Death Language

It's instructive to listen to the language some use when discussing life issues. The perversion of words to control the language is stunning.

People who advocate the creation of human life for spare parts and research subjects hide behind scientific terms like "blastocyst", "fetus", "procedure", and "therapeutic cloning" as if using precise scientific words in place of more common terminology can somehow change the meaning of the words themselves.

The truth of the matter is that English is a very precise language, and using it precisely illuminates the meaning rather than obscuring it. For example, "fetus" is the modern English word that comes from a Middle English word that means "bringing forth of young, hence that which is born." The Middle English word is itself derived from the Latin word "fecundus" which means "fruitful". Pro-abortion advocates use the word "fetus" rather than "baby" to hide what the "procedure" of abortion does: it ends a human life. "Terminating a pregnancy" sounds like a benign, and very private issue, rather than the taking a human life in which society has an interest.

Another example is the continued insistence by the proponents of embryonic stem cell research that such research is an act of mercy for people suffering from terrible diseases. They use terms like "blastocyst" or "embryo", and tout medical developments that haven't occurred. A "blastocyst" is the "blastula" of an embryo, a very early stage of human development. Put more plainly, a blastocyst is a very tiny human being.

When we use the bland, albeit precise, medical terms, we can easily obscure the subject of the discussion. On one website I reviewed for this article, the embryo was discussed as if it were some sort of "spare parts kit" rather than a human life. The author defended the use of embryos for research by referring to, "using embryos created at fertility clinics and donated by couples who no longer needed them." As if there was such a thing as a "throw-away human being".

To add insult to injury, there is not a single embryonic stem cell "therapy" actually working right now to end suffering from disease. There is, however, significant progress with therapies that have shown actual results in clinical trials with adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood stem cells.  I say this merely to expose the language manipulation rampant in the media, but of course whether or not there were or ever will be effective medical treatments created from embryonic stem cells does not change the fact that such use of tiny human beings is purely objectively evil.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses the Church's unwavering commitment to the dignity of each person:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life (CCC 2270).

Sacred Scripture is clear regarding the humanity of the infant in the womb:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jer 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11).

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth (Ps 139:15).

 This means that human life is human life. Period. An embryo is a tiny human being… not a "potential life", not a sub-human species, not a "collection of cells". The tiny human life, be it blastula, diploid, zygote, or embryo is a complete, albeit small, human being and every reader of this article was once that small. The moment we begin to decide which human life has value and which one does not, or which one may be "harvested" for parts, is the moment we loose our own humanity.

It's not hyperbole to say that the person who maintains the viewpoint that an embryo is "just a collection of cells" possesses the same monstrous inhumanity that spawned the Holocaust in Europe during Second World War. It is the same evil depravity that fuels the jihadis in their quest to destroy the West. Once a person loses his conception of the human person, all sorts of atrocities are possible. The starvation of the sick and the elderly is portrayed as an act of mercy. Parents discard dozens of their own offspring as they select the "best" embryos, and babies are murdered in their own mother's wombs.

Our late beloved pontiff, Pope John Paul the Great commented on this baffling loss of our human dignity and the consequences in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae:

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries, perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions, has determined not to punish these practices against life, and even to make them altogether legal, is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline. Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable. Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded. In such a cultural and legislative situation, the serious demographic, social and family problems which weigh upon many of the world's peoples and which require responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, are left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations (EV #4).

Those who spoke of the "final solution to the Jewish problem" share a legacy with those who discard human life as "no longer needed". Just as the slave traders used the language of animal husbandry to disguise their abuse of human beings, the current "slave traders" (abortionists) use the language of science to hide their destruction of human life. The "father of lies" has somehow convinced people to accept euphemism instead of the language of love.

But we need not accept discourse on Satan's terms; we have the truth, and therefore we are free to speak the truth. And as Father John Corapi has famously declared "Truth is not a something, truth is a Somebody, Jesus, the Christ." We need only speak the truth to stand up for the most defenseless in our society.

In the end, the Gospel is a call to action, so we are bound to speak out… just don't let the culture of death choose the language!

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  • Guest

    The problem of language, when dealing with pre-born human life, isn't confined to the research labs and scientific journals. The press has often served as an accessory after the fact in failing to affirm and dignify the unborn. Take for instance its coverage of the murder investigation involving the slaying of an expectant mother in Ohio. The Associated Press' latest news release, written by a reporter by the name of Joe Milicia, opens with this line:

    "A police officer accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and her nearly full-term fetus made his first court appearance Monday and was ordered held on $5 million bond. "

    Betcha back at the newsroom Milicia has never asked a pregnant staffer "and how's your fetus this morning?"

    Apparently members of the slain mother's family used radically different language like "child" and "baby," because a little farther down the reporter wrote:

    "Davis’ relatives have said he is the father of the baby girl she was due to deliver July 3 and planned to name Chloe."

    So are we to assume if you're related to the victim it's a "baby," otherwise to the rest of us its simply a "fetus?"

    Scanning the rest of this particular AP press release, every other reference to the unborn baby uses the expression "fetus" exclusively.

    When the scientists and their willing accomplices in the press so breezily dismiss expressions like "baby" and "child" when referring to unborn human life, it's no wonder the general public is so easily fooled into supporting embryonic stem cell research.


  • Guest

    "whether or not there were or ever will be effective medical treatments created from embryonic stem cells does not change the fact that such use of tiny human beings is purely objectively evil."

    IMO, this is the important point to gather from this article. When discussing research using embryonic stem cells with others, do not get lured into a discussion about the promise or futility of the research. That is irrelevant and a distraction away from discussing the sanctity of life. If research ever did become promising, it would weaken your position.

    Hence, one must always stick with the issue about the sanctity of human life, illustrated by the quote above that the author provided.

  • Guest

    Yes, this language drives me crazy!  I am newly pregnant (praise God, after three years of infertility and one miscarriage), and I have started reading "What to Expect When You're Expecting".  When reading the chapter that applies to my very early stage of pregnancy, the author talks about the group of cells that will develop into my baby.  My response to that is that even a full grown adult is a group of cells;  that doesn't make him any less human.  That group of cells already is my baby.  

  • Guest

    Hurray, Claire!  Congratulations and please know you are in our daily prayers.

    The language of the pro-choice (death) debate is a very important aspect of dealing with people on the other side.

    The inarguable "human life is human life" which Col. Addison expressed so well is a point of commonality to which both sides should be able to agree and from which we can begin a dialog with a pro-abortion, pro-ESCR advocate.  What it leads to is an admission somewhere along the line a human life is being treated not as a person but as a thing.

    Let's pray we all use our language skills to the greater glory of God.

  • Guest

    Thank you for this great article highlighting the importance of language and definitions in the abortion arena.

    A friend and I are in disagreement about what is truly meant by "contraception," and also by default "conception." My friend maintains that life begins at "conception." I say "fertilization" based on the notorious decision made by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1963. In that decision, ACOG defined "conception" to be the "implantation" of the "fertilized ovum." 

    If conception is synonymous, in the eyes of the pro-abortion movement, with implantation, then contraception can cover any act that prevents implantation–ie, what they call "contraception" is really early abortion.

    It is important to get our terms correct. Can ACOG arbitrarily redefine when life begins? That's not really the question. The point is they already have, and we must meet them on their "terms" by always adhering to the truth that life begins at fertilization; to do otherwise would be to let them get away with murder.

    Just some thoughts…

  • Guest

    Wonderful article!


    Let's make a difference by being faithful and being active:


    Let God work through us to put an end this Culture of Death!

  • Guest

    Yes, the language used by the pro-abortion camp is always meant to deflect away from what they know is really happening.  When they refer to themselves as "pro-choice", try asking them what "choice" exactly are they referring to.  You'll find that they can't bring themselves to say that it's the choice of a woman to kill her own baby.

    Also, think about this….  We are all "pro-choice", they choose death, we choose life.    God Bless. 

  • Guest

    Big challenge:

    • Can we recognize even a tiny kernel of goodness in a "pro-choice" or ESCR supporter? 
    • Can we discern even a bit of true concern and love for a poor, pregnant woman which has been twisted into ignoring the humanity of the unborn child?
    • Can we identify even a a glimmer of genuine concern for the suffering Parkinson's patient who hopes for a cure before a painful death?

    This is a big and important challenge in my opinion because this is precisely what we need to find and embrace each and every time we confront our pro-death neighbors.  Then we can go further into how a true, genuine concern for a powerless person is the exact same concern we have in common with each other.

    I don't know if I've ever changed anyone's mind, but I know when I haven't. And when I haven't even tried to.

    Loving our enemies is hard. But the Master commands that we do exactly that.

  • Guest

    PTR,  Thanks for the prayers!  I'm sure that they were instrumental in helping me to conceive, and I appreciate the ongoing prayers as I am very concerned about the possibility of another miscarriage (which would be particularly devastating after waiting so long to conceive).


  • Guest

    CONGRATULATIONS, CLAIRE!!!!  You, your husband, and Baby will certainly be in my prayers.

    I wanted to thank Mr. Addison for an excellent article that helps me understand some of the reasons my arguments fail to make an impact.  I also wanted to thank Candeo for the distinction between "conception" and "fertilization"–an argument I hadn't run into, but will be prepared for, now.  Thanks!  And, finally, thanks to DeLapointe for his exercize in defining "choice".  This is an argument I have used, but not effectively.  Thanks to you, I see how to make it work.

    Oh, and lastly (I promise) to Protect the Rock: I see your point–one which God is working on with me–but WRONG is still WRONG.

  • Guest

    Cooky, thanks so much for the prayers;  I really need them!