Skip to comments.Nat Hentoff: Abortion and the English language
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
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In this case the SCOTUS was neither, it was a bad joke. The Constitution is silent on the method of ripping unborn babies from limb to limb. On the other hand it is quite loud in procaliming a right to life in the 5th and 14th Amendments as well as in the DOI.
Not to change the subject, and apologies in advance, but when did they start allowing cameras into USSC arguments? Is this something CJ Roberts allowed? I can't believe I missed this - I've been hoping they'd do this for years.
Back to the topic, kind of: I hadn't realized Hentoff was a pro-lifer. Good news - I've always thought he was a great thinker, though I disagree with him on some things. I'd assumed abortion was one of those things.
I assumed that only oral arguments were allowed to be taped and broadcast, at least one justice, when asked when cameras would be allowed, replied "Over my dead body".
In practice, I think cameras in courtrooms are an abomination. In Britain, most (all?) trials have a gag order of some kind or manner, so they don't get such public spectacles like the OJ trial and similar evidence of a society in ruin.
It is a concept not easily encompassed by our minds and abilities to define. The process, life-long in its duration and controlled in step by step fashion by the individual organism's own personal genetic code, I am able to conceptualize only as self-initiating and self-directing. No outside agency is operative after the initial act of fertilization.
I've always found that concluding "Period" especially persuasive.
And the sickest part is that an actual Mother will so attest that the child/fetus living inside her should be killed.
At what moment, exactly, does the state of the entity in question morph from non-human, non-person, non-child, to human, person, child? Until they can demonstrate that, our laws are not reflecting the natural and rational default position - that the entity is as much a person-substance at one cell as it is at one trillion cells.
Does that make sense? Anyone?
Don't hide behind the term, "pro-life". I'm proud to call myself "anti-abortion". I don't let my opponents hide behind the term, "pro-choice". They are pro-abortion, pure and simple. Even if they spout the crap about, "Well, I wouldn't have an abortion, but I won't tell someone else what to do." I counter with, "Did your great-great-grandfather have a bumper sticker on his buckboard that said, "Don't like slavery? Then don't own one!"
Nat Hentoff : pretty smart for an old liberal.
Of course, the media play an enormous role in influencing usage . . .
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
Excellent quote. My point wasn't that we should speak only pure english, but that adding "fetus" to our vocabulary wasn't done to improve understanding but rather to obscure it.
Nat Hentoff is an important ally to the pro-life movement. Whereas many liberals like to scoff at pro-lifers, calling us religious zealots, Hentoff is an admitted atheist, so his objections can't be dismissed so easily. His is truly a voice in the liberal wilderness!
--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. XII.
If English ever has to return all the words it has "borrowed" from other languages, we're going to be in a heap of trouble.
No, like I said it was done to quantify it. Under your logic we shouldn't be using words like "kid", "child" "teen", "adult" either.
If only our political opponents were as smart.
Too much sense for the liberal dementia of the subpremes Stephens, Ginsberg, & Breyer. They have an agenda to uphold and prefer to ignore truth or the inalienable right to not be murdered while sequestered in the womb or a petri dish.
I thought fetus was just latin for unborn child, as in fetus adoleo, unborn child sacrifice.
Well history has changed the definition, it happens.
Please FreepMail me if you want on or off my Pro-Life Ping List.
as I examine my one week old son, it is clear he is not "fully formed" either.
His brain function will continue to develop over the years, he cannot feed himself, he does not have control of his head or limbs.
Does this make him "fair game" for the culture of death?
Maybe in time it will be legal to extinguish the life of a newborn?
Justice Stevens needs to use specific language to explain the difference in "formation" between a newborn, and a child who is moments away from birth.
He also needs to explain where he is getting this information about 4 to 5 inch babies. I think he is full of BS on that one.
Babies that small are usually aborted using different methods.
The "final solution" in "family planning."
If anyone wants on or off my ProLife Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.
Thanks for your service.
Courts are also a place where reality is supposed to be recognized, and the reality is that while a doctor may use fetus as a technical term for an unborn human, pro-aborts have used it for four decades as a word for a non-human target, and that's why Stevens uses it.
In the case of abortion, the Court could very easily decide that states have some of the same power to regulate it that they have over other medical procedures. It would be possible for a state to require parental notification and informed consent. Bans could be passed on partial-birth abortion and on taking other peoples daughters across state lines to obtain abortions. The states could even require the same safety protocols that other surgical clinics must follow. But the scariest part for the abortion industry isnt necessarily the extra regulations, but the fact that the judicial firewall would come down, and they would have to argue their case in the public square instead of depending on the super-duper precedent of Roe. There is nothing they fear more than having to explain themselves, and the Court could preserve Roe and still require them to do so.
That may explain why oral arguments went the way they did in the recent case regarding parental notification in New Hampshire. It was Justice OConnors last abortion case, and Chief Justice Roberts first. One striking feature was a long discussion of the exact mechanics of contacting a judge if a pregnant teen needed an emergency abortion and her parents were unavailable or she did not want them notified. How long might it take, the justices and lawyers wondered, to get that vital permission and save her life, health or fertility? Of course, no one would ask that question about an appendectomy; the doctor would simply do the procedure. That would be the reasonable answer in the case of a true emergency abortion as well, but the Justices werent discussing reason. They were discussing possible outs that would allow them to preserve the Roe firewall.
For four decades, American liberalism has depended largely on federal courts coming down from the mountain with stone tablets to impose their vision. Now that era may be ending, not with stone tablets imposed from the Right, but with the people making the decisions and writing the tablets.
No wonder they feel like their worlds coming to an end.
In a letter to the editor, a local cheerleader for abortion wrote that only the pregnant woman can choose whether "to birth the life inside her." Her mistake--in a followup letter I asked, "Is that human life, or do you figure its a fish, or a monkey?"
I got phone calls for days about that letter, every one of them enthusistically positive. Heh-heh!
Nice! I'm going to steal that!
These observations may help explain the word twisting by people who are up to no good, abortionists, euthanazis and American reporters among them.
Hentoff is great, except when he's about to put Hitlery up for canonization for voting against the Military Commissions Act, and other such blind spots. His soul will be saved but the republic may be lost.
Hentoff wrote a memorable and hard-hitting series of columns defending Terri Schiavo. It did not endear him to his own Village Voice readers, but he was resolute. In fact, he was one of the earlier voices to speak up for Terri. He covered the story for several years. As he put it in one column, he is an atheist, so in his view, life is all we have. The right to life is fundamental.
You may have it on a silver platter with my compliments! I also use: "Well, I wouldn't beat my wife, but I'm not going to interefere with someone else's family matters. That's exactly the reasoning used just a couple of generations ago, when women were considered a husband's property, just like an unborn baby is considered a woman's property today."