Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

Abortion: on the political use of language

Ealing Council in London recently passed a new regulation, establishing a ‘buffer zone’ around an abortion clinic.


Steve Latham


Anti-abortion protestors had been conducting vigils outside the clinic, and were accused of intimidating the women going for a termination.

They apparently called women ‘mum’, asked them to take leaflets, offered to pray for them, and gave out plastic replica foetuses.

There were also reports of aggressive shouting as women entered the clinic, although protestors claimed they used respectful language.

In addition, their posters displayed graphic images of foetuses, and leaflets described the procedures by which embryos are disposed of.

The protests, and these images, were accused of being upsetting to women who were at a vulnerable time in their lives.

While the Council wanted to uphold the right to peaceful demonstrations, they felt that their duty to protect women seeking an abortion had precedence.

Their decision creates a 100 metre ‘safe zone’ around the clinic, where protestors are forbidden to operate; and it is likely other local Councils will follow suit.

But is there not a danger of shutting down democratic debate? Indeed, could the very notion of truth be at stake?

No one is doubting, for example, that the pictures and descriptions of how abortions are carried out are accurate.

What is claimed is that they are disturbing for women seeking an abortion. Women should not, in other words, have their feelings hurt while they exercise their legal right to an abortion.

This, however, is another symptom of our society’s flight from reality. It could be argued that, if people choose a course of action, they should have the full range of information available to them.

It’s similar to how ignorant we have become, in the West, about how our food is produced; in particular, where meat comes from.

The link between animals and slaughter has been broken, in our sanitised, plastic-film-wrapped, supermarkets.

In both cases, full disclosure might result in people changing their minds, as they discover the bloody processes by which we receive certain ‘benefits’.

It is ironic that it is the Left who are objecting to this truth-telling. In relation to military actions, for example, it is the other way round.

Here it is the conservative element, who insist on euphemisms for mass killing. Words like ‘pacification’ and ‘collateral damage’ camouflage the realities of civilian casualties in war.

It’s the Left who want to expose this mendacious use of language, and speak directly about the deaths of non-combatants.

But, although activists operate at different ends of the political spectrum, both Right and Left conspiratorially hide the messy reality beneath the surface.

There is a linguistic equivalence in the way each obfuscates reality. And this is not about moral condemnation, but truth.

A woman having an abortion, a pilot dropping a bomb, a meat-lover eating a steak, all need to understand exactly what is happening.

If we are to own our actions, we need to admit the reality of our deeds, no matter how much it upsets us.

(Photos Pixabay)


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