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Language in the Pro-Life Fight
Language in the Pro-Life Fight

by | May 2, 2023 | Guest

The pro-life movement is in a very different situation than it was a year ago. On June 24th, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade, the 1973 decision that manufactured a “constitutional right” to abortion. By chance, the decision was released during Right to Life’s annual convention that year, which I had the privilege to attend, and had a front row seat to the pro-life movement’s reaction to this momentous event.­

            There were two feelings that stood out among the activists at the convention. The first was a sense of accomplishment. Many people at the convention had dedicated a large portion of their lives to fighting for the sanctity of life and a massive milestone in that fight had finally been achieved. The second feeling was a sense of renewed determination. There was a universal recognition that this was not the end of the fight, but rather the beginning of a new stage of the fight. For many states, the overturn of Roe meant that they could pass laws to protect life in the womb. However, for many other states including New York, not much would change. But at the national level, everything had changed. The overturn of Roe made the nation’s abortion policy an open question, and it is now more important than ever that pro-lifers make their voices heard at the political level as well as the individual level across society.

            The primary battleground of the new pro-life fight is language. So much of this fight relies on public opinion, and nothing is more influential on public opinion than the words we use. This can be seen at the most basic level of the argument: the names the two sides use for themselves. Pro-life and pro-choice. Accurate words convey the truth while inaccurate ones warp the truth. These two small words, life and choice, are fundamental to this debate. But which one of them is a more accurate characterization of the side they represent? To answer this question, we will need to examine both sides and the policies that they put forward. The pro-life movement values life from conception until natural death, while the pro-choice movement puts the comfort and choice of a mother against the life and choice of her unborn child.  

            Planned Parenthood, the primary mechanism behind the pro-choice movement, presents itself as supporting reproductive “choice.” But if you know anything about the roots of Planned Parenthood, you know that this could not be further from the truth. The group’s founder, Margaret Sanger, did support choice when it comes to reproduction. But not choice by the individual. Instead, she supported policies of forced sterilization in order to prevent what she called “undesirables” from reproducing. She did not want each individual woman to be able to choose, she wanted eugenicists to make decisions for women. The people she considered “undesirable” included the physically disabled, those with mental issues, and non-white races. If there is any doubt that Planned Parenthood is still motivated by this same agenda, all one must do is look at rates of abortion by race. According to 2019 data provided by the CDC1, black women accounted for thirty-eight percent of abortions nationwide, while only thirteen percent of the population is black. Planned Parenthood clearly remains motivated by a racial agenda.

            The pro-life movement is often attacked as no longer caring about mothers and their children once those children are born. But this simply isn’t true. These attacks distort and flat out deny the truth, just as the pro-choice label does. Pregnancy centers across the nation provide love and care to babies and their mothers long after birth. They provide things like baby clothes, diapers, car seats, and mental health support for the mother for as long as help is needed. Meanwhile, these same pregnancy centers face threats of violence and, in all too many cases, cold-blooded attacks while they are trying to do so.

Another argument used by the pro-abortion movement that is rhetorically powerful but factually dishonest is the claim that abortion bans would criminalize miscarriages. This is a flat out lie. It is at best totally ignorant and at worst maliciously deceptive. This argument relies on a confusing use of language. Medical practitioners draw a clear distinction between an induced abortion and a spontaneous abortion. An induced abortion is what we generally think of as an abortion and is the intentional ending of a human life in the womb. A miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion, which is defined by the NIH2 as “The loss of pregnancy naturally before twenty weeks of gestation.” Spontaneous abortion does not fall under the legal definition of abortion which is, according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute3, “The voluntary termination of a pregnancy.”

            The pro-life movement has scored a major victory in the last year, but the fight for life is far from over. While many states have restricted abortion, many more states have promoted abortion to a larger extent than ever before. The pro-life movement gains support by accurately representing their ideas, while the pro-choice movement gains support by hiding their ideas behind nice-sounding words that are hard to disagree with but don’t accurately reflect the motivations of the movement. As we continue to fight for life legislatively as well as at the individual level, be confident, knowing that the pro-life movement has the most effective weapon on their side: the truth.

Josh Zampella


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7009a1.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560521/
  3. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/abortion


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