Planned Parenthood and its Very Care-ful Language

[Warning: this post contains graphic–yet accurate–language. Discretion is advised.] You probably don’t want to know about any of this, and may have even avoided all discussion about the Planned Parenthood videos.

But you can’t.

You MUST to know what’s going on, and more importantly, why Planned Parenthood has gotten away with so much for so many years.

“It’s all in how you say it.”

That’s one of the many rules of rhetoric: the art of using language to manipulate your audience and hide what’s really going on. Ok, that’s not an “official” definition of rhetoric, but during my graduate coursework in rhetorical theory, that’s one of the conclusions I came to.

Words are not only great illuminators, but also great disguisers of the truth, shining light over here to hide in shadows something over there. Connotations are “the emotional impact” of a word, and Planned Parenthood chooses their words oh so carefully.

Look at “Planned” and “Parenthood.” Both are innocuous, even positive, words.  We’re taught at a young age to “plan for the future,” and “make a plan,” and “plan to succeed!” Planning is something thoughtful and deliberate. How could “planning” ever be negative?

Same for “Parenthood.” Throughout the centuries “parenthood” invoked notions of family, of responsibility, of maturity.

Stick them together, and the emotional feel of the name creates a sense of “thoughtful maturity.”

That, my friends, is the art of rhetoric. The phrase “Pro-Choice” is also deliberate. Logically, the opposite of “Pro-Life” would be “Pro-Death” (of the growing baby), but no one’s callous enough to claim they are “Pro-Death.” Instead, “Pro-Choice” becomes a harmless, yet highly deceitful, phrase. Because what Planned Parenthood does is destroy babies and potential parents.

While we could go into an extensive debate about the emotional effects of abortion on women (and even men), or the moral implications of abortion, for today we’re going to stick to the analysis of language used to describe the procedure itself.

I’ve watched all of the recently released videos concerning Planned Parenthood’s techniques and methods for selling body parts, and my first thought was, “This can’t be real.” Then later, to my horror, I realized that it was as I heard Planned Parenthood defending their actions in harvesting tissue (carefully chosen words).

As a mother of nine children (most not planned, but still happily welcomed) I was at first sickened by what I witnessed, but then the inner rhetorician in me was fascinated by the deliberate use of language by Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood not only chooses their words based on connotations, but also employs many euphemisms. This is “softer language,” designed to lessen an impact.

For example, it’s rare to hear anyone say that a loved one “died.” Rather, we say that they “passed away,” or “are no longer suffering”; something gentle and careful, and maybe even a bit distracting or deceitful. Hospitals rarely have patients who die; instead, they may “code,” or “have coded,” meaning that a “code blue” had to be called for personnel to rush to resuscitate a patient because they . . . um . . . died.

We’re afraid to use the real and sharp words, because the emotional connotation can devastate those who hear and use them. Euphemisms are found everywhere—business, education, science, medicine (see an exhaustive list here ). Often euphemisms are needed to soften a blow and, sometimes, they’re even kind. But there’s always a component of misleading—subtle or obvious—and occasionally outright deceit.

Enter the “careful language” of Planned Parenthood. The hours that I’ve spent watching and analyzing the videos released to date were the most gruesome I’ve ever spent, and far more disturbing than any horror/slasher movie because all of this is real. (The only other time I’ve felt this appalled was when I studied the Holocaust in depth.) I have chosen only a few words and phrases to dissect—I mean, break down—for you to see Careful Language at work.

Phrases you may have seen/heard associated with the Planned Parenthood videos:

Words used by Planned Parenthood Connotation (emotional feel) Denotation (actual meaning, in terms of Planned Parenthood)
Procedure Very vague term: can be anything from open-heart surgery to save a life, to trimming one’s toenails Aborting a baby by forcing open a woman’s cervix, using forceps to grab the baby, then pulling it out to kill it and end the pregnancy.
Procurement Services Getting something for someone, perhaps even as a kindness (service) Giving (selling) dead babies for people to cut up and study
tissue Any random part of a body (or perhaps something you blow your nose into) Baby body parts
tissue donation Donation has a “charitable” feel, making anything that’s “donated” sound noble Giving (selling) dead babies to researchers
fetus (also specimen) Medical term for an undeveloped growth Very young baby, still growing, may even be able to survive if born as early as 22 weeks
calvarium Most of us have never encountered this word before The baby’s head
evacuation Generally, an urgent sense of “need to leave! There’s danger! Get out!” Pulling the unborn baby out of the mother’s body in order to cause its death and end the pregnancy
vacuum aspiration (which “gently empties your uterus” according the Planned Parenthood website) Oh, so a vacuum had hopes of becoming a Dyson? The method of literally sucking the baby out from the womb
“change the presentation” Some approach to explaining information isn’t adequate, so changing the presentation means replacing slides, etc. Twisting the position of the baby so that it can be pulled out more fully intact for the benefit of those buying its body parts
“intact fetal cadavers” Well, cadavers are dead bodies, so something about whole dead bodies? Whole, dead babies
“changes in technique to increase your success” everyone “changes techniques,” to improve their jumpshot or their piano playing or their piece quilting . . . Changing the way the forceps crush and pull out the baby so that more of its parts are usable by researchers
“induce fetal demise” Cause something to happen? Deliberately kill the unborn baby
“heart is still beating on aborted fetus” Umm . . . that can’t mean what we think it might . . . Yes, it does.
The baby was “aborted” but was born alive.
Then it was killed.
Outside of the mother.
Otherwise known as murder.

One more example which I took directly from a video: “If you maintain enough dialogue with the person who’s actually doing the procedure, so they understand what the end-game is, there are little things, changes they can make in their technique to increase your success”

Now translate that slew of jargon, clichés, and euphemisms into the hard language of the truth: “Tell us what body parts you want, and the person killing and pulling out the baby can give you what you want.”

Planned parenthood language

You get the idea. I apologize for the graphic nature of this post—wait, no I don’t. If we don’t fully understand what’s happening, then we’ll continue to be complicit and willfully naïve.

I refuse to apply gentle terms to something truly horrific.

That’s exactly what employees of Planned Parenthood do: immerse themselves in euphemistic connotations, and surround themselves with ideologies of “helping women” with “Care. No matter what.”

Does anyone else find those squishy words of their slogan, “No matter what,” just as chilling as I do? Fascinatingly, it’s also deliberately vague. Who receives the “Care”? And in defiance of “what”?

planned parenthood logo

Seriously, it’s the worst slogan ever because it means nothing, yet it’s also the most devious because it can mean anything.

But soft words do not hide the sharp truth of, “No matter what.”

While I am Pro-Life, I agree that there are very, very rare instances when an abortion is needed to save the life of a mother, or in the instance of rape resulting in conception. The entire premise of legalizing abortion decades ago was that it would be “rare.” Yet the Planned Parenthood website says, I assume to assuage the potential guilt of those looking into one, that “Abortions are very common. In fact, 3 out of 10 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.“

We’ve conceived some of our nine kids at astonishingly bad times: when we were in college and had literally no money; when we were jobless; when we were losing our house to foreclosure; and when had no insurance and were essentially homeless and living with family. I admit I wept at times to realize I was pregnant yet again. But the idea of aborting that child never once occurred to me. In fact, I frequently look back and say, “Thank God that He sent us that child in the middle of the trials.” Life gets better.

Perhaps what amazes me most of all is that the vast majority of Planned Parenthood employees are women. Potential—and maybe even actual—mothers. Their coldness as they chatted about body parts over lunch stunned me. Their callousness at throwing around monetary figures, or referring to “patients” and “donations,” was dumbfounding.

The words of the apostle Paul to the Romans as he describes those who have denied God reverberates in my mind:
“Without understanding , covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:” (Romans 1:31) [emphasis added]

These women no long have “natural affection” for babies. They are also “without understanding” and “implacable” [ruthless] and “unmerciful.” Abortion is all of those.

At least Paul didn’t bother with “soft words.”

There are no “soft words” for preying upon the most innocent and helpless.

Mahrree kept mulling over Perrin’s reasons for the garbled language: to keep the wrong sets of eyes from fully understanding. ~ “Soldier at the Door” Book 2

Four Reasons Why I Hate/Love Camping

Having just returned from four nights of camping in the cold wilderness, I once again wonder why we bother (as I put in the eighth load of laundry, with about ten more to go).

We camp primarily because it’s the only way we can afford to take our entire family anywhere.  This last week we camped with twelve people; one son was missing because he’s on an LDS mission. It cost us around $200 for the campsite and showers. That amount would barely get us two rooms for one night at a motel.

While it’s certainly cheaper, camping is a logistics nightmare—all meals, bedding, and cooking/cleaning/living supplies must be planned and packed. (We rarely camp anywhere within close driving distance of a Walmart; the point is to “get away from it all,” especially Walmarts.) It takes me a full two days before we leave to get everything ready, then another two days after to wash and put it all away again.

Every day I fret that I forgot something important: sunscreen or the phone charger or the string cheese. Each day there’s some minor disaster: a son contracting the stomach flu, or a baby starting to teeth, or two quarreling teenagers deciding they want to sacrifice each other to the nearest bear.


(Fortunately this was the nearest bear, a grizzly still half a mile away.)

There is no such thing as a “relaxing camping trip.”

Camping is a physically, mentally, and even emotionally exhausting venture. (Did I mention there were twelve of us this trip? All trying to get along?)

So why bother?

Over the years of dreading camping, I’ve also discovered there are a few aspects that I love. It’s a fine line between “have to” and “get to,” and a slight shift in thinking keeps me willing to throw together yet another trip each summer. (Just never more than one, though.)

So here are my four reasons why I hate/love camping:

1–We have to/get experience nature.

  • We have to experience nature: It was bison mating season in Yellowstone last week, according to a park ranger.

Don’t worry–I turned off my camera when the action became a bit (ahem) active.

It was also squirrel mating season, according to the activity above our tents in the wee hours.

And also for the coyotes, who at 4am decided to call to each other for a romantic rendezvous about 100 feet away.

The great outdoors isn’t always so great. One night a massive thunderstorm hit, with lighting and thunder from 9pm to 11pm.

Yes, I timed it.

There was little else to do as I cradled our three-year-old son in our tent, he so terrified that he eventually fell asleep with his hands firmly over his ears. That’s when we discovered the tent was leaking, and the foam cushions we slept on were absorbing water like the spongers they were. Half of our family retreated to our vehicles, curled up on benches and bucket seats with their dry blankets, while the rest of us slept in ever-smaller sections of the cushions, looking for dry patches until dawn finally came.

When I woke up that morning, I was royally ticked off at Yellowstone. How dare it pour rain on me and my babies?! I took a walk to Yellowstone Lake to evaluate if the sky was clearing up, and was greeted by the most cheery and apologetic sunrise.


(I apologized to the geese for startling them, although they didn’t apologize for their ruckus at 5am.)

I had no choice but to forgive the park. The day was glorious, and by lunchtime we were completely dried out. That’s when I remembered that I actually enjoyed nature.

  • We get to experience nature: The little critters who scavenge our crumbs. 082

The bigger critters who wander placidly by. 148

The deep night sky punctured with more stars than we remember. The smell of trees, of earth, of water, of nature. You can’t get that rich scent from a candle, trust me. You have to sniff nature around the clock, and let it seep deep into your tissue. Everyone needs to suck up nature at least once a year, to find again our roots next to the roots of the pines. Last year we couldn’t afford to camp for even one night. My soul mourned that loss for an entire year.

  • Bonus: My standards of cleanliness are suspended for a few days, and my appreciation for vacuum cleaners skyrockets when we get home.
2–We have to/get to sleep outside.
  • We have to sleep outside. When I was a kid and we went to Yellowstone or the Tetons, we stayed in the lodges or cabins. Full working bathrooms were a must, as was a hot restaurant breakfast. “Roughing it” to my mother was a Motel 6.  One year I asked my dad to drive through the campground at Canyon to see what tenting was like. My mother shuddered in sympathy at the thin nylon tents, but I thought they were the most romantic things in the world!

Years later, when we took our four little kids camping for the first time in our new tent, I realized how silly my earlier notions had been.

The ground is HARD. The air gets COLD. Nature is NOT QUIET.

When we woke up —probably for the thirteenth time—after a miserable night to realize it was finally dawn, and I discovered that mosquitoes had thought my toddler’s forehead was tasty and had left over a dozen bites across his head, I wanted to burn that tent and all things associated with it. But my sisters and neighbors gave us suggestions (two-inch foam cushions are a MUST), and while I’ll never love sleeping outside, I do have a new perspective.

  • We get to sleep outside: There’s something very real and almost primal about being outside in the summer night. Some places we’ve camped the heat and humidity were nearly unbearable and we sweated all night. Other places, like Yellowstone last weekend, are shockingly cold (two nights were at 32 degrees at 6am). 212

But leaving my climate-controlled house for a few nights reminds me that the world heats and cools, rises and falls, inhales and exhales, and when I spend the night in it, I feel a sense of connection that I’ve lost being so sheltered. I forget that the earth is alive, and when I spend a full day and night in it, I remember it has a heartbeat.

  • BONUS:  The first night back, when I take a hot bath and slide into my cushioned bed, I feel like weeping for joy.
3–We have to/get to eat outside.
  • We have to eat outside. The first rule in camp food is, No matter how hot you cooked it, it’ll be cool and congealing in five seconds. There is no such thing as a warm meal outside, even if it’s 95 degrees. Nature abhors a hot dish.

Nature also likes to add protein to everything you eat. Just ignore the bugs that drop into your food, flail gamely for a few seconds, then give up and melt into the sauce (or create their own). It’s just easier to pretend the food was once hot enough to kill whatever germs they were carrying.

Outside in nature, things boil slower, burn faster, become charred on the outside while remaining pink and spongy in the middle . . . I’ve pretty much given up on camp cooking. Breakfast is cold cereal. Lunch is sandwiches. Dinner is canned beef/mosquito/dragonfly stew.

But sometimes it’s better than that.

  • We get to eat outside. People claim that camp food tastes better than regular food, but I think that’s only because you’re so desperate for sustenance that anything is good. But for me, food tastes blander in the wilderness (cold and congealing does that), yet still just about anything I cook is close to palatable.

Some things are just plain great, though. Tin-foil dinners, for one. Always our first night’s meal. I put them together at home the day before, and here’s the key: pre-boil the sliced potatoes and carrots until they’re half done. Then when you bake them in the fire with the hamburger patty, they’ll actually be fully cooked. Some of us like to toss in peas, or green beans, or spice it with Worcestershire sauce, or Montreal Steak seasoning.  I also bring shredded cheddar to toss over the potatoes, and ketchup to hide the congealing gray bits. It’s the easiest meal, with the easiest cleanup, and the only thing that tastes better are s’mores.

August 15, 2011 Crater Lake

Cleaning up after s’mores, well, that’s one of the trials of camping.

I have some kids who have perfected the roasting of the marshmallows. There should be badges awarded for that skill. Certainly it should be a criteria for marriage. Can she roast a perfect marshmallow?

Yep. She’s a keeper.

  • Bonus: After washing dishes in cold water in a small sink twice a day, loading a dishwasher at home feels like a luxurious indulgence.
4–We have to/get to live in interesting places.
  • We have to live in interesting places. Just as in real estate, the key to good camping is location, location, location. That’s the difference between becoming drunk on the beauties of nature versus becoming annoyed at your drunk neighbors.

A few times we have camped at private campgrounds, little more than grassy fields where tents and trailers were crammed together, and no one dared tell the boozers that belching contests past midnight were keeping awake the babies. We’ve even cut short some of our trips because the nature of the neighborhood felt downright dangerous. I’d rather face a hungry bear than a redneck who just discovered his buddy finished off the last six-pack.

Now we camp only in national or state parks. It seems that the more remote a place is, the more likely we are to find like-minded individuals who are there because they really love nature, not just a drinking party. If it were a formula, it may look like this: the correlation of quiet and respectful campers is proportional to the distance it takes to acquire more alcohol. I also unbiasedly believe that camping in the wild west is far better than the crowded east, where we encountered those private (and not-so-private) campgrounds.

Put it this way: if the pizza place will deliver to your campsite, you’re not yet “far enough away from it all.”

  • We get to live in interesting places.

Craters of the Moon. For some reason passers-by thought we were throwing lava rocks at each other instead of pine cones. I suppose the assumption is that all large families are weird. And trying to kill each other off.

On the flip side, camping in national and state parks—away from convenient pizza and beer—means that we sleep in fascinating areas. Besides Yellowstone, we’ve camped at Arches in Utah (where jackrabbits chewed through the electrical wires of our trailer), in Mesa Verde in Colorado (where we found pottery sherds in ancient midden piles which we turned in to astonished park rangers), in Craters of the Moon in Idaho (where we stacked lava rock into bunkers for a pinecone war) and in Nauvoo, Illinois (where we were startled the first evening to hear what sounded like distant angels singing . . . but it was a choir rehearsing outside for a later performance).

But the most magical place was Del Norte Coast State Park, California, in the heart of the redwoods. Our campsite consisted of mammoth ferns and massive tree stumps. For our Star Wars obsessed children, it was like living on the forest moon of Endor. You can’t get that kind of experience in any hotel.

August 18, 2011 Redwoods and Tidal Pool, CA

Now THAT’S a log to contend with! And to play “Ewoks Hiding” in.

August 18, 2011 Redwoods and Tidal Pool, CA

You can hardly see our campsite in the middle of the giant ferns and stumps.

  • Bonus: Our kids get an international experience without the international costs.

Don’t have to be in Europe to see European cars.

One more plug for Yellowstone: there’s nowhere in the world that feels as international as that massive park in Wyoming. I’d estimate that fully one-third of the tourists are from Asia, and of the remainder, less than half are American. That put us in the minority.

Our kids have contests trying to discern the languages we hear on the trails around us. Last week we heard Russian, German, Spanish, a few Slavic languages we couldn’t narrow down, a couple of Norse languages we weren’t too sure of, Chinese, Japanese, another Asian language that sounds like blue jays bickering with each other, and a multitude of accents: a man with a lilting French accent offered me the next use of the Laundromat dryer he was using for his wet sleeping bags, and the woman coming out of the outhouse in front of me commented on its condition in an Italian accent.

The Japanese tourist who was taking pictures of the sunrise right along next to me. (I’m betting that when my back was turned, he also took a picture of me taking pictures.)

As much as camping exhausts and stresses me, how can I deny such an adventure for my kids? In a way, it’s our civic duty to camp. In the sites around us were people from other countries experiencing “The American Vacation.” Certainly there needed to be at least one legitimately “American Family” demonstrating the proper way to tarp a tent or hang laundry lines for towels to dry, right?

Besides, there are additional bonuses for me: When I come home, I’m appreciate so much more hot water on demand, separate bedrooms, refrigerators that don’t require bags of ice, my wonky 75% operating stove, my old cracked microwave, my soft couches, my firm chairs, my washer and dryer that don’t require quarters, and a bathroom door that I can lock.

Maybe I camp to renew my gratitude for the luxuries I have, such as carpeting.

Maybe the entire point of embracing nature for a time is to come home and more fully embrace all that isn’t natural. You know, kind of a yin/yang thing? Good thing we camped next to Chinese. I’m feeling more well-rounded already.

Every neighborhood in Edge had the appearance of an adventurous fishing trip; people shared stories late into the night as they sat around fires roasting pieces of animals until the outsides were burned but the insides were still raw and chewy.

But Camp Edge included amenities most families weren’t accustomed to.  . . . Temperatures plummeted to near freezing. And, in the case of the Shin family, a long sofa appeared outside near the fire in the back garden.  ~The Mansions of Idumea, Book Three

Xeriscaping the Forest at the Edge of my Yard (a green and healthy obsession)

My neighbor stopped in front of my yard where we were moving rocks and mulch, and asked, “So where will the hotpots go? And the mud volcanoes?”

forest at the edge of my yard

I scratched my chin. “Haven’t figured that one out yet. But for Halloween I think I’ll put some dry ice and hot water out here.”

My husband stared at me, worried that the conversion of our front yard really isn’t about xeriscaping or conserving water, but that I really am so obsessed with “forests” and “edges” that I’m creating it in our very yard.

Only slightly. Maybe.

side view of forest

Our front yard used to be all grass with aspens, a couple pines, and rocks with fossils we picked up in the canyons. But my husband and I have always loved forests, so began the full transformation to creating a forest floor which requires no mowers.

yard in progress

For the several weeks that it took us to complete the project, neighbors would wonder what in the world we were up to. (“You’re killing your grass? On purpose?!”)

All in the name of xeriscaping, mind you. (Not “zeroscaping,” by the way.) We live in the second driest state of the country, after all, and watering so much grass is irresponsible, we thought. So we installed a drip feed system (not entirely xeriscaping, I realize, but certainly reducing the amount of water we use). The system feeds our trees and a few perennials such as shasta daisies, black-eyed susans, and vinca, which will look amazing next year.


(Look at the fossils in those rocks. And we just picked them up in the canyon behind our house. We live in an awesome area!)

We let the rest of the grass die (yes, on purpose), and covered it with a couple layers of cardboard that my husband retrieved from his old workplace.


The cardboard keeps down the weeds and retains moisture. And makes people wonder if there are any cats buried under that Tidy Cats box. (No, that was at our last house.)

We live in a rocky area, so instead of fighting the rocks, we decided to incorporate them to help hold down the cardboard, set off the aspens and their little “volunteers,” and to keep the drip-feed system contained.


(At the correct angle, these look like house-size boulders, don’t they?)

Then we covered it all with several inches of mulch. Fortunately our dump provides a full yard of mulch for less than $10. Yep, that load below cost less than $10. We used about five of these for the whole front third of our yard.

3 year old and mulch

(Meet my three-year-old, Mr. Ham-and-Cheese.)

Our kids helped, albeit at times reluctantly, to shovel and rake out the mulch (taking an entire 20 minutes to empty each load). Whenever they quietly grumbled, we reminded them that they no longer had to mow around the trees, which was becoming quite the annoying endeavor each week.

grass cardboard mulch

The mulch is 4-6 inches thick, and has that lovely cushiony feel like a real forest floor.

After a few weeks we finally finished. We plan to add a few more logs and another dwarf pine or two, but for now, I have my own little forest! (Yes, I’m fully aware a trickling river would be amazing through here, but that’s not in the budget this decade.)

logs in forest

(We need more logs. My husband’s planning next year’s vacation to the northern California coast primarily to pick up salt-treated driftwood.)

Another friend suggested I place a miniature wooden fort in the middle of this. (Her kids had actually made Fort Shin out of Lego bricks last year.)

And maybe a sign that says, “Welcome to Edge.” (Oh, yes–I want one!)

My husband keeps shaking his head at the suggestions. It’s all about xeriscaping, right? Right?!

hostas in mulch

No more weeding around the bishop’s weed and hostas.

Next year, we plan to do the parking strip. Dear Hubby was surprised to hear I was on board with converting a lot of it to rock and taking out the sprinkler system. I wonder what his reaction will be when he discovers I made some miniature buildings out of cement block, and put up a little sign that says, “Welcome to Idumea.”

forest in background