controversies, healthcare, language, law

“Abortion” is technically not defined as a dirty word.

Good morning, folks. It’s just after 8:00 AM on a warm Tuesday here in Deutschland, and I’ve already done my housework for the day, having gotten up three hours ago. The sun rises very early at this time of year in Germany, and it sets very late in the evening. Consequently, I often need an afternoon nap, because I don’t sleep long during the night.

I don’t really want to write about abortion today. It’s a topic I’m a little tired of at the moment. However, abortion is what everybody seems to be talking about right now. I have some comments I’d like to make in a place where I’m not going to hurt people’s feelings, get into pissing matches with the deliberately obtuse, or otherwise get mired in a bunch of Internet noise. My blog is a place where comments are generally respectful and reasonable. I think abortion is an important topic that deserves that much gravity.

Yesterday, I ran across an interesting Tik Tok/Facebook video by Mama Doctor Jones, a board certified OB-GYN from Texas who is currently working in New Zealand. In the video, Dr. Jones talked about what constitutes an abortion, and what the treatments are for certain medical conditions that occur during pregnancy. She made the video in response to comments by Live Action, a right wing, anti-abortion propaganda machine.

A screenshot from Mama Doctor Joneses’ video. Notice the emotional language. But, in fact, all of these conditions require terminating the pregnancy, which is precisely what abortion is.

Live Action had put out this comment regarding “abortion”, obviously likening abortion to the negative image that many people have of it. The people at Live Action obviously consider the medical procedure that abortion is as “murder”. Abortion isn’t murder, though. Abortion simply refers to the termination of a pregnancy that doesn’t result in a live birth. Moreover, in spite of how Live Action spins it, abortion is a treatment for a number of legitimate medical issues that come up in pregnancy. In fact, a miscarriage is technically called “spontaneous abortion” in medical parlance. Abortion is not a dirty word, but that group, and others who want to limit a person’s ability to terminate a pregnancy, wants to make it so.

I don’t see anything “dirty” about these definitions.

Above is a screenshot of Dictionary.com’s definition of abortion. Nowhere in that definition do I see a single definition that depicts the vile description of abortion that is being put out by Live Action. Abortion simply refers to ending a pregnancy, for whatever reason. There are different techniques used to achieve an abortion, depending on the circumstances. Under the above definition, abortion might involve taking a pill, removing the contents of the uterus, removing a body part, or actually going through labor and delivery. It depends on the case, and the time during pregnancy at which the abortion occurs.

The problem is, the term “abortion” has taken on so much emotional baggage that people automatically think of it as sinful and wrong. That baggage is causing a lot of people pain, as medical conditions that happen during pregnancy and require that the pregnancy be terminated are technically abortions. People don’t want to think of a necessary termination as an “abortion”. The term “abortion” has a nasty connotation that conjures up images of someone who got careless and wants to end a pregnancy out of convenience or shame. Groups like Live Action liken abortion to murder. But abortion isn’t really murder, either. See below.

Notice the first definition. In that meaning of the word “murder”, it’s specified that murder is the “killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” At this point, abortion is still legal in many places, but I don’t know of a place anywhere on the planet where it’s legal for somewhere to kill another person with premeditation or malice. I also know that sometimes people have abortions because that developing human being is causing severe physical or mental health problems that threatens the life of the already born person. In that case, an abortion is less like murder and more like self-defense.

One could also argue that a developing fetus simply has the potential to become a human being, but hasn’t yet reached that designation. It all depends on when life actually begins. People also have varying opinions on when that happens. We haven’t yet decided if life begins at conception, or at birth. The federal government seems to think life begins at birth, but religious people and hyper-conservative people want to say it begins at fertilization. A consensus has yet to be reached. See below.

I have some dear people in my life who have had to end pregnancies for health reasons. These are women that I know would probably never voluntarily opt to have an abortion. I write “probably”, because a lot of us think we know what we would do in a given situation, but we don’t actually know until it happens to us. For instance, I feel pretty certain that if I were a rape or incest victim, I would want to have an abortion. But I also know for a fact that I have a pretty serious aversion to seeing doctors. I was traumatized by an OB-GYN when I was 22 years old, and that has made me very reluctant to seek medical care unless I absolutely have to have it. To be honest, at this point, even if I have to have medical care, I still might not seek it. I haven’t seen a medical doctor since 2010. Going to see physicians causes me great anxiety.

I also suffer from depression a lot of the time, and that often makes me feel worthless. The state of the world right now adds to my depression, and makes me think it would be better to be dead. So I can’t say for certain that I would seek an abortion if I got pregnant due to rape (which I know I wouldn’t at this point in time). I probably would want one… because my healthy mental days are usually more plentiful than my unhealthy days, and I’m sure I would not want to raise my rapist’s baby. I also know that I would not want to give a baby up for adoption. But I say that as someone who has never experienced forced intercourse with a man, and has never even been close to being pregnant. I would probably feel emotionally shattered if I were ever raped, and that would affect my self-esteem. So, to be frank, I can’t say for certain I would have an abortion. I only know how I feel right now, which is that I would probably want one.

The people in my life who have had to end their pregnancies for medical reasons desperately wanted to have their babies. They would never choose to have what we think of is an “abortion”. They needed medical care for an emergency situation that involved terminating a pregnancy. Technically, they DID have an abortion, as defined by the medical establishment, but it was not the kind of abortion one might have at Planned Parenthood. And they don’t want to think of their procedures in that way. I can totally understand that. But I also think that it might be helpful if we stopped thinking of abortion as something dirty and sleazy. Sometimes, it’s a necessary, life saving, medical procedure, and like all medical procedures, it really should be private business, with no emotional baggage attached by other people’s opinions.

Personally, I think any person who wants to have an abortion should have one, for ANY reason. It’s not up to me or anyone else to judge whether or not their reasons are valid. People who are pregnant against their wills are not going to be motivated to take care of themselves the way they should. I think it’s a lot crueler to force people to gestate– crueler for the pregnant person AND the developing fetus. Because choices that pregnant people make will affect that developing fetus, and it’s possible that the person born after such a pregnancy will have to live their whole lives with the choices made by the person who birthed them. We don’t have the ability to force pregnant people to take care of themselves, and I don’t think that’s what most Americans would want to see happen. That would put us on a very slippery slope into a dystopian nightmare culture.

I like Mama Doctor Jones because she makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen her respond very logically to people who come at her with emotional comments full of shame and judgment. See below.

I totally agree with Mama Doctor Jones that allowing abortions in “some situations” is hypocritical. If we’re going to assign personhood to developing embryos, then almost no reason for abortion should be acceptable. Allowing it in certain circumstances, but not others, is problematic if we’re calling embryos people. The embryos are “innocent”, right? But forcing women to have babies conceived in the commission of a crime seems cruel to many. I think forcing women to have babies they don’t want to have is cruel. It doesn’t matter how or why they got pregnant. If abortion is okay in one situation, it should be okay in all situations. And before anyone brings up abortions that happen later in pregnancy, let me just say that those abortions are very rare, and usually occur due to a catastrophic medical issue. I highly doubt that women, as a rule, decide to terminate a pregnancy after the first trimester unless they have a damned good reason. They certainly don’t do that for convenience.

Darynidia’s comment is especially good… Why is it that so many people who want to deny women the right to choose, also have no problem suggesting suicide to already born people?
Yes. She sums up my feelings nicely.

So… these are my thoughts on the word “abortion”. I really don’t think of it as a “dirty word”. It’s not defined as a dirty word in the dictionary or by medical professionals. Some members of the public have made it a dirty word by implying that people who seek them are careless, immoral, heartless, cruel, unChristian, slutty, or whatever else. It ain’t necessarily so. Your aunt who had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons technically did have an abortion. That procedure saved her life. Your sister who had a miscarriage technically experienced a “spontaneous abortion”. That doesn’t make her a bad person. Your high school friend who got pregnant after having unprotected sex went to a clinic to have an abortion. She’s still a decent person, worthy of respect and understanding. Maybe that procedure saved her life. Either way, it’s no one else’s business but hers.

The people behind Live Action deliberately use shaming language to push their agenda and make people feel bad for exercising self-determination. I would trust a board certified physician like Dr. Danielle Jones, OB-GYN over them anyday. I say that as someone who does not trust doctors, as a general rule. And I do not follow the word of any organization that gets into bed with so-called conservative leaders like Donald Trump and his ilk. This is a man who brags about molesting women and has probably funded and/or caused a few abortions himself. Abortion isn’t a dirty word in any sense, and people should stop attaching so much shame to it. It’s a neutral word that has been burdened with the dogmatic agenda of religious and political groups, who simply want to control women and maintain their power.

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