A reflection on the language we use to describe abortion

In Rev. Frank Pavone’s recent Pro-Life Reflection at Priests for Life, he reflects on a phrase which anti-Life activists use frequently.  “Some call abortion ‘termination of pregnancy,’” he says.  “But so is birth.  The fact is that every pregnancy terminates.  The issue is how.”

Father Pavone notes that abortion supporters have commandeered this term, ‘termination of pregnancy,’ to “mask an act of violence with their language.”  Indeed, when pregnancy terminates at a baby’s live birth, we refer to the event as such – “birth.”  Usually the memory is happy, often described as the greatest moment in a parent’s life.  A new individual has entered the outside world.  A mother makes eye contact with the child she’s been carrying for nine months.  A father hears the cries of a new life which will grow under his care.  The anniversary will be celebrated for the rest of the child’s life as his or her birthday. 

The fact that the mother’s pregnancy terminates at birth barely merits noting – the fact is outdone by the celebration surrounding the birth of a child.  When a child dies in abortion, emotions are similarly intense – but instead of elation, relief, and bonding, there is grief, regret, and emptiness.  These emotions occur for most parents during or at some point after an abortion. 

Focusing on the secondary effect of an abortion – the termination of the pregnancy – is a transparent act of deflection on the part of the abortion industry – an industry that, notably, relies heavily on marketing and branding to sell their abortion product.  In other words, we should not expect them to characterize the tragedy of abortion truthfully to their customers.  Enter the cure-all term: termination of pregnancy.  “It’s like a man killing his wife and saying, ‘I terminated our marriage,’” Fr. Pavone says.

In his reflection, Fr. Pavone quotes a passage from Pope Saint John Paul II’s encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, which speaks poignantly to the importance of commanding language with an eye to the truth:  “We need now more than ever,” says John Paul II, “to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.”

As we approach the sobering 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on-demand in the United States – we must reaffirm our commitment to being a voice for the voiceless preborn children who are powerless to fight for themselves.  We cannot “yield to convenient compromises” when speaking out against abortion threatens to lower our status in the eyes of someone who disagrees.

Fr. Pavone concludes his reflection with the following prayer:

Spirit of truth, keep us free from the power of deception.  Give us clear minds to know truth, and courageous tongues to speak it.  Amen.