Since I’m currently pursuing a degree in linguistics, I’ve been waiting impatiently for a reason to blog about language and the Interim‘s topics of choice – no pun intended. An article I stumbled on via Twitter has given me what I’m looking for.

It talks about how long women can safely “wait” to have kids, and attracted the attention of a fellow pro-lifer for the use of the words “accidental pregnancy.” She asked, “Is pregnancy not a part of what sex was designed for?” Ergo, there is really no such thing as an “accident.” One of the doctors quoted in the piece also called such conceptions an “oops.” I can imagine how crushed and devalued a child will feel if she discovers someone talking about her existence that way.

Another blunder the article overlooked is the description of a majority of fetuses carried by older mothers as “normal.” The Atlantic simply should have known better. The word “normal” in that context is highly offensive and deserves the same reaction as Bill Maher’s supposedly unintended insult of Sarah Palin’s little boy.

There are other terms used every day, even by well-meaning pro-life people, that may need to be reexamined. The term “unplanned pregnancy” is starting to produce as much revulsion in me as the use of “oops.” Why is that? Could it be connected to my inner control freak, who wants to plan the minutest details of my day, and whom I’ve had to tame for most of my life? Mostly, it stems from the implication that a child ruined her parent’s plans by choosing to come into existence at an “inconvenient” time. She had no control over the matter. To suggest otherwise and hint that any blame rests with her is absolutely awful. I much prefer to substitute “unexpected.” Things we don’t expect – good, bad, or neutral – happen to us all the time. 

In my opinion, the popular expression “fertilized egg” should also make any defender of science stop in his tracks. I hope that would include all pro-life people. Like the “accidental” pregnancy, “fertilized eggs” technically do not exist. When a sperm cell meets an egg cell, they unite and become something completely different: a human embryo. The child is not an egg with extra ingredients. She is a genetically distinct being whose body controls almost everything she needs to develop. The mother is the only one who can give food and shelter to the child in the womb, but those are reasonable and otherwise typical ways parents care for their offspring.

Pro-lifers should already know how careful we have to be with the language we use. Almost everyone is aware of media misinterpreting our messages, or abortion advocates skewing words when we attempt to dialogue. The last two expressions I’ve highlighted may not have to be dismissed completely, though the inexcusable first pair has no place in conversation. I hope readers have a chance to reflect on language as it relates to life issues. Perhaps there are better ways to express ourselves that can eliminate the misunderstandings and distortions of which we are so tired.