Analysis

The word abortion industry workers can’t say

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A pro-choice researcher wrote about how the term “baby” is dreaded in abortion clinics. Feminist author Wendy Simonds interviewed abortion industry workers for her book Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic. Although the book was written from a pro-choice perspective, with a whole chapter dedicated to how to foil “antis” (i.e. “anti-choice” protesters), some interviews with abortion workers seemed to give far more ammunition to the pro-life side than the pro-choice side.

After observing the workings of the facility and witnessing both abortions and counseling sessions, Simonds writes:

Center staff members commonly said “the pregnancy,” “the tissue,” “the products of conception.” “Fetal tissue” was the most explicit term I heard health workers use with clients.

They never, ever, called it a baby.

Although Simonds does not spend much time talking about the counseling at the facility (except to say that sessions were kept short because spending too much time with each woman slowed down patient flow, ultimately reducing the facility’s income) pro-lifers can speculate about why the term “baby” is avoided. Many former abortion industry workers have talked about how they were trained never to say the word “baby” because it would make women have second thoughts about going through with their abortions.

For example, former abortion worker Kathy Sparks said the following in the Christian Herald: 

Sometimes we lied. A girl might ask what her baby was like at a certain point in the pregnancy: Was it a baby yet? Even as early as 12 weeks a baby is totally formed, he has fingerprints, turns his head, fans his toes, feels pain. But we would say ‘It’s not a baby yet. It’s just tissue, like a clot.’

Abortion facilities do not make money if the woman leaves without aborting her baby. Avoiding words and phrases that might change her mind would be beneficial for a facility geared towards making a profit. (Which, of course,  all of them are.) It’s important to keep women in the dark.

But there was another reason why the abortion workers in Abortion at Work avoided the term “baby.” See the quote from an abortion industry worker below:

I feel some sadness [about second trimester abortions]…And I think part of the problem is that we don’t talk about that…Do you see what I’m saying- that somehow your pro-choice stand is compromised by saying the word “baby.”…We don’t allow ourselves to say or think that word…

Even though the abortion workers were dedicated to abortion and vented a lot of hatred at pro-lifers, they had qualms about what they were doing.  They had to avoid the word “baby” because that word could bring their carefully constructed facade of lies and euphemisms crashing down. The word “baby” cuts through the illusion that they are doing something noble and good in the clinic. It refutes, in their own hearts, the belief that they are heroes helping and serving women. Admitting that the fetus is a baby means admitting they are killing babies. And of course, they don’t want to believe that.

Since the abortion facility in Abortion at Work did abortions through 26 weeks, (6 1/2 months) there were many, many times when the aborted children looked like a full term babies.  (80 to 90% of babies born at 26 weeks who are given medical care survive.)  So these babies were fully developed in many cases.

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Looking at the child above, one can imagine the emotional strain on an abortion worker who has to sort through the dismembered pieces of a baby this age. Calling the child a “product of conception” or “fetal tissue” is a way they deceive themselves.  “Baby” seems to be a word that abortion industry workers hate.

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