Language

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Q: When is an abortion not an abortion?

A: When it is a selective reduction

I don't imagine this post is going to make me popular.

Today's New York Times has an article about the very painful choices faced by prospective parents who make use of fertility treatments, find that they are pregnant with multiples, and then are faced with the risk of those pregnancies - both to the hopeful mom and the soon to be children. Successful fertility treatments often produce multiples because hormones are used to stimulate egg production or because multiple embryos are implanted. But because being pregnant wtih twins or triplets or even more developing fetuses is risky, and because children born from those pregancies are more likely to be born very premature and are thus at risk for greater and more serious health problems than babies born from singleton pregnancies, doctors sometimes counsel prospective parents to consider "selective reduction" where some fetuses are eliminated.

I am not going to write about the painful choice this must be. I am not going to write about whether or not such fertility treatments are ethical given their potential for resulting in pregnancies risky enough to warrent advising abortion. Nor am I going to address the fact that in vitro treatments require the creation of more embroys than anyone intends to implant. I am not even going to write about whether we should be spending so much health care money on helping people to reproduce and then paying for the complications that occur as a result of those treatments. Not today anyway.

Today all I am going to write about is the use of the term "selective reduction" itself.

The language we use

Can we change the words we use and be heard? Over the years, I have discovered something. The language I use forms the way I think in a sort of chicken and egg way. Not only does it change the way I think, it changes the way I am perceived and the way I am heard. (Communications 101: I am not responsible for what I say; I am responsible for what you hear.)

Let me explain by way of a story. Working my way through school, I took a job at a Yachting Chandlery. I fell in with the skipper of ‘Riskin’, a 6-meter raced out of Shilshole Bay. I landed a berth handling the running backs. About half the crew worked with me at the chandlery and the other half were experienced racing sailors from other vocations.

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