by Charlotte Graham
Words express concepts that are understood through experience. Concepts develop and can change as we put those words into different contexts. Most recently, we have become aware that words that we thought we understood have morphed into very different meanings than we hereto knew. This is a phenomenon we are all witnessing as the sexual revolution unfolds and as controversies are hotly debated such as value of life issues: abortion and euthanasia.
As the meaning of words related to life issues change, so too can our beliefs. Both sides of the issue understand this and have carefully crafted meanings to words to that end. It behooves all of us to know that this is going on and that our values, our morals, our understanding of who we are, our purpose in life and so much more is being challenged by the new meaning of words that we are now to understand.
The arguments on both sides of the ‘life issues’ are based on long held beliefs grounded in both ancient and modern thought and law. Possibly the most pivotal word in the debate is ‘Rights.’ What are our Rights in terms of abortion and death and dying questions?
‘Personhood’ is hotly debated and is sometimes denied by using medical terms such as ‘fetus’ to imply that the growing person is no more than that, thus denying that it is merely a stage in life. Stages in life can become entangled in legal questions. A child has fewer ‘rights’ than an adult, for example. In short, abortion rights advocates are able to ‘dehumanize’ the pre-born by describing the pre-born as ‘fetus’ or a clump of cells. Those words stick with people and become the rallying cry for the right to abortion. Conversely, calling the pre-born a ‘baby’ is seen as an effort to assign personhood.
It is interesting to hear in one’s mind the words that are not spoken as well as those that are. Reproductive Rights and Woman’s Right to Choose both fail to finish the statement. We don’t hear enunciated Reproductive Rights to Kill One’s Own Growing Baby or The Right to Choose Abortion. If said out loud who would get on that band wagon? The word ‘pregnant’ is rarely used because our long held understanding is that you are carrying a child and we are not to be reminded of that fact. Deceit is clearly a method of achieving the ‘Right’ to abortion. Listen carefully and think about what the meaning is of the words you hear.