Words matter. Constrained by their definitions, words form the building blocks for the exchange of ideas. Words have the power to articulate our beliefs or, when misused, conceal them.
When we accept biased terminology, we take on additional hurdles to presenting the truth.
If we are not paying attention, people can smuggle their premise into a conversation without us even realizing it. When we inadvertently accept biased terminology, we take on additional hurdles to presenting the truth.
The importance of words became very apparent in the wake of videos which exposed Planned Parenthood’s disgusting and illegal practice of selling the parts of aborted babies to medical research companies.
Thankfully, these recordings have increased the nation’s awareness of the horrors of the abortion industry.
It has also raised awareness to how the “pro-choice” crowd talks about abortion. In these videos, in Planned Parenthood’s responses to them, and in pro-abortion arguments in general, we find that words are carefully chosen to advance their cause and diminish opponents’ reasoning.
Pro-life is labeled as anti-choice; babies are referred to only as fetuses; their hearts, livers, appendages, and other body parts are simply called “tissue.”
If we talk about “tissue,” people will not talk about the dismembering of unborn children.
As Christians who are concerned with defending both truth and the lives of the unborn, we should be alert to what the use of these words is trying to accomplish. But if we talk about “tissue,” people will not talk about the dismembering of unborn children.
This sterilized terminology is used for a reason. In order to advance their agenda, abortion providers must distance themselves from the fact that a fetus is a human life.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates want to keep their conversations centered around “maternal gestational tissue” (that’s abortion-speak for an unborn baby) or changing the “presentation” to “evacuate an intact calvarium” (the top Planned Parenthood doctor’s words for changing how they kill the baby so they can sell her head afterwards).
When we have conversations regarding our pro-life position, we should not legitimize such biased terminology by using it ourselves. An unborn baby is a human being. As Greg Koukl has rightly stated:
The primary issue when it comes to abortion is whether or not the unborn is a human being. Abortion advocates know this. Planned Parenthood and other abortion mills know this. This is why their language will be distanced as far as possible from this truth.
If we allow the abortion supporters to dictate the vocabulary of the debate, we unwittingly make concessions that weaken that position to some extent.
When it comes to conversations surrounding abortion, we should not buy in to terminology that is carefully chosen to downplay the reality that a “fetus” is in, reality, an unborn human person.
The lesson we learn from this deadly double-talk is not limited to the debate surrounding abortion. Many aspects of apologetics and defending the faith depends on the proper definition of words. For example, many cults use Christian terminology to make their beliefs more palatable.
Here are some principles we can keep in mind as we seek to defend truth and respectfully engage with those who disagree with us:
- Pay Attention. When other people are talking we are often distracted, thinking only of what we will say next. Slow down and listen to how words are being used and what premises are being offered
- Be Truthful. If we want others to be truthful in their words, we must do so as well.
- Insist on Accuracy. Many discussions turn to arguments when both sides are using the same words in different ways. Ask for clarification on what they mean when they use certain words. Tell them why you think one term is more accurate than another
- Don’t Concede. Use some common sense with this principle; not every vocabulary hill is worth dying on. Still, we are under no obligation to use someone’s biased or inaccurate terminology. This is especially true when they are asking you make concessions for their argument in doing so.
As with all things, we must engage others with gentleness and respect. Just know that you can gently and respectfully push back against words that are chosen to distort reality or diminish your position.
Thankfully, these videos have begun to reveal to many people that if these alleged “clumps of cells” have human livers, kidneys, and hearts that can be sold we are in fact speaking about a human person.
As an article posted by the Alliance Defending Freedom website notes:
If we can chip away at the euphemisms being used to desensitize people to the barbaric practice of abortion, we can better communicate the truth: Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. The last time I checked, that was an accurate definition of murder.