• May 20, 2024

Baby Talk

 Baby Talk


Many thanks to Alexandra DeSanctis for drawing attention to the awkward, funny-if-the-subject-weren’t-so-grim phrasing in CNN’s coverage of the born-alive bill. Writing for the network’s website, Caroline Kelly explains that the bill “would require abortion providers to work to ‘preserve the life and health’ of a fetus that was born following an attempted abortion as they would for a newborn baby.” The right way to say that would have been “of a baby that was born during an attempted abortion as they would for any other baby in the same condition.”

It is very easy to be misled into thinking that the distinction between a “fetus” and a “newborn baby” concerns the being’s stage of development (or, worse, that they are two different kinds of being). Most newborns are in a more advanced stage of development than most fetuses, but the categorical difference between the two groups is a matter of location. The fetus is inside her mother’s womb before delivery, and a newborn after it. No magical change of substance takes place in between

Keeping in mind what these terms actually denote underscores that there is no difference between a fetus and a baby in moral status or worth, and raises the question why it should be permissible to treat the first radically different from the second. This linguistic confusion underwrites the pro-abortion position, and this legislation is tailor-made to expose this weak point.

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RAMESH PONNURU is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. @rameshponnuru


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