Opinion Pieces


Abortion and Verbal Clarity April 16, 2018 by Richard Nelson

Kentucky's latest abortion regulation was barely a day old before the ACLU claimed it was unconstitutional and filed suit to have it struck down. HB 454, signed into law by Gov. Bevin on April 11, banned abortions after 11-weeks and criminalized "dismemberment" abortions—the term used in the actual bill but avoided by abortion advocates.

ACLU Deputy Director of the Reproductive Freedom Project Talcott Camp said “We’re suing Kentucky yet again — this time to stop state politicians from banning a safe abortion method. This law disregards a woman’s health and decisions in favor of a narrow ideological agenda."

Considered from that vantage point, Talbot seems reasonable. Who would sacrifice women's health over an "ideological agenda?"

Proponents of unrestricted abortion argue that such laws take away womens' rights, impinge on their freedom and impose an onerous burden at one of the most difficult times in their lives. Why should some Frankfort politician tell a woman what to do with her own body? That's what the ACLU is going to argue in court.

But is the 11-week abortion ban a burdensome imposition? Is it really a narrow ideological agenda when a bipartisan vote of 75 members of the House and 31 members of the Senate vote in favor?

The bill passed because HB 454 described just how much an 11-week old preborn baby looks like a person. It also used troubling terms detailing the abortion technique used to end that life.

Nixing the law requires denial of what's going on behind closed doors and takes all kinds of apologists. Science deniers are needed to explain away the biological being in utero. Historical revisionists must contort the Constitution to come up with the idea that abortion is was what the Founders had in mind when they mentioned "due process" "liberty," and the "pursuit of happiness." And Wordsmiths must be employed to decry repulsive descriptions and in their place insert palatable language to shelter our senses.

Terms like "product of conception," and "contents of uterus"—replace the word "baby." Words like "crushing" and "dismembering" are called inflammatory. And the wishes and desires of the expecting mother are exclusively emphasized at the expense of all other interests. It is on the battleground of terminology and psychology that the law's fate hinges.

When abortion apologists mash language into putty—malleable and rootless, used not to convey facts and truth but rather as a pragmatic tool used as political justification, we open the door to dehumanization of some members of the human family. According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services there were 537 dismemberment abortions in Kentucky in 2016.

Orwell reminds us that “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

Such psychological and verbal ink conjured by crafty attorneys is the confusion that makes overturning life-affirming laws possible. So do arguments centering exclusively on one person as if there are no others involved, including the man who helped create the new life and the new life itself.

The law's survival depends upon whether judges will fully consider what's going on behind the curtain. Lexington neonatologist Dr. Lynda Sanders testified to the legislative committee in early March that it was “exceptionally cruel” to dismember a fetus. She said “those unborn babies are Kentucky citizens as much as you and I are.”



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