Let's Play Word Games

I'm having a thought sparked by this post on tumblr, which crossed my dash a week or two ago.  To quote the relevant bit for those who don't want to click through:
gaywitchpracticingabortion:  Here's a quick way to check if you have a right to stop an abortion:  Ask yourself, "Is it my body?"  If the answer was no, then surprise!  You don't have the right.
[some pro/anti-choice back-and-forth deleted for space]
iamabutchsolo:  A fetus relies on someone else’s body to survive and therefore the actual person with that body has the choice to carry the pregnancy to term or terminate it. It’s not my job or anyone else’s to say otherwise. 
just-smith:  I’m fairly sure newborns or older fetuses still rely on the mother. Simply because somebody is temporarily dependent (and I mean temporarily, it would only take a few more months for them to be potential survivors), that is no excuse to suggest their rights are null.
If you have to have a heart transplant, you’ll be dependent - initially on a machine, and then on the organ of another person. There are thousands of people who couldn’t live without help, but you don’t go questioning their right to life. You wouldn’t kill somebody on permanent life support simply for your convenience and against their will, and you certainly wouldn’t if they had a strong chance of recovering within the year. But when they are young and innocent, you have no qualms. So is it just the age that makes them different for you, or is it the convenience?
Emphasis added to draw attention to the bit I want to talk about.

There's this difference in vocabulary that's a staple of the movements: where pro-choicers refer to abortion as "ending a pregnancy" or something similar, anti-choicers refer to it as "killing a baby".  Mostly this just gets overlooked as rhetorical flourishes, either used to "dehumanize" the abortion process, or to falsely invoke infanticide-guilt, depending on which side you're asking.  But I would argue that there's something underlying this difference of terminology, a real, qualitative semantic difference, and I'd like to try to poke at it and see what's in there.

First, to clear the air so I don't get accused of the "clump of cells" argument or whatever - yes, a fetus is a unique being, with its own DNA and physical being, and it is alive, in some sense of the word anyway.  A fetus is "just a clump of cells" in the same way that we are all just very large clumps of cells*.  For purposes of this argument, I'll even grant the premise that the fetus is somehow imbued with the nebulous quality we call "personhood", both legal and moral.

So.  Given these premises, the logical conclusion is that abortion is killing (or murder, depending on if we're using legal terminology or emotional terminology), yes?

Well, yes and no.  When pro-choicers talk about abortion as "terminating a pregnancy", we choose those words very deliberately, for their very precise meaning.  Cause here's the thing:

Nobody enters into the abortion process because they want to kill the fetus.

Let me repeat that:  Nobody enters into the abortion process because they want to kill the fetus.

Even in cases of elective abortion, uterus-bearing people (UBP) who could/would otherwise be able to carry to term and deliver the fetus do not do it to kill the fetus.  They - we - do it to not be pregnant anymore

What's the difference, antis say.  The fetus is still dead.

Well, yes.  If we're working from a premise that counts a fetus as a living being, a person, yes.  When the abortion is over, it is dead, and the abortion has killed it.  That is inarguable.  But the abortion was not undertaken with the intent of killing the fetus.  It was undertaken with the intent of the UBP to no longer be pregnant.

And when you take into account the intent underlying the process - when you refocus the lens to bring the UBP back into the picture, instead of imagining some nebulous uterine-support-machine, a cipher with no traits of hir own - the quoted comparison to "killing a person on life support" falls absolutely flat, as do comparisons to very young infants and toddlers as being dependent on their parents just like fetuses are (with the implication that, if you believe you have a right to abortion, parents should logically have a right to infanticide). 

The only reason one would pull the plug from someone on life support is to end their life**.  Actual infanticide is a form of murder, and the act of murder is undertaken specifically to end someone's life.  Neither of these is something in which a non-life-ending aim simply has the side effect of ending someone's life.  Therefore, the comparison with abortion cannot stand, because as I said, abortion is undertaken in order to not be pregnant/continue a pregnancy/give birth.  It's just that with our current level of technology, we cannot sustain fetal life outside the uterus in which it was originally implanted.  So the process of not being pregnant anymore ends the fetus' life, but that was not the aim, merely an associated effect. 

Amazing what perspective does to an issue, isn't it?  And really, what does it say about the anti-choice position, that I can grant you the founding premises of "it's a baby/human being/alive/etc" and still show how abortion cannot legitimately be compared to murder or killing in any sense? 

Now, if only logical arguments actually worked on anti-choicers, I'd be in business. ;-)

*This is not to say that a fetus and a grown being are somehow morally equal, because I do not believe that, but I'm trying to give as much common ground as possible in establishing premises, because it doesn't actually affect the argument I'm building up to, and it gives antis less to work with in arguing back.
**Which may be done for a number of reasons, from the person having a directive requesting they not be sustained under certain circumstances, to moral beliefs about life and death, etc.  The point remains that pulling the plug is an act undertaken specifically to end a life.


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