Words Make a Difference in the Abortion Debate
Julius Caesar reportedly said, “Language is a powerful weapon, and in the hands of a skilled person, it can be used to manipulate others.”
British writer George Orwell, in his famous novel 1984, describes how the authorities used language to manipulate the population. He called this process “newspeak.” For example, “Joy camp” replaces the word “labor camp.” “[Department] of peace” replaces “[Department] of War.” The government agency that keeps the truth from people was called “the [Department] of Truth.” Government mottos were War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.
We might think that this kind of language-twisting grammatical gymnastics is true only in dystopian novels, but it’s far more common in our society than we might like to admit. Some of the language common in the abortion debate is used to manipulate beliefs and behaviors.
We are observing Sanctity of Life Sunday today. Every year about this time I speak on the issue of abortion. Back in 1973, the SCOTUS issued a decision in the infamous Roe vs. Wade case that made abortion legal in all 50 states. Every year on the anniversary of that ruling, we celebrate the sanctity of human life in response to the culture of death.
Today I’d like to consider the language used by the two sides of the debate. And the language we use is very important. Language reflects beliefs. Either you believe that a baby in the womb is a valuable human being or you don’t. Human life is sacred or it’s not. There not much middle ground on this topic.
People on one side of the debate use language that upholds the idea that the pre-born baby is a real human being, made in the image of God, and having basic human rights. People of the other side of the debate use language demonstrating that they believe that a pre-born baby has no rights and no value. That’s what they believe, and the language they use reflects their attitude.
Let’s consider how the two sides of the debate use language.