Workers in abortion facilities have to lie every day. After all, if they told women the truth about how they spend their days piecing together the bodies of aborted babies, and counting the tiny arms and legs, many women wouldn’t have abortions.
Abortion workers face a problem – what do they call the preborn child the abortion facility is paid to destroy?
One author who spent time observing in an abortion facility and interviewed abortion workers wrote:
[A] good deal of time was devoted to “word sensitization” – the need to choose one’s words with extraordinary care when discussing the abortion procedure with clients.… The most interesting problem was how to refer to the product of the abortion. Although it was acknowledged that many clients would refer to this as the “baby,” or the “pregnancy,” new counselors were, not surprisingly, urged not to use these charged terms, but instead to use the more neutral, though admittedly more awkward, “product of conception” or “tissue.”
An abortion doula, who comforts women as they kill their babies, uses a slightly different approach. She says:
I’ve been taught to follow the patient’s lead. If she calls it her baby, then I do too. But with the next patient, just as far along, it’s fetal tissue, it’s the products of conception. One stumbles over her words, says “all the stuff inside,” and that feels right, too.1
As long as the woman knows it’s a baby, and is still comfortable killing that baby, the abortion doula doesn’t use euphemistic language. If the woman is in denial or unaware that she is carrying a child, the doula sticks to words like “tissue.” Saying “baby” to a woman who calls her pregnancy “stuff inside” might be a little too much reality to handle.
Norma Goldberger, the director of a counseling and referral center for pregnant women called Open Door, wrote about the qualifications she sought in a “counselor”:
I confirmed that each counselor was pro-choice… I did not allow anybody to work with our clients who referred to a fetus as anything but in that neutral term [the word ‘fetus’]. I recall arguing with an applicant who couldn’t understand that the term “baby” was not neutral and a value judgment in and of itself.2
Goldberger later opened up an abortion facility.
From one author who observed the daily operation of an abortion center:
Center staff members commonly said, “the pregnancy,” “the tissue,” “the products of conception.” “Fetal tissue” was the most explicit term I heard health workers use with clients.3
Abortion facility worker Sallie Tisdale goes one step further. Not only does she avoid the word “baby,” she lies about fetal development:
[I] describe the procedure to come, using care with my language. I don’t say “pain” any more than I would say “baby.”…
It is when I am holding a plastic uterus in one hand, a suction tube in the other, moving them together in imitation of the scrubbing to come, that women ask the most secret question. I am speaking in a matter-of-fact voice about “the tissue” and “the contents” when the woman suddenly catches my eye and asks, “How big is the baby now?” These words suggest a quiet need for a definition of the boundaries being drawn. It isn’t so odd, after all, that she feels relief when I describe the growing bud’s bulbous shape, its miniature nature. Again, I gauge, and sometimes lie a little, weaseling around its infantile features until its clinging power slackens.
Linda Keener Thomas had an abortion at 20 weeks while she was in college. She remembers:
Abortion seemed to be my only choice. It would solve everything. So, I called a clinic for information and asked the lady, “Is it a baby?”
“No, honey, it’s just tissue. After all, you want to finish school, don’t you?”
I clung to that statement like a drowning person clutching a life preserver, repeating it over and over until I almost believed it. But deep in my heart I knew the truth that it was a baby, my baby.4
The word “tissue’ allowed Thomas to stay in denial, even though she knew better. Thomas’s baby was 20 weeks old. Babies a week or two older have been born premature and survived.
Whether by lying, or by using carefully selected euphemisms, abortion workers avoid telling women the truth about their babies.
- Alex Ronan “My Year As an Abortion Doula” The Cut SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
- Norma Goldberger Abortion Confidential: Secrets of an Abortion Clinic Owner (CreateSpace, November 23, 2014) Kindle Edition
- Wendy Simonds. Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996) 80
- Wendy Williams, Ann CaldwellEmpty Arms: More Than 60 Life-Giving Stories of Hope from the Devastation of Abortion (Chattanooga, Tennessee: Living Ink Books, 2005) 143
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