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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pro-Life 101: Using Our Language to Frame Our Arguments

"Did I really just say that?!"
Anyone familiar with the abortion debate knows the discrepancy in the language those on each side use. Even if you’re not always consciously aware of the differences, you’ve probably noticed that some people say “fetus” while others say “baby.” The language we use helps frame our arguments, and today we’re going to tell you some simple ways that your vocabulary can strengthen your pro-life witness.

You may be aware that when the mainstream media talks about the pro-life movement, they don’t say “pro-life.” At best, we are “anti-abortion,” but often we are just “anti-choice.” See what they did there? It’s that simple to turn a positive connotation into a negative one. This is just one example of how language shapes our arguments, and it illustrates just why we, as pro-lifers, need to be so careful with the words we use. Without even meaning to, what we say can work against us. For example, how often have you said “pro-choice?” Our opponents are NOT “pro-choice,” they are “pro-abortion,” and to say otherwise implies that abortion IS a choice.

Since it’s easy to get caught up in their terminology without realizing it, let’s look at some of the common words and phrases to avoid in pro-life situations, as well as other things to say instead.

First, “choice.” This otherwise harmless word is loaded when it comes to our subject. As Americans, we like being able to choose what to have for dinner, the career we want, or where to spend our vacations. “Choice” is good, right? Not when it comes to abortion. Unfortunately, the pro-abortion side has commandeered this word, and since we are not for “choice,” that makes us the bad guys. Try to use words like “option,” “decision,” or “alternative” instead. Using the word “choice” in a conversation about abortion is to adopt their language, and we want to avoid that as much as possible.
Example: Mothers facing crisis pregnancies have more options than abortion.

“Fetus.” Though this is a medical term and means “unborn young” in Latin, today our opponents use “fetus” to detract from the humanity of the unborn. Unless you are having a scientific discussion, avoid “fetus” and use words like “baby” or “unborn child” instead. When people hear the word “baby,” a clump of cells is not what they imagine.

Example: “Just six weeks after fertilization, the baby already has all the limbs and organs his adult body will. He even has detectable brain waves!”

“It.” NEVER refer to an unborn baby as “it.” It’s hard to remember to refer to a baby of unknown sex by anything else, but “it” is one word you should eliminate when referring to a human person. If necessary, pick a name for the baby. Not only does this humanize “Junior,” it also gives him a sex for you to refer to. When you’re talking about the so-called “War on Women,” consider using “her” to refer to the unborn baby; it’s a subtle reminder that the unborn women should be part of the debate, too.

Example: “At fertilization, the unborn baby is not just a clump of cells. He’s a genetically unique human person with his own DNA. All he needs is time to grow!”

“Pregnant Woman” or “Woman.” Call her a mother! After all, if you believe that life begins at fertilization (and you should), then motherhood begins at fertilization, too. This also emphasizes the baby’s role in pregnancy.

Example: “It’s tragic that mothers in crisis pregnancies feel that abortion is their only option.”

“Doctor” and “Clinic.” These words imply that abortion is just like any other medical procedure. For obvious reasons, always say “abortionist” and “abortion facility.” Don’t be afraid to call them what they are!

Example: “Every time I pray at the abortion facility, I pray that the abortionist will have a change of heart.”

Finally, “murder.” Although it’s often best to avoid euphemisms, in this case it’s better to use a more gentle word, like “killing.” Remember, expectant mothers are under a great deal of pressure to abort and are often misinformed about their baby’s development; they don’t need to feel judged by you as a murderer. Keep in mind, too, that we are portrayed as self-righteous, insensitive, and violent. Casual usage of terms like “murder” only contributes to this image.

Example: “When there are so many couples waiting to adopt, why does our culture try to persuade young mothers that killing their unborn children is their best option?”

Although there are more words that we could talk about, you get the point. Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that ANY voice for the voiceless is wonderful, but it’s good to have the tools to effectively present your side, too.

This is the first installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say,You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. 

To read part 2, part 3, or part 4, click on the links!

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