Friday, May 30, 2014

Arguing Over Terms [Clinton Wilcox]

Recently I was involved in an on-line discussion (it was more of an argument, really) regarding whether pro-life people should be using the term "unborn" in our discussion or "preborn" exclusively. The short answer is it really doesn't matter what terms you use. Arguing over terms is really just unhelpful -- it's best to use terms that both sides are comfortable with so that you can get on with the real discussion: abortion is immoral because the procedure kills an innocent human being. Arguing over terms is not helpful.

To make matters worse, I've even been told it's immoral to use the word "unborn" over the word "preborn," because the word "unborn" is an incorrect term and if you can save more children by using the term "preborn" over "unborn," then it would be immoral to use the term "unborn." But there is no possible way someone can support the proposition that using one term will save more children than the other. The reality is that everyone knows what we mean when we use the term "unborn." Most people may not understand what you mean when you say "preborn" because it's not a word that comes up very often, except usually from a pro-life person.

I sometimes do use the term "preborn." After all, the prefix "pre-" means "before." So "preborn" literally means "before birth." Pre- denotes movement, to me. Conversely, the prefix "un-" just means "not," so "unborn" literally means "not born." It's still a correct term, but it conjures up an image of stagnation to me, as if it's unborn and will remain that way unless acted upon. So I sometimes use "preborn" just because it conjures an image of the children progressing toward birth. But either term is correct, and using the term "preborn" may actually require more time because I have to explain what I mean by it, whereas anyone will know what I mean by "unborn."

So that's an even longer answer to say it really doesn't matter which term we use. Arguing over which term is better is an argument that we really shouldn't be engaging in, because it detracts from the overall issue: we are working to end abortion because it kills innocent human children. Arguing over terms is beside the point.

7 comments:

  1. Are you opposed to using the term "fetus" or "embryo"?

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    1. No, I'm not opposed, though when I do use those terms I always use it with the qualifier "human," to keep in mind what kind of fetus or embryo we're talking about. Pro-choice people often use the term "fetus" or "embryo" as dehumanizing terms, to make it easier to justify killing them. So I try to keep the focus on the fact that we're talking about actual human beings here.

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    2. I agree with you that our opponents have successfully dehumanized the terms "fetus" and "embryo". I've wondered if there is a way we could ever claim those terms back, much like the homosexual-movement claimed the word "gay", which was once considered an insulting term.

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    3. I think we'll probably have to. Jon Van Maren of CCBR has actually written a good article about the pro-choice side using terms to their advantage to dehumanize the fetus and get abortion legal. It may be that we have to work in restoring humanity to these terms to illustrate the injustice of abortion.

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  2. I agree with you on the necessity to take back terms like "fetus". I also agree with you that the debate between "unborn" and "pre born" is splitting hairs. Another pro-life term I've heard is "womb child". Who outside the pro-life movement ever uses these terms? -- any one using them is already convinced of our viewpoint. What's the point of having our own vocabulary if no one outside our movement uses it? If someone reads a newspaper, textbook, or medical literature, they're not going to see any of these pro-life terms; Rather, they will see the term "fetus" or "embryo".

    The problem is that our opponents are allowed to use the term "baby" for a wanted fetus, and "fetus" for an unwanted fetus. And we let them get away with it. We need to start calling them on this. When people were talking about the royal baby, some pro-lifers did this by asking, "shouldn't we be calling it the royal fetus?"

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  3. To Clinton, Not on the topic but here's anyway what is the best response to the answer from pro choice people when they say this to the question would you like to have been aborted? and they say well I wouldn't know so it does not matter, it does matter to me and I wish they had a better response, what do you think Clinton?

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    1. Hi, Peter: I generally don't like to ask the question "would you like to have aborted?" because our feelings on the matter are irrelevant. What matters is the central question, what is the unborn? If the unborn are human, then it doesn't matter how we, personally, would feel about having been aborted -- it would be wrong to kill them either way, just like the fact that some people commit suicide doesn't justify killing other people.

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