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Nat Hentoff: Abortion and the English language
Jewish World Review ^ | 12/5/06 | Nat Hentoff

Posted on 12/05/2006 1:32:50 PM PST by Caleb1411

Thanks to C-SPAN, a vital public service, I was able to see and hear on Nov. 8 the two hours of oral arguments at the Supreme Court on one of the most persistently passionate controversies in the nation — partial-birth abortion; or, as its medical practitioners call it, intact dilation and extraction.

What fascinated me throughout the debate — and the reactions of the justices — was, as George Orwell put it, the way language can be, and is so often used, "as an instrument which we shape for our own purposes." Only rarely did any participant speak plainly about the procedure.

In his essay "Politics and the English Language," Orwell said, "What is above all needed (in honest speaking) is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about."

During the two hours, I often heard references to "fetal demise." What they were actually talking about, some of us would say, is the killing of a human being.

That plain intent of abortion slipped in briefly when Solicitor General Paul Clement, speaking for the government, said the important issue is whether this form of abortion "is to be performed in utero or when the child is halfway outside the womb."(A child? Where?)

Justice John Paul Stevens quickly interrupted: "Whether the FETUS is more than halfway out," he corrected the solicitor general.

"Some of the fetuses, I understand in the procedure," Justice Stevens added, "are only 4 or 5 inches long. They're very different from fully formed babies."

Babies had again crawled into the discussion — but not for long. The abortion procedure at issue is D&X, intact dilation and extraction, which removes babies from existence. Years ago, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was for abortion rights, nonetheless called this D&X procedure, "only minutes

(Excerpt) Read more at jewishworldreview.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: abortion; prolife; scotus
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1 posted on 12/05/2006 1:32:55 PM PST by Caleb1411
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To: rhema; MHGinTN; cpforlife.org; Salvation
George Orwell said of the language of "orthodoxy" that it "seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style." That was what I heard nearly all the two hours of "orthodox" oral argument at the Supreme Court on whether banning D&X would be unconstitutional.

Whatever the decision, doctors will still be able to dismember the baby. Yes, the baby.

2 posted on 12/05/2006 1:35:07 PM PST by Caleb1411 ("These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G. K. C)
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To: Caleb1411
"How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!"
--Samuel Adams (1722-1803), letter to John Pitts, January 21, 1776
3 posted on 12/05/2006 1:35:54 PM PST by 2banana (My common ground with terrorists - they want to die for islam and we want to kill them)
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To: Caleb1411

Justice John Paul Stevens quickly interrupted: "Whether the FETUS is more than halfway out," he corrected the solicitor general.
"Some of the fetuses, I understand in the procedure," Justice Stevens added, "are only 4 or 5 inches long. They're very different from fully formed babies."

It would have been funny, if right there, the Solicitor General had said, "With all due respect, your honor, with that statement alone, it's quite clear where you stand on the issue."


4 posted on 12/05/2006 1:39:00 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: Caleb1411
In his essay "Politics and the English Language," Orwell said, "What is above all needed (in honest speaking) is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about."

I find my conservatism is rooted in this concept, more than anything else. I am a conservative about the meaning of words. Time and time again, liberals on other forums have decried me as some kind of Neanderthal for taking such a view. I'm just not sophisticated enough, you see, to understand all the nuances of meaning.

Horsecrap. I've been around long enough to have witnessed the destruction of clear meaning by individuals, corporations and government time and time again, in their efforts to circumvent the consequences of the dictionary meaning of words. If words can be slotted to whatever meaning is useful, then laws, contracts and the Constitution have no meaning other than what a robed priesthood deems them to have. Which is why the battles over the Supreme Court have become so vicious - because, with the acceptance of the infinite elasticity of meaning, SCOTUS becomes the final arbiter of all things in our society.

5 posted on 12/05/2006 1:40:56 PM PST by dirtboy (Objects in tagline are closer than they appear)
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To: threeleftsmakearight

bttt


6 posted on 12/05/2006 1:42:30 PM PST by BenLurkin ("The entire remedy is with the people." - W. H. Harrison)
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To: BenLurkin

I'm sorry, what is "btt"?


7 posted on 12/05/2006 1:44:20 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: threeleftsmakearight
Certainly during his confirmation hearings he bent backwards to give the impression that he was impartial on the matter and coming to the bench free from prejudice one way or the other on abortion.

Who could have guessed he would have gone this way? / sarc

8 posted on 12/05/2006 1:44:33 PM PST by Jason_b
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To: threeleftsmakearight
Back
To
The
Top
9 posted on 12/05/2006 1:47:22 PM PST by BenLurkin ("The entire remedy is with the people." - W. H. Harrison)
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To: Jason_b

Or, he has "grown".


10 posted on 12/05/2006 1:47:33 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: BenLurkin

Okay, now I'm really confused. What does that even mean?
Sorry for my ignorance.


11 posted on 12/05/2006 1:49:02 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: BenLurkin

Okay, now I'm really confused. What does that even mean?
Sorry for my ignorance.


12 posted on 12/05/2006 1:49:14 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: BenLurkin

Okay, now I'm really confused. What does that even mean?
Sorry for my ignorance.


13 posted on 12/05/2006 1:49:15 PM PST by threeleftsmakearight
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To: threeleftsmakearight

I'm sorry, did you "say" something?


14 posted on 12/05/2006 1:52:51 PM PST by rabidralph (The pajama-wetters are at it again.)
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To: dirtboy
I'm picky about the meaning of words also. From conception to week 8 it's called an embryo. From week 9 until birth it's called a fetus. From birth until age 2 it's a baby (a bit longer for liberals) Just use the scientific terms that we all understand and don't cloud the issues.
15 posted on 12/05/2006 1:58:08 PM PST by Raymann
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To: Raymann

For simplictiy the term used should be 'human.'

Everyone understands what a human is, and there is no question that an embryo/fetus/baby is a human. It's a scientific certainty.


16 posted on 12/05/2006 2:05:45 PM PST by Deut28 (Cursed be he who perverts the justice)
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To: Deut28; Raymann
The terms embryo and fetus have been altered to where they are something less than human, and therefore disposable without twinges to the conscience. Just as Hitler deemed Jews and Slavs as subhuman and therefore worthy of extermination.

And that is one reason Hentoff (and I) are pro-life. To not fight dehumanization and murder of a fetus is to not fight dehumanization and murder of all humans.

17 posted on 12/05/2006 2:12:07 PM PST by dirtboy (Objects in tagline are closer than they appear)
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To: threeleftsmakearight

Bttt means you are posting to a thread to get it back into the latest posts display.


18 posted on 12/05/2006 2:12:42 PM PST by dirtboy (Objects in tagline are closer than they appear)
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To: dirtboy
Define the meaning of the words and you define the argument.

Define the argument and you have won the argument.

19 posted on 12/05/2006 2:16:35 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Those who call their fellow citizens Sheeple are just ticked they were not chosen as Shepherds)
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To: Raymann

I'm picky about the meaning of words also. From conception to week 8 it's called an embryo. From week 9 until birth it's called a fetus. From birth until age 2 it's a baby (a bit longer for liberals) Just use the scientific terms that we all understand and don't cloud the issues.

In normal discourse we stick with english. Fetus is latin for baby.


20 posted on 12/05/2006 2:17:07 PM PST by freedomfiter2
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To: Raymann

I don't care what stage of development it's in, it's a baby human being.


21 posted on 12/05/2006 2:17:47 PM PST by Evie Munchkin (Democrats - party of death)
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To: dirtboy; threeleftsmakearight

Exactly.

Thanks!


22 posted on 12/05/2006 2:19:39 PM PST by BenLurkin ("The entire remedy is with the people." - W. H. Harrison)
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To: Deut28

True but it's not that useful as quantitative words when talking about human development. There is no difference between using embryo and fetus then using baby, child, teen, and adult. All human, different stages.

Say we were talking about drinking or smoking laws. Would you point to a kid and say "That human should not be allowed to smoke". No, if you provide the age you'd be factually correct but there are much better terms to use that would more clearly state your case and be easier to understand.


23 posted on 12/05/2006 2:19:52 PM PST by Raymann
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To: Evie Munchkin

See post #23


24 posted on 12/05/2006 2:20:23 PM PST by Raymann
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To: Caleb1411
George Orwell said of the language of "orthodoxy" that it "seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style."

Very interesting.

25 posted on 12/05/2006 2:47:07 PM PST by Giant Conservative
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To: Raymann
Justice John Paul Stevens quickly interrupted: "Whether the FETUS is more than halfway out," he corrected the solicitor general.

From week 9 until birth it's called a fetus. From birth until age 2 it's a baby

So what do you call it when it's halfway out...a human being or a disposable lump of tissue?... it that border an your position relative to it what defines who is an is not human being, Legally? Scientifically? Morally?

26 posted on 12/05/2006 3:01:13 PM PST by tophat9000 (Al-Qaidacrats =A new political party combining the anti American left and the anti Semite right)
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To: freedomfiter2
Latin fetus (or foetus) was rarely used of human offspring, more commonly of the offspring of animals (or birds) or the fruit of plants.
27 posted on 12/05/2006 3:04:06 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: Raymann
There is no difference between using embryo and fetus then using baby, child, teen, and adult. All human, different stages. Except that an alarming number of 'intellectuals' now use 'embryo' and 'fetus' as a means to dehumanize those these elitists seek to exploit for body parts. I've had recent exchanges with just such an 'intellectual' snob on this forum, a person so akin to jello in his posting techniques as to be amusing. But he believes himself to be so superior to we simple Freepers that his posts drip with condescension.
28 posted on 12/05/2006 3:10:40 PM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: Caleb1411
"Some of the fetuses, I understand in the procedure," Justice Stevens added, "are only 4 or 5 inches long. They're very different from fully formed babies." Odd how a dead soul needs to keep silencing his conscience in order to remain annoyingly dead. This subpreme court judge is the consummate dead soul liberal, ever attending to the language he will allow others to use so as to control the discussion, limiting it to only those positions he has in god-like power settled for the rest of us. Stevens is a disgusting elitist thing ... almost as mutagenistic to the Constitution as Breyer and Ginsberg.
29 posted on 12/05/2006 3:16:37 PM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: Caleb1411

Once upon a time the Supreme Court also decided that slaves weren't really "human." That made it OK to kill and dismember them too. The arguments are scarily parallel.

Is the fetus animal, vegetable, or mineral? If animal, the number of chromosomes will tell you what species, 23 pair would lead a reasonable person to conclude it's human.


30 posted on 12/05/2006 3:20:08 PM PST by E.Allen
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To: E.Allen

Liberals would not hesitate to define the alive unborn as human. Their entire agenda is to promote the legal slauughter of these alive humans as a special right to certain females, while continuing to obfuscate the truth that they are extending special right to execute fellow human beings. These same ghouls will decry executing a heinous criminal, claiming it lessens our civilization to execute criminals. That these ghouls care not a whit for the aliveness of the unborn babies must never be spoken of ... kind of like the Wizard who must not be named in the Harry Potter books.


31 posted on 12/05/2006 3:27:32 PM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: threeleftsmakearight
what is "btt"?

http://www.netlingo.com/lookup.cfm?term=BTTT

32 posted on 12/05/2006 3:30:23 PM PST by TChad
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To: Caleb1411
"Some of the fetuses, I understand in the procedure," Justice Stevens[a fully developed old human] added, "are only 4 or 5 inches long. They're very different from fully formed babies."

Bravo Justice Stevens! And I might add that you are 'very different' than a 14-year old male human! You speak about the unborn just like a person who has already been born!

Perhaps we should debate the 'fully formed' definition and allow that to set the parameters of allowable abortion; or in your case, an argument for 'retro-active abortion' for the 'overly' formed person, or a person who is no longer useful to society beyond eating and sleeping and listening to the sound of their own voice?

Justice Stevens could find himself as the perfect 'poster child' for euthanasia of the 'overly formed' old baby(s)...let's see, why don't you, Stevens, be the first in line. Go ahead! Step up old man!

Justice Stevens, you are worth much, much less to our human society and the future of mankind than any 7 or 8 month old on it's way into the world! What a worthless egotistical piece of old crap!

33 posted on 12/05/2006 3:43:07 PM PST by Van Jenerette (U.S.Army 1967-1991 Infantry OCS, Hall of Fame, Ft. Benning Ga.)
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To: Van Jenerette

Being a woman and a mother of 3. I remember their life began in the womb. Anything else is bull. Just be a pregnant woman, you know, and if you don't you are deluding yourself!


34 posted on 12/05/2006 3:48:55 PM PST by dforest
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To: Raymann
Just use the scientific terms that we all understand and don't cloud the issues.

The issue under debate however, is broader than science. I am a scientist, but I have no problem with common terminology. Most pregnant women, upon becoming aware of their pregnancy, refer to it thereafter as their "baby".

35 posted on 12/05/2006 4:15:54 PM PST by right-wingin_It
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To: Raymann

And every moment since it became a zygote, whatever the word we choose to define it, it has been a living human entity, unceasingly exhibiting the defining characteristics of a living organism, namely spontaneous, self-directed change and growth.


36 posted on 12/05/2006 4:35:31 PM PST by Elsiejay
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To: MHGinTN
Look, I don't like Stevens anymore then you but when two opposing sides in a Supreme Court Case<,I> are using different terminology to refer to the same subject, it's the responsibility of the judge to make them use the same words.
37 posted on 12/05/2006 4:47:48 PM PST by Raymann
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To: Elsiejay

"spontaneous, self-directed change"

Not sure if that goes together. :)


38 posted on 12/05/2006 4:49:20 PM PST by Raymann
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To: right-wingin_It
I'm not arguing the abortion debate, we're not going to change each other's minds. All I'm saying, is that in a courtroom, you be precise in your language. The Supreme Court isn't Rush or Air America, it's about the law and the Constitution. The Founder's didn't mince words and we shouldn't either. If you're concerned that words like "fetus" and "embryo" demean human life...well just don't ever apply to med school. In any event there is a reason they're aren't any cameras in the court, it isn't a place for popular opinion or theatrics, it's supposed to be a place of serious discussion and for that you need to be precise in your language. Period.
39 posted on 12/05/2006 4:56:25 PM PST by Raymann
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To: Caleb1411

Funny. Black's Law Dictionary says that "child" means, progeny, offspring. Unborn or recently born human being. What a pathetic old bastard Stevens is. He corrupts the language and the law.


40 posted on 12/05/2006 4:58:37 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: freedomfiter2

We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. --James D. Nicoll


41 posted on 12/05/2006 5:01:18 PM PST by Raymann
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To: threeleftsmakearight

He has grown old, and old people are inclined to tell us what they really believe.


42 posted on 12/05/2006 5:03:14 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: threeleftsmakearight
I'm sorry, what is "btt"?

It's hard to say these days. I think it means Bump To The Top, others think it means Back To The Top, but I don't think we will ever know, until the Supreme Court renders a decision.

43 posted on 12/05/2006 5:10:15 PM PST by webheart
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To: freedomfiter2

So what is the difference between an embryo and a fetus? The old Thorndike-Barnhart dictionary said that an embryo was an undeveloped animal before its organs had developed enough to allow it to live independently. In the case of human beings, that would be about 26 weeks or, since the definition is vague, till birth. Fetus is defined as the animal embryo in its last stages of development. Obviously the abortion debate has led judges to impose own meanings which have little to do with science.


44 posted on 12/05/2006 5:11:12 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: indylindy
I remember their life began in the womb...Just be a pregnant woman, you know, and if you don't you are deluding yourself!

How true...

45 posted on 12/05/2006 5:12:55 PM PST by Van Jenerette (U.S.Army 1967-1991 Infantry OCS, Hall of Fame, Ft. Benning Ga.)
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To: Van Jenerette

I knew every time. I could feel them move really early. And now they are smart, grown up, great guys!

Merry Christmas!


46 posted on 12/05/2006 5:47:53 PM PST by dforest
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
"Define the meaning of the words and you define the argument. Define the argument and you have won the argument."

I like words too,language, and thought especially. I suppose most everyone at a forum like FR do as well. But back to your point - you'll hear pundits and commentators say something like "Oh, those darn liberals won't win in any sort of honest debate, because the facts are against them, etc.,"

Well, they're right, but that's beside the point.

Leftists (calling them "Liberal" is, or should be, insulting to everyone) have no interest in facts precisely because in any sort of honest debate, they are quite aware they will lose. Facts are an impediment, so the first mistake is thinking that participants in a given debate are looking for the truth, and the unstated but implied agreement that once the facts are laid bare, somehow, a mutually agreeable conclusion will be found.

The problem is, leftists are quite aware of where the facts lead, so therefore all energies are directed elsewhere, anywhere, to either fabricate "facts" which support their assertion, coupled with and most especially to ignore or stifle honest debate. That's the real tragedy of what's happend to the Democratic party. Everytime I turn around, something else gets foisted upon the American people, with nary a vote by anyone. Once in a while a clinker will get through on a referendum, but rest assured an unaccountable judge will tamp down any semblence of real democracy should it become necessary.

Given that hard-core leftists largely control major swaths of academia, the media, the judiciary &c &c, this puts the vast majority of Americans at an intellectual disadvantage - even though they *are* the majority, it doesn't appear that way - and in this way pop culture molds perceptions and opinions.

The trick is to maintain the fiction that debate is wanted or necessary to obtain "consensus" or give the illusion of public input and desires, simultaneously suggesting that the majority beliefs and traditions are extremist, exclusionary, racist, etc., etc.; I talk to a number of longtime democrats, who are in aggregate quite conservative, though they would balk at this suggestion, not only because they have been conditioned to believe otherwise, but because oftentimes their attention span is such that even if I could explain certain concepts - they are still fundamentally unable to think outside themselves, for themselves, ironically because they only think about themselves, much less think critically - they live in a "soft cage" of, get this - bloody *words*.
47 posted on 12/05/2006 5:48:02 PM PST by Freedom4US (u)
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To: Raymann
All I'm saying, is that in a courtroom, you be precise in your language...

A child/fetus in the womb can be precisely a child, or precisely a fetus to two different persons. There are no court rules that discussion must be limited to scientific terminology alone.

Not at all. I use those terms often--AS A SCIENTIST. But that doesn't mean a pregnant woman can't use the word "baby" to describe what's in her own womb--AS A MOTHER. Both terms are true, in their unique context. A party to the suit can call it whatever they want.

48 posted on 12/05/2006 5:49:35 PM PST by right-wingin_It
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To: Caleb1411

I watched it as well Nat and my reaction was the same as yours. Sad and amusing at the same time. A through the looking glass SCOTUS moment.


49 posted on 12/05/2006 5:50:36 PM PST by jwalsh07
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To: Raymann
All I'm saying, is that in a courtroom, you be precise in your language...

A child/fetus in the womb can be precisely a child, or precisely a fetus to two different persons. There are no court rules that discussion must be limited to scientific terminology alone.

If you're concerned that words like "fetus" and "embryo" demean human life...well just don't ever apply to med school...

Not at all. I use those terms often--AS A SCIENTIST. But that doesn't mean a pregnant woman can't use the word "baby" to describe what's in her own womb--AS A MOTHER. Both terms are true, in their unique context. A party to the suit can call it whatever they want.

50 posted on 12/05/2006 5:51:01 PM PST by right-wingin_It
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