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abortion

Well, I’ve stepped into it now, haven’t I? There’s no avoiding it any longer (see abort), is there? I promised to write a commentary on every word in the particular dictionary I’m using for this project and now I’ve gotten to abortion. I’ll do my best not to ignite any civil wars, but I make no promises.

Let’s, as clinically as possible, get the definitions out of the way before I comment on the values surrounding abortion, which is sure to stir up controversy. That is to say, any comments on abortion, no matter what they may be, are certain to irritate, infuriate, or raise righteous indignation in one segment of the population or another, assuming that one or more members of that segment are perusing this. Fortunately, nobody reads this crap and nobody is ever likely to. It merely occupies space on the Internet. So I’m probably safe.

I lost my train of thought. What was I saying? Oh yes, the definitions of abortion.

An abortion is the spontaneous or induced removal of a fetus (or a foetus if it would have eventually used proper Queen’s English had it developed into a human child and learned to speak rather than having been aborted) from the womb to the outside world.

If it knew what was going on in the outside world it might have been happy about not having the chance to develop into a human upon its departure from the womb. That is, it might have felt that way if it had enough brain function to know anything, want anything, or feel anything, which it probably did not at that stage.

Another meaning of abortion is a monstrosity, but not necessarily intended as a comment on the ethics of abortion as described by the first definition. In this case, abortion typically refers to a work of someone, such as a work of alleged art.

Combining the two definitions of abortion, people on the anti side of the abortion debate (the first definition of abortion) would no doubt say that an abortion is an abortion, but that is confusing as the listener might think the speaker is providing a tautology rather than annunciating a value judgement on abortion.

With the definitions out of the way, how can I avoid any minefields when providing a commentary on the word abortion? Screw it! I can simply comment on the word  itself without getting into the morals and ethics of the act that the word labels. My project. My rules.

(On reflection, “screw it” was probably a bad choice of words. If it weren’t for screwing there would be no debate on abortion, if only because the human species would have gone extinct after the first generation—long before humans figured out how to perform abortions safely.)

So, where do I stand on the issue? None of your damned business! Fight among yourselves.

If the political discourse on abortion in the country in which I live ever gets to the point where I think our legislators are in serious danger of depriving some people of their rights with a contemplated law on abortion then I might feel the need to say more. That’s not the case now.

(If you know I live in Canada, you know about Canada’s abortion laws, or lack thereof, and you know how far abortion debate tends to get in our House of Commons and Senate, then that tells you everything there is to say about what I’m not saying.)

Nevertheless, there is one comment that I would like to make about the issue. It is about the language of the debate itself, not the moral and ethical judgements put forward in the debate, so I hope I’ll avoid fights.

People on one side of the debate, let’s call them Side 1, typically like to refer to themselves as “pro-choice.” The other side, we’ll call them Side 2, like to refer to Side 1 as “pro-abortion.”

Side 2 generally likes to refer to itself as “pro-life,” while Side 1 usually likes to refer to Side 2 as “anti-abortion.”

I understand, Little Ms and Mister Sunshine, why you like to refer to yourself as “pro” rather than “anti” no matter which side you are on. Being a positive person is typically viewed as better than being a negative person. (I don’t have an answer to why Side 2 is happy to stick Side 1 with a “pro” label.)

However, I think two of the four labels are inaccurate or not sufficiently precise.

Let’s get the two that I think are accurate out of the way. First, there’s “anti-abortion.” People on Side 2 are opposed to abortion. Anti and opposed are synonyms. So anti-abortion is an appropriate label to hang on Side 2. It might not be the only accurate label, but it is certainly one of them.

Second, there’s “pro-choice.” Because this is the abortion debate, I don’t think it diminishes understanding to not have the word abortion in the label. People will readily and safely assume that the choice that is being referred to is the choice of whether or not to have an abortion because that is the subject of the debate. People on Side 1 are in favor of ensuring that women have the right to choose to have or not to have an abortion, i.e., they are pro-choice. Therefore, it is an accurate label. As with anti-abortion for the other side, it may not be the only appropriate label, but it is one of them.

Now, let’s look at the other two labels.

Pro-life? This falls under the category of not sufficiently precise. Most of the people in this group are not pro all life. Unless they are vegetarian and refuse to squash bugs or any other animal we consider to be “pests,” the people on Side 2 are, at best, just pro human life.

And, because plants are lifeforms too, although admittedly lifeforms without anything we would think of as brains (a condition that a few people on each side will occasionally accuse a few people on the other side of having), if they eat vegetables then they still aren’t in favor of avoiding harm to all life. Acting unfailingly on a pro-all-life belief is self-contradictory because it would lead to your death by starvation.

And even “pro human life” doesn’t quite do it. They are pro what they consider to be human life even if it’s not what everyone considers to be human life. Does human life start at the fertilization of a human egg?

The egg at the moment that mitosis (cell splitting) begins doesn’t resemble anything that most people would generally consider to be a human being. It is a collection of a growing number of cells that have the potential to be come a human being. But is it a human being at that point? That’s a large part of the debate, isn’t it? So to say you are “pro-life” or even “pro-human-life” (which nobody says) is jumping the gun a bit in the debate.

Then there’s “pro-abortion.” This is simply a lie. I seriously doubt there is anyone on Side 1 who says to every pregnant woman he or she meets, “Have an abortion. Abortions are always the best thing pregnant women can do in every instance.”

That’s not what Side 1 is saying. That’s not what Side 1 ever says. At least some women on Side 1 would never choose to have an abortion if they were pregnant unless the pregnancy threatened their live, and even then some might choose to take the risk. However, they believe that choice should be theirs to make.

Well, I’m not sure that I’ve avoided stirring up controversy in the unlikely event that anyone finds and reads this page. So I’m going to move on before I get into any more trouble.

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