Last week, the gossip site Gawker enthusiastically tweeted about the “human being” growing inside Kate Middleton, under the hashtag “#baby”.
A quick glance through some of the site’s most recently posted articles about abortion, however, reveals that when a newly conceived human person is unwanted, it suddenly becomes a fetus, an embryo, a “cell clump,” or a “bundle of undifferentiated cells.”
It’s a classic instance of the baby/fetus switch: that handy little mental device that allows us to embrace the wanted baby but flip to “fetus” mode when it’s convenient to dehumanize that inconvenient little person. It’s like flipping a light switch, apparently. It’s just that easy.
The nurse midwife who administered my first prenatal check-up flipped it last week. “What a cutie,” she cooed, when an 11 week ultrasound revealed the profile of a beautiful, perfectly formed little one resting peacefully in my womb. “Is that your baby?” she asked my 18-month-old, who was staring wide-eyed at the screen, mesmerized by the throbbing heartbeat of her younger sibling.
Later, she broached the question of pre-natal tests, asking if I wanted to undergo screening for the possibility of genetic abnormalities.
“As I understand it, a positive result wouldn’t change anything about the medical care I would be receiving,” I said.
“Well, no,” she replied. “Unless you want to terminate.”
It’s a familiar enough euphemism to anyone involved in pro-life work, but you’ll never fully appreciate how sinister it is until someone casually applies it to your own child. If someone were to have broken into the room and put a bullet through my older child’s head would she say that my toddler had been “terminated”?
But that cute little baby on the screen will become a fetus if I decide to have him killed, so that’s a different story, of course. We don’t kill fetuses. We terminate them.
Those are the moments that I appreciate all the more what we do at LifeSiteNews. (Help us continue our mission with a donation today). All social engineering begins with verbal shuffling, a wise priest once told me. And few institutions exercise more influence over the way we use words than the media.
What the talking heads dismissively refer to every election cycle as “the social issues” is, in reality, the great battleground of our time: the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the family. And if the deck is in one sense stacked against us, it’s partly because of how the questions have been framed.
Unwanted children have become “uterine contents.” Terminally ill patients are “vegetables.” The campaign to get a condom into every teenager’s pocket is “sex education.” Birth control pills, which are suspected by scientists of causing deadly blood clots, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, are “basic health care,” which is why we can force religious institutions to pay for them.
A man can shoot some estrogen, put on a dress, and demand that everyone refer to him as “she.” And the powerful interest groups that are pushing for a complete re-definition of the basic family structures that have been the cornerstone of human society since the beginning of time are, it turns out, merely advocating “marriage equality.”
This is one reason why we need pro-life media to level the playing field in this battle.
Of course, there are many other reasons.
We ultimately have bigger fish to fry than vocabulary: reporting the stories that don’t make it into the mainstream media, sifting through the mire of misinformation about those stories that are reported, bringing to light facts that are covered over and ignored, calling to account the agents of radical social change, and generally trying to shine a light into the darkness of the culture of death through the powerful medium of the written word.
But it is precisely words that frame the debate and shape our intellectual landscape. It is with the humble word that we begin, as the Gospel of John reminds us (if I might take a little – ok, a lot – of exegetical liberty).
Here at LifeSiteNews, we’re gearing up for another year of this battle. Please consider joining our efforts by donating to our Christmas campaign.
Thank you for your support. May the Word made flesh reign in our hearts this Christmas season!