The definitions of the terms used in a discussion can and do change the outcome. The political maxim, “He who frames the issue wins the debate” applies in many situations including how the public views what abortion is and why it is either legitimate or illicit. A chasm exists between those two positions, but what if the definitions used in either position are wrong?
Let’s examine the partial birth abortion debate of 2003 as an example of rhetoric versus substance. Proponents of abortion claimed that what propelled the “win” in Congress, and subsequently in the Supreme Court, “was inevitable once the public accepted as truth the grotesque picture of a healthy, live infant pulled from a woman’s womb in order to be killed.”
The famous graphic illustrations of the nearly born child being killed by a scissors forcibly rammed through his skull convinced the public that partial birth abortion was barbaric. What was never made clear to the public throughout this debate was that the “ban” actually permitted what it claimed to outlaw. The exception made the rule. The Supreme Court caught on to this nuance and expanded it by explaining in its Gonzales v. Carhart decision, “If the intact D&E is truly necessary in some circumstances, it appears likely an injection that kills the fetus is an alternative under the Act that allows the doctor to perform the procedure.”
At the time, I stated that the Supreme Court 2007 decision in the case was “fraught with deliberately crafted language that not only accommodates Roe v. Wade and its progeny but does little to suggest that the justices are even concerned about setting forth adequate protections for a single preborn baby whose body is not 90 percent outside the womb.”
It really is all about the definitions in the language used. The recently passed U.S. House of Representatives “Protect Life Act” is another example of much ado about nothing. The act does not equally protect each individual prior to birth from being killed under Obamacare. Quite the contrary, the new legislation allows killing in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother as well as chemical abortion via the birth control pill. Yet pro-life folks rallied behind the proposal without explaining its inherent flaws.
Such inconsistent actions and words are very dangerous for the health and well-being of preborn children because who is worthy of protection and who is not becomes a question of political possibility instead of moral consistency.
Such tactics and strategy are not only dangerous to persons left in the wake of the language used to frame the argument, but to the very core principles upon which the pro-life effort is based. When pro-life Americans say things like, “Personhood starts in the womb” all human persons already existing before implantation in the womb, or those already existing outside the womb in IVF labs and infertility clinics, are left behind. When pro-life Americans say things like, “We believe in the dignity of the human person from conception” all human persons conceived by means other than fertilization are left behind. This translates into a whole lot of dead people.
Whether or not such erroneous language is intentionally crafted to be deceitful is not the question. Instead we should ask: Why is it that those making such statements are blind to the effect their words are having on entire classes of the very human beings these people claim to be defending?
Below are some lessons and things we must realize:
“In the womb” means that any individual from his very beginning up until he implants in his mother’s womb is not protected because “in the womb” starts at the eighth or ninth day of a person’s life.
“Conception” means whatever the nihilists want it to mean. More often than not the prevailing definition—that conception is the same as fertilization or even implantation—rules. Again, scores of preborn children are dismissed from protection immediately, regardless of whether they are sexually or asexually reproduced.
“Fertilization” means that only sexually reproduced persons are acknowledged; those asexually reproduced are fair game for the killing.
Thus, the word “abortion” must now refer to the intentional killing of all human persons, both those sexually and those asexually reproduced (e.g., human identical twins reproduced naturally within the woman’s body, as well as those human embryos asexually reproduced by various methods in labs and clinics and then implanted into a woman’s uterus (womb)).
Words have consequences. While it is nice to frame the debate and accept the kudos for “winning,” when the victory results in the deaths of innocent, living human persons, the debate itself is nothing more than a sham. Every abortion is an act of killing—not just those the public is willing to acknowledge as awful.