Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proper Pro-Life Speak

Ever since the unfortunate murder of Dr. Tiller in Kansas, by a very misguided man who obviously doesn't understand what being Pro-LIFE actually means, I have been watching and reading various news stories about this tragedy and about abortion. It has made me start contemplating the terminology that we use, or should be using, in the Pro-Life Movement.

In particular, I think we need to be consistent about what we call the child in the womb. I have heard fetus, the unborn, and once I did hear the term preborn. The term Fetus is used a lot. It seems to be the term of choice for the news casts I watch. My guess is that it seems the most neutral term. But the question here is, is it a good term for us to use as people who stand up for the rights of ALL humans?

I went to and found this definition:
the young of an animal in the womb or egg, esp. in the later stages of development when the body structures are in the recognizable form of its kind, in humans after the end of the second month of gestation

This is the scientific term. What is interesting to me is that the fetus is in recognizable human form after the second month of gestation, which the definition also calls a "later stage of development." That's at the end of about 8 weeks!! Eight Weeks!! Some women don't even know that they are pregnant before about 8 weeks; there are roughly 32 more weeks to go. Most abortions happen after the 8th week of gestation. But I digress ...

Fetus is definitely an accurate term to use. But does it work well when discussing pro-life issues with someone who is pro-choice? Ask them if a fetus has any rights and they will tell you that it's about the mother's health. Yes, they are avoiding the question (I know, I used to be in this camp), but I think the word fetus is so familiar to everyone that it can be easily forgotten that it is, in fact, a baby.

So how about the term "unborn?" Until recently I thought this was a great term to use. It makes me realize that the "thing" we are talking about is a human that has not yet been born. And that's the idea! But I started reconsidering my thoughts on this recently. What does the prefix "un-" really mean? Well, the prefix "un-" has two meanings:
1. a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns (unfair; unfairly; unfairness; unfelt; unseen; unfitting; unformed; unheard-of; un-get-at-able), and less freely used in certain other nouns (unrest; unemployment).
2. a prefix freely used in English to form verbs expressing a reversal of some action or state, or removal, deprivation, release, etc. (unbend; uncork; unfasten; etc.), or to intensify the force of a verb already having such a meaning (unloose).

There is a lot of negativity in this prefix, at least in my mind. So "unborn" is the opposite of born, it is the removal or deprivation of the state of being born. This really doesn't help Pro-Lifers. I keep looking at this word and keep thinking that it doesn't lend itself well to advocating for the birth of a so-called "unwanted" child (no child is unwanted). And the definitions above make me this even less of this term. Again, it's a term we can use and we would be accurate, but does it help our case??

I have been hearing the term preborn used more and more. It's still a pretty infrequently used term, but I think it's one which has the most power behind it. Again, the actual definition of the prefix "pre-" is:
a prefix occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, where it meant “before” (preclude; prevent); applied freely as a prefix, with the meanings “prior to,” “in advance of,” “early,” “beforehand,” “before,” “in front of,” and with other figurative meanings (preschool; prewar; prepay: preoral; prefrontal).

The dictionary actually listed 6 varying definitions, but the one thing they all had in common was the concept of something happening "before." Preborn, therefore, would imply that we are talking about a human that is to be born, thus in the "before birth" state. For me, "preborn" is a much more positive, forward-thinking term, therefore, having a lot more power behind it.

We were all created and became human from the moment of our conception. From that moment we had all our DNA. From that moment we are human. This is scientific fact, not a religious belief. And if we believe that every human being is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity no matter what their stage of life (young, old, sick, etc.), then we have to realize that the most vulnerable humans are those that are preborn. And those preborn human beings deserve that same right to life that we all have.

To bring this back to where I started, the murder of Dr. Tiller was a horrible tragedy. He too deserved his right to life. No matter what our disagreements, those of us who fight for the rights of the preborn advocate for peaceful dissent keeping within the law. Murder goes against the very foundation of being Pro-Life.

That being said, I hope that this issue is discussed more and everyone can have an open mind to really understand what we are talking about when we talk about abortion. Those preborn babies have as much right to life as all of us. Remember, they are just innocent humans who happen to be in a stage of life "before" birth.


  1. I just found your blog though facebook and will definitely be continuing to follow it - because, "wow"!

    I have 3 children and a niece who are also with the Lord. My three were all 6-9 weeks gestation, and my niece - like your Zachary - was born at 22 weeks gestation on Christmas Day, 2004. Although I have my four surviving children here with me (and most days they are all I can handle), I still find myself thinking of and grieving those children I lost. Most people would think I'm nuts, but why? If I truly believe, as I do, that life begins at conception, why would I not morn the loss of those children I hoped for and loved? Interesting that it's been on my mind so much lately, and that I've been working towards a blog post of my own on the subject - I love how God works!

    Glad to have found you again (it's been so many years) but know that I will be praying for you and your husband,

    Kari (Ward) Mattingly

  2. Hi Kari!!

    Glda to have found you too!! I'm so sorry for the loss of your three children. You're not crazy for thinking of them. People who have not had to go through that experience often can't understand that they can not be replaced. Just the idea of thinking of any living child as a replacement for one that was lost is a terrible thought! Each child is unique and special. In the Catholic Church we believe that those children are in heaven with God our Father and that they can pray for us. I love to think of my little saints as being able to pray for me and my husband! What a wonderful blessing!!

    I looked at the pictures of your beautiful children on FB! What a wonderful family you have. I'm looking forward to checking out your blog too!! I can't wait!

    So glad to be able to talk to you again!!