Abortion and the English Language
August 24, 2000
famous essay Politics and the English Language,
George Orwell analyzed the corrupting influence of dishonest politics on
the way we speak and think. There is no better example than the effect
abortion has had on our language.
Though abortion including the
killing of viable infants at the verge of birth is now a sacrament
of the Democratic Party, nobody admits to being
pro-abortion; they are pro-choice. This is an
obvious lie. The right to choose anything presupposes the right to live. The
child, fetus, embryo, or whatever you want to call the entity growing
within its mothers womb has no choice about being
killed. It will never have a choice about anything.
pro-abortion side is pro-abortion in the same way that advocates of
slavery were pro-slavery. Oh, they protest, but we
dont insist that everyone get an abortion; we only want
people that is, mothers to have a
choice! Then nobody was
pro-slavery either, since nobody insisted that every white man own a
slave; they were pro-choice. They wanted each white man
to be free to decide whether to buy slaves; or they wanted
every state to decide whether to permit slavery. Of course they overlooked
the obvious fact that the slaves themselves had no choice; in their minds
this was irrelevant.
The bad conscience of the
pro-aborters shows in their studious avoidance of the word kill to
describe what abortion is. Why be coy about it? We dont mind
speaking of killing when we kill lower life forms. Lawn
products kill weeds; mouthwashes kill germs; insecticides kill bugs;
mousetraps kill mice. If the human fetus is an insignificant little thing,
why shrink from saying an abortion kills it? But the pro-abortion side
prefers the evasive euphemism that abortion terminates a
Orwell noted, dishonest people
instinctively prefer the abstract to the concrete. Abstract language avoids
creating unpleasant mental images that might cause horror and shame;
concrete language may remind us of what we are really doing. This is why
military jargon dehumanizes the targets of bombs and artillery: so that
soldiers and pilots wont vividly imagine the men, women, and
children they are killing. Part of the job of military leadership is to
anesthetize the consciences of fighting men. And political leaders (who
usually start the wars in the first place) do their part by describing the
bombing of cities as defending freedom.
In the modern world people are
trained to avoid looking directly at the effects of violence they commit or
sanction. If possible, the killing is delegated to specialists, who
themselves are increasingly remote from their victims as in
recent U.S. bombings of Iraq and Yugoslavia, where American casualties
were nearly zero. Most of us dont mind if our military kills people
on the other side of the world; we feel no pain, even vicariously. We may
even buy the official explanation that our bombs are preventing
another Holocaust. It may seem otherwise to the Iraqis and Slavs
on whose homes those bombs are falling.
But just as the news media refrain
from showing us what those bombs actually do, they never show us what
an abortion looks like. They even refuse to carry ads by abortion
opponents, on grounds that pictures of slaughtered fetuses are in
bad taste. They certainly are in bad taste; all atrocities are.
But the media are willing to show some atrocities, as in the killing fields
of Rwanda a few years ago. Since were forever debating abortion,
why not let us see one? Why the blackout?
The answer, of course, is that the
news media themselves are pro-abortion. They adopt the dishonest
language of the pro-abortion side: pro-choice, fetus,
terminate, and my favorite abortion provider
(to make the abortionist sound like a humanitarian).
A few years ago NBC produced a
sympathetic movie about a woman seeking an abortion Norma
McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v. Wade. But when Mrs.
McCorvey later changed her mind and became an active opponent of
abortion, did NBC do a sequel? Unimaginable.
We have to keep our guard up at all
times against political language, especially in seemingly bland
journalism, that is subtly infected with propagandistic purposes.
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