Abortion Advocates are Resorting to Orwellian Language Games

Ingrid Skop, M.D., is a board certified OB/GYN and Charlotte Lozier Institute Senior Fellow and Director of Medical Affairs. Mary Szoch is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Newsweek on March 22, 2022. 

As their radical policy regime comes under threat at the Supreme Court, abortion supporters now want to change the terms of discussion. In the name of avoiding "bias," they've begun to play Orwellian language games, instead of working to make things better for America's women and children.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently issued a Guide to Language and Abortion, which claims to promote "language that is medically appropriate, clinically accurate, and without bias." Unfortunately, the words in this "guide" are most definitely biased, as they align with ACOG's pro-abortion position and aim to dehumanize the unborn child.

Developed in 1993, ACOG's "Abortion Policy" denies the humanity and personhood of the unborn child. Fortunately, growing recognition of the reality of life in utero is defeating these lies.

Moms are seeing the motion of their child's heart and hearing their little one's heartbeat at six-week ultrasound appointments. Abortion survivors are sharing their stories of being attacked in the womb. Doctors operating on babies in utero give them separate anesthesia in acknowledgement that they feel pain. The viability line is continually moving to lower gestational ages, and extremely premature babies are heading home from the hospital. Life is winning.

Amid these scientific advances, and as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion organizations are working on getting their story straight. Their preferred abortion policy necessitates disingenuous word choices to remain standing.

ACOG's guide kicks things off by suggesting avoiding the phrase "late-term abortion," which it says has "no clinical or medical significance." ACOG opposes restrictions on partial-birth abortion—a barbaric procedure in which the doctor delivers a portion of the baby outside the mother's body and then kills the child by crushing his skull or suctioning his brain. It usually takes place in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The laws of 21 states and the nation's capital—and ACOG's own support for procedures aborting babies "later in pregnancy"—allow abortion to be performed at any time before delivery.

Next, ACOG suggests changing the term "chemical abortion" to "medication abortion" to avoid a "biased term designed to make medication abortion sound scarier." Well, chemical abortion is scary for both the mother and—one would imagine—the unborn baby it starves to death. In approximately one in 20 chemical abortions, women require surgical completion due to hemorrhage, failed abortion or retained fetal body parts. Data from Arkansas released in 2020 shows that the vast majority of abortion complications in the state resulted from drug-induced abortions. Chemical abortion is scary, even we call it "medication abortion."

ACOG goes on to advise against saying "dismemberment," instead using the word "disarticulation" in its description of a dilation and evacuation abortion. "Referring to the medical procedure as 'dismemberment' is intentional use of inflammatory, emotional language and centers the procedure on the fetus, rather than the pregnant person who is the clinician's patient." Of course, "disarticulation" is entirely synonymous with "dismemberment."

The substitution of euphemisms for clinically accurate terms only obscures the reality of abortion from the impressionable public. Abortion survivor Josiah Presley, who had part of his arm "disarticulated" by an abortion, probably wishes we would focus on treating the unborn child as a patient.


ACOG's new guide also takes issue with the phrase "heartbeat," suggesting instead "fetal cardiac activity." Demonstrating its abandonment of scientific accuracy, ACOG states that "there are no chambers of the heart developed" at 6 weeks "so there is no recognizable 'heartbeat.'" In reality, a heartbeat occurs when blood flows through an anatomic chamber powered by an electrical impulse causing muscular contractions, and this does occur by six weeks. No anatomy or embryology textbook requires completely developed cardiac chambers in its definition of "heartbeat."

Although ACOG rarely surveys its members about their opinions on abortion, only seven to 14 percent of OB/GYNs will perform a requested abortion. When an OB/GYN becomes known for providing abortions, his patients often transfer care to obstetricians who respect fetal life, and indeed he often becomes only an "abortion provider."

Despite the unpopularity of abortions among OB/GYNs, ACOG's leadership knows that sticks and stones are not the only things that break people's bones. Words matter. And the "guide" uses them to promote a culture of death. It is time for OB/GYNs to stand up for the truth—and for the lives of their patients.