The Point: A Word Pregnant with Meaning

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Last week, the Supreme Court refused to uphold a portion of an Indiana law that would have prevented abortion based on the “child’s race, sex, diagnosis of Down syndrome, disability, or related characteristics.”

As bad as that was, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decision to chide Justice Clarence Thomas for using the word “mother” made it worse. Ginsburg wrote that a “woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a ‘mother.’”

What despicable nonsense. What exactly is she then? As Princeton’s Robert George questioned on Facebook,  “When the baby kicks in the womb, do we say ‘the fetus’s female progenitor felt it kick?” And what should we call a woman excited about her pregnancy? Do feelings make a mother?

Confucius is quoted as saying that when words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom. The verbal gymnastics around abortion makes it clear that redefining some words means that people—especially the most vulnerable—even lose their lives.

 

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