Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fear not the term fetus. [Jay]

I have noticed a few of my friends in the pro-life movement seem particularly touchy about the term fetus. Recently I was talking to a woman whom I dearly love about abortion. She is passionately pro-life and mentioned her anger about people calling a fetus...well a fetus. She said, “That is not a fetus it is a baby!”

When I replied that the fetal stage is an actual developmental stage and that to call it a fetus is accurate she looked at me warily as if I had just started to reveal my pro-abort sympathies for the first time. I told her, “You are right that it is a baby, but baby is a nondescript word. It is also a human being and a fetus. It is a human fetus, but it is a fetus none the less.”

She quickly changed the subject, I assume it was because she strongly disagreed with me on this point and did not want to have to lower her opinion of me anymore in one day. I am not certain why this word is so hard for some pro-lifers to say, but the pro-life position is not compromised one iota by recognizing the fetal stage of development. It is just one of the stages that we go through. We are human beings. We all were at some point a human zygote, a human embryo, a human fetus, a human newborn, a human infant, toddler...you get the point. It is the big L on the SLED acronym. Level of development is not a factor in determining the value of a human being. Recognizing the full definition of developmental limitations in no way compromises our stance. The baby is a fetus, and that fact is simply irrelevant to the value of his/her life.

C. S. Lewis once said that if a proposition is true, then all of the world around us will testify to the truth of that proposition. (Paraphrasing of course) The fact that human life begins at conception and has value is supported by evidence from all the spheres of study on this subject including philosophical, scientific, and even medical. Using the proper terms is merely being consistent and accurate. The truth of the proposition that human life is valuable is plenty strong enough to overcome a few choice words.

4 comments:

  1. You're right, of course, but I find that I have the same difficulty using -- or even hearing -- the noun "fetus". (For whatever reason, I have no problem with the adjective form "fetal".) I think it's because I associate it so strongly with the people who consider "fetus" and "baby" or "fetus" and "person" to be mutually exclusive terms. It's used so often with dehumanizing intent that it can be hard for those of us without that intent to embrace it. It would be better if we did, though, since that would make it harder for the dehumanizers to accomplish their goal.

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  2. You're right, of course, but I find that I have the same difficulty using -- or even hearing -- the noun "fetus". (For whatever reason, I have no problem with the adjective form "fetal".) I think it's because I associate it so strongly with the people who consider "fetus" and "baby" or "fetus" and "person" to be mutually exclusive terms. It's used so often with dehumanizing intent that it can be hard for those of us without that intent to embrace it. It would be better if we did, though, since that would make it harder for the dehumanizers to accomplish their goal.

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  3. I TOTALLY agree. I think we have to reclaim this term. Poor-choicers use the word "fetus" to diminish the unborn. We have to let them know that we can love fetuses, too. This is why I am a fetal rights advocate.

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  4. I think the issue here is one of social usage. I was just on a blog the other day where the fellow was saying what an "emotional" thing it was (hence, bad) for pro-lifers to call the unborn child a "baby" instead of a "fetus." Now, we all know that we're surrounded by people who think just this way and deliberately use "fetus" to deny or "remain neutral on" the question of the personhood of the unborn child. You can say that the pro-aborts have hijacked the term, but the fact remains that they have been pretty successful in so hijacking it. If post-birth infanticide becomes acceptable, I expect "neonate" will be used the same way. There's nothing wrong with being sensitive to this social fact about the word's usage and using "unborn child" or something like that to avoid sending the message that we're neutral on the child's humanity. Nor, I think, are we being unscientific to do so. Of course, a lot depends on context.

    One more point: It's starting to happen now in news stories that _born_ preemies who survive abortions are being called "fetuses." It's my understanding that definitionally the term "fetus" is not supposed to apply to a born child, regardless of stage of development. At least, it never used to. So the term is now being extended even into the realm of the born child, in an obvious attempt to lower sympathy for the child and raise sympathy for the mother who throws it in a dumpster, the abortionist who puts it in a back room, etc.

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