Abortion center workers often avoid using the word “baby” at all cost when talking to abortion patients. Yet even though they try to hide the baby’s humanity, many women come to realize, sometimes years later, that their abortions killed their babies.
Norma Goldberger was director of Open Door, a counseling and referral center for women seeking abortions. When hiring, she carefully selected staff members who would be “pro-choice.”
One thing they had to understand was that they were not to use the word “baby” under any circumstances.
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.
It was easier for a woman to have an abortion if her baby was dehumanized.
Norma Goldberger went on to own and run her own abortion center where, presumably, women were never told they were carrying a “baby.”
Reluctance to use the word “baby” in the abortion business is widespread. At a convention of abortion providers, one of the speakers, a nurse at an abortion facility, said:
These may seem very, very insignificant to us, but to the patient it can really imply that you are using a judgment, and quite often we are not aware of what we are saying. We have to be very, very sensitive, and very, very aware of what words we’re using to describe the procedures used. Use the word “fetus”; This is a fetus; this is not a “baby.”
Again we see clinic workers saying that using the word “baby” is judgmental. In fact saying “baby” might make a woman think twice about her decision.
In Carole Joffe’s ethnographic work at an abortion clinic that performed first-trimester abortions, she found out, “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 “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, ‘products of conception’ or ‘tissue.’
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.
Saying “fetus” or “tissue” instead of “baby” insulates a woman from the fact that she is killing her child. In a sense, it “protects” the woman from the truth. But how long does this “protection” last?
Not too long, according to this social worker from Portland, Oregon, who works at a counseling and referral center:
Most women when they have an abortion don’t really know what they are doing – they are either so young, so ignorant, or so frightened… Down the line, 5, 6, or 7 years when they have children, some kind of trauma almost always comes up… And down the line, most women do think of the aborted fetus as a living being, as a baby.
What was your opinion about the nature of the fetus before your abortion?
No answer (4%)
What is your opinion about the nature of the fetus after your abortion?
No answer (3%)
As you can see, as time went on, nearly all of the women came to realize they had aborted a baby. Denial, even when aided and abetted by clinic workers, doesn’t last forever.
There is no doubt that many of these women suffered emotionally when they came to believe they’d killed their babies. Surely, sugar coating abortion by avoiding the word “baby” doesn’t help women in the long run. But if clinic workers referred to the fetus as a “baby” how many women would have abortions? Some no doubt would still abort, but using such honest language would most likely make some think twice. No matter what these clinic workers say about “judgement” and “neutrality,” the truth is that abortion clinics do not make money on women who choose to have their babies. There is great financial incentive to have women go through with their abortions, and one wonders if that is the real reason the word “baby” is never used in abortion clinics.
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