which would normally be discarded in the IVF process. This solemn concern for what they call extrauterine children is, of course, a transparent attack on IVF itself, a malignant issue that’s rapidly metastasizing.

But once you call an embryo a child, it follows that the globs of cellular material that assemble themselves into that embryo must also need equal protection. And why stop there? I’ve speculated before about the personhood of sperm, and the existential threat posed by unregulated masturbation. Don’t laugh.

Ms. Valenti maintains, and I’m sure she’s right, that most people in this country want access to abortion for any reason, at any time, with government having no say in the matter whatsoever. Democrats running for office need to shout this from the rooftops, and not get sucked into the Republican trap of negotiating over exceptions or trimesters or the hot button du jour.

As a political issue, abortion is a proven winner, and the pro-death people know it. Euphemistic terminology is the tell. People who twist the language to prettify their intentions know exactly how ugly those intentions look to others.

Democrats need to expose that language. They need to call out the lies behind the euphemisms, and show them for what they are:

Anti-woman, anti-medicine, anti-humanity. Pro-death.



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