Phrase Focus

Filed under:Abortion,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on May 15, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

Dear Columnists, Especially on the Right:

It is not “a woman’s right to choose.” It is more properly called “a woman’s right to choose abortion.” Without abortion she still has a choice: Keep her child or give the child up for adoption, both perfectly viable if heart-rending alternatives.

I read the phrase, which is, after all, only what everybody calls it nowadays–the common cant on abortion–in a Pat Buchanan column about something else entirely and it made me realize the more we accept the phraseology of the opposition, the more we legitimize their semantic sleight-of-hand. Now you see the abortion; now you don’t, because it’s become a “right to choose.” No, it is the right to choose the abortion itself, nothing more or less.


  1. That’s a very good point.

    I’m willing to accept “pro-choice” and “pro-life” as reasonable captures of what each side intends. But the whole “A woman’s right to choose” needs to be countered with “choose what, exactly?”

    Comment by See-Dubya — May 16, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  2. It is interesting how we pick up phrases and give them legitimacy that we may not intend.

    If both sides were honest, the positions would be framed as “for abortion” and “against abortion.” Interesting how neither side would go with this phrasing.

    Both sides try to distance themselves from the actual thing. “Pro-choice” softens the whole issue by suggesting that a woman may choose not to have an abortion, therefore including all women, both for, against and uncertain. “Pro-life” sounds like they’ll find a good family for the unwanted child and make sure the child and family get to go to Disney World every year.

    Which brings me completely off topic: Why is it so many celebrities are going to developing (and not so developing) countries to adopt kids when we’ve got plenty of adoptable kids here who would love to be a part of the celebrity’s family? The Malawi baby must be the newest Hollywood accessory, whereas poor Joe from impoverished Williamsburg County, S.C. has nothing exotic about him except his lack of everything.

    Comment by Anne — May 16, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

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