Archive for the 'Terminology' Category

Schultheis to Infants: Drop Dead

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Shorter Dave Schultheis: Sure, we could prevent newborns from getting AIDS, but that would mean their mothers wouldn’t feel guilt about having sex I disapprove of.

From Schultheis’ web page: “All life is precious, from conception to natural death.” What, unless you can use that person’s death to punish a slut? Yes, death. I know he just says he wants babies to get very badly ill and then grow up, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

I really don’t want to hear anymore about “voting pro-life” when a guy like this would qualify. Seriously, I am DONE. I may actually make that a house rule on this blog. (And how do I not have a “misogyny” tag yet? Must remedy that.)

More “non-persons”, this time at Guantanamo

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

In ruling that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn’t apply to them, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that four British men being held at Guantanamo Bay are not “persons” under the Constitution. (PDF)

Because the plaintiffs are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory at the time their alleged RFRA claim arose, they do not fall with the definition of “person.”

Although this case was about the RFRA, I can’t see how this holding permits an objection to any action against the detainees, up to and including murder, on Constitutional grounds. Statute, treaty obligations, and the UCMJ may all prohibit murdering non-citizens outside of the United States, but is it really the case that the Constitution itself doesn’t deny that power to the government?

This is just one more reason we need an inclusive legal definition of the word “person”.

It won’t happen, but I can’t help imagining the following scenario: the lawyers for the detainees appeal their case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturns the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling, declaring that the term “person” as used in the Constitution means any living human being (defined biologically as a member of the species Homo sapiens). Rasul v. Rumsfeld would be the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Terminology confusion

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

I keep seeing people claiming that pro-lifers have their own made-up, unscientific definition of “pregnancy”. For a representative example, see “A Christian Intra-Religious Translating Dictionary” at

It goes like this:

  • Pro-choicer points out that pro-lifers say pregnancy begins at conception.
  • Pro-choicer then points out that medical professionals say pregnancy begins at implantation.
  • Presto! Pro-choicer gets to claim that pro-lifers are at odds with medical professionals. All those pro-lifers running around talking about conception are just ignorant.

Seriously, I see this all the time. And people fall for it, because it fits into what they want to believe about pro-lifers — that we’re backwards, anti-science, etc.

I assume anyone reading this who is pro-life has spotted the flaw. In reality, what pro-lifers say is that the life of an individual human being — not pregnancy — begins at conception. I don’t think I’ve ever once heard a pro-lifer actually say “Pregnancy begins at conception.”

Pregnancy is a particular type of relationship between a mother and her child, a relationship in which the child is living inside the mother, physically connected to and dependent upon her. That relationship begins at implantation. But life precedes pregnancy. The embryo that implants is already a living human organism.

The beginning of life is not the same as the beginning of pregnancy. But planting that equivalence in the audience’s mind works in pro-choicers’ favor in a couple of ways. First, it lets them pretend there are no ethical questions about the prevention of implantation.* Second, it lets them distort pro-lifers’ arguments. If life = pregnancy, then discrediting the strawman statement that “pregnancy begins at conception” both makes pro-lifers look bad and prejudices the audience against the true statement that “life begins at conception”.

Where are pro-choicers even getting the notion that pro-lifers say “Pregnancy begins at conception”? Follow the bouncing ball again:

  • (Some) pro-lifers say that hormonal conception is abortifacient, because they believe that it prevents implantation and thus ends the life of the embryo. They’re using a colloquial definition of abortion that means “killing an embryo/fetus”.
  • Medical professionals say that even if it does prevent implantation, it isn’t abortifacient because pregnancy hasn’t begun yet. They’re using a technical definition of abortion that means “the premature ending of a pregnancy”.
  • Pro-choicers ignore the obvious fact that there are two different definitions in play, and conclude that to call something abortifacient is to imply that pregnancy has begun, ergo pro-lifers are claiming that pregnancy begins at conception.

I’d argue that the colloquial usage of the term “abortion” is justifiable in this context, in that it’s closer to the way the word is used by the general public. Still, it might be time to find better terminology when referring to something that might prevent implantation.

* Regardless of what you might have heard, it is not a known fact that hormonal birth control prevents implantation. I’ve just had that argument recently, and I don’t feel like rehashing it right now. But pro-choicers tend to argue that even if it does happen, it doesn’t matter because the pregnancy hasn’t started yet.