Friday, September 21, 2012

Abortion: By Any Other Name. . .

         Language is a weapon.
         In the hands of a skilled wordsmith, it can sensitize peoples' consciences to injustice and motivate them to heroic virtue and reform.  A propagandist, by contrast, can apply it as the verbal veneer needed to camouflage some wildly horrific crime under apparent respectability.  When the Nazis, for example, resorted to genocidal barbarism in their quest for an allegedly purer race and nation, they called on their word warriors to help them cloak their wickedness in terms of decency in order to make the unspeakable speakable.  Dachau and Buchenwald were painted with the brush of inoffensive clinical jargon.  "We have implemented," the Nazis said, "the final solution."
          Their word ploy was largely and regrettably effective.  Rather than stating the facts plainly and forcing the German people to face the unimaginable horror around them and to risk life and family to eradicate it, the Nazi subterfuge provided a respectable verbal veil behind which to hide their grotesque villainy.  Who, after all, can be opposed to a "purer" nation or to a "solution"?
         I can.
         Whereas great evils are often disguised by clinical language, accurate words call the ghosts out of the closet.  That is why we must learn to call things by their real names.  That is why we must beware of every euphemism.
         But, even now, all these decades after Hitler, we fail to speak plainly.
         We hide the fetal holocaust that surrounds us every day just as effectively as the Nazis hid their extermination of the Jews.  And we do it the same way.  We cannot bring ourselves to utter the "M" word, though we commit the "M" act.  That is, we do not murder unborn children; we "abort fetuses."  That terminology, we wrongly believe, helps to remove our heinous deeds from the realm of the morally reprehensible.  It allows us to view ourselves and our neighbors with more self-respect and more ethical complacency.  After all, that nice young woman next door would never pay her doctor a handsome sum to murder her unborn baby.  That is unthinkable.  She merely aborted her fetus because she is unmarried and did not want to sentence her inconvenient offspring to a life of unwantedness or poverty.  Never mind that she is an adultress.  Never mind that she sentenced her child to the garbage can.  Described in her less graphic and less accurate terms, to murder her child seems not only not evil, it seems downright virtuous.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         Some of the more squeamish among us are unable even to say the "A" word.  Though by aborting fetuses rather than murdering babies our linguistic sleight of hand has hidden the real nature (murder) of our action and the real identity (baby) of our victim, some people require a still heavier dose of verbal opium.  For them we need to make the accursed deed even more palatable by making it even more impersonal.  We must tell them they are merely "terminating a pregnancy," which eliminates overt reference to any living thing.  Unlike fetuses and children, which are undeniably alive, and unlike abortion and murder, which seem to imply nasty things like blood and death, simply to terminate a pregnancy sounds as innocuous as ending a radio transmission or pulling into the station after a pleasant railroad journey.
        If terminating pregnancies is still too overt a verbal description because the word "pregnant" tends to evoke unfortunate images of happy women large with child, we can hide the crime behind an even more impersonal wall of words.  We can say that the murdering of unborn children is nothing more than the voluntary extraction of the "product of conception."  If that does not work, then we can talk the way nearly all abortion clinics talk:  we can resort to an acrostic and say that we are merely "removing the P.O.C."  What could be more innocent?
         Nearly everything.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         Pleasant words can be a fraud.  A sterile idiom can be a defense mechanism behind which we conceal the grossest reality.  But, defense mechanisms do not change that reality.  They merely disguise it.  The evil facts themselves remain the same.  Never forget that the disease you hide you cannot heal.  For jargon wizards like us, therefore, there remains no therapy.  Rather than facing the facts and owning this great wickedness for what it is, rather than calling an unconditional halt to the war we wage on our unborn young, rather than confessing our guilt and casting ourselves on the immense mercy of God, we mask our shame behind a veil of words and sell our souls to the verbal charlatans and quacks who tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.  We hide the crime with a lie.
         Beware of every euphemism.
         A murder by any other name...


Heather Nicole said...

Beware indeed. I recently heard a woman describe the two abortions her mother had as "selective miscarriages". How's that for a veil?

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

That's shocking and disgusting. But by lying to herself in this way, her conscience feels better than it ought to feel. As long as it feels assuaged by her false language, she won't feel it necessary to go to God, Who alone can heal her.