Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It Ain't Ova 'Til It's Over

Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Paul Greenberg, editorial-page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, writes in Jewish World Review of a visit from a long-lost friend who's now an executive with Planned Parenthood:

He'd come by the newspaper office here in Little Rock, accompanied by a couple of distinguished colleagues, to make the case for (or maybe against) reproductive life. He started off by lecturing us ignorant editorial writers on what words we should be using. We weren't really pro-life, he explained, but anti-choice.

One could as easily contend that the opposite of pro-life isn't really pro-choice, but pro-death. But to what end? What would that have accomplished? We were already passing one another like ships in the night, each heavily freighted with its own vocabulary. Shades of Cool Hand Luke! What we had here was...a failure to communicate.

The language lesson went downhill from there as the delegation from Planned Parenthood explained that abortion, or at least the form of it that's done before implantation in the uterus, isn't abortion at all.

What is it then?

It took a long moment for another member of the delegation, a Ph.D., to come up with the proper euphemism: a Blighted Ovum.

Somehow I don't think the term is going to catch on.
Read the whole thing.

MORE: Reader Paul writes in the comments section to this post:
"Blighted ovum" is already taken, thank you. It is a medical term, somewhat archaic but still in use by older practitioners especially, which is what we doctors call a "garbage can" term: it comprises a range of different clinical entities which share the same clinical result, namely, spontaneous abortion (i. e., miscarriage).

In the era of ultrasound and genetic testing, we don't use this term, but instead use more specific terms, based on what can be seen (by U/S and pathologic examination) and, often, what can be additionally determined by cytogenetic testing. Examples include things such as partial molar pregnancy or trisomy 18.

Now think as to why this is so Orwellian: a medical term used to indicate disease within a fertilized egg rendering it incompatible with life is now being suggested as a euphemism for the active intervention to prevent normal fertilized ova (i.e., human embryos) from implanting. Drugs that do this are properly called abortifacients, and the process is properly called abortion. This is the MO of the IUD and emergency contraception (more Orwellian language—what is being "contra-ed"? Not con"cept"ion!).