Abortion facility workers: We were trained never to use the word ‘baby’

Pro-choice author Carole Joffe interviewed abortion facility workers from several different clinics for her book The Regulation of Sexuality: Experiences of Family-Planning Workers.

One of the things Joffe wrote about was the training new staffers went through to prepare them for working with vulnerable women.  The training emphasized what kind of language workers should use with women considering abortion. Employees were trained to avoid using language that affirmed the humanity of the preborn.

… 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.”

Clinic workers were, instead, instructed to use dehumanizing terms when referring to the babies about to be aborted.  This use of euphemisms allowed them to obscure the truth and hide the baby’s humanity.

Even in the first trimester, a preborn baby has a heartbeat and brainwaves. By seven to eight weeks, he or she has a human form with arms, legs, fingers and toes. Life, of course, begins weeks earlier, at the moment of conception, just like it says in these 41 medical textbooks and quotes from medical experts. The abortion procedure doesn’t remove “tissue”— unless you take the view that human beings outside the womb are made of “tissue,” as well.

To see what really happens in a first trimester abortion, watch this video of former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levantino explaining the most prevalent abortion procedure in the United States:


It is not surprising that facility workers don’t  want to refer to the children they abort as “babies.” Few people would like to admit that their job helps to kill children. Words like “tissue” allow the workers to distance themselves from what they are doing. It is a way for them to lie to themselves. They try to convince themselves that they aren’t involved in outright murder.

In addition to its effect on the abortion worker, the use of dehumanizing terms, such as “tissue” and “products of conception,” make it emotionally easier for women to have abortions. The woman is assured that the being living inside her womb is not a baby,  just “tissue.” The thought of removing some tissue from the uterus is so much easier for most women than thinking of destroying a living human being.

The women are deceived into thinking abortion is a benign procedure— just the removal of unimportant “products of conception”— not a life-altering act that kills their own children. Women are convinced to abort their babies, abortion workers are allowed to hang on to their denial, and abortion facilities make more money.

There are many other accounts of abortion workers avoiding the word “baby,” and giving biased, misleading “counseling.”  In Wendy Simonds’ book Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic,  Simonds words echo Joffe’s:

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.

Former clinic workers have also said that they avoided the word “baby” at all costs. For example, former clinic worker Deborah Henry said the following in a speech to pro-lifers: 

We were told that in explaining to them that we could never use the word “babies.” It was always tissues, tissues of cells or clusters of cells or products of conception. We would then start the procedure.

The abortion industry, indeed, which legalized abortion itself, survives on euphemisms and lies. The worst enemy of pro-choice activists and abortion providers is the truth. When we strip away the euphemisms, we see that the real outcome of every abortion is the death of one human being and the wounding of another.

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