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

2 thoughts on “Planned Parenthood and its Very Care-ful Language

    • Does it really? I haven’t heard that. I did a quick search online but didn’t see anything come up immediately, but I’ll keep looking.


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