(RNS) As I read the Democratic Party platform on abortion, I couldn’t help but wonder what George Orwell would have said.
In 1946, Orwell wrote a famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” that described political speech and writing as “largely the defense of the indefensible.”
“Political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness,” he wrote. Politicians turn to strange phrases in order to “name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”
The 2016 Democratic platform contains a number of these euphemisms that hide abortion in a haze of abstraction:
“Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice.”
The terms “reproductive health,” “reproductive rights” and “reproductive justice” are newer additions to abortion-rights ideology. They seek to counter the effect of “right to life” language, which is grounded in the Declaration of Independence and resonates with many Americans.
On the surface, who can be against “reproductive health,” if by that, we mean healthy reproductive experience? If “reproductive health” is another way of saying abortion on demand, then we should wonder why one would adopt that term. What exactly is wrong with or unhealthy about a woman who is pregnant?
Next comes “reproductive rights.”
Does this term mean that a woman has the right to reproduce? Thankfully, no one denies a woman that right today, although nearly a century ago, it was popular among progressive elites to promote compulsory sterilization of those deemed "unfit" to reproduce.
If “reproductive rights” does not refer to the right to reproduce, does it mean the right to not reproduce? I doubt anyone would quibble with that definition. No woman should be forced to engage in sexual relations against her will. And the majority of people with moral objections to birth control still maintain a woman’s freedom to obtain it. No, the reason “reproductive rights” is controversial is because the term means the right to end the life of the human who already exists in the womb.
“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.”
Some have lauded this statement as the most progressive platform on abortion ever adopted by a political party. But “progressive” is a slippery term.
A century ago, most of the “progressives” were advocating eugenics and forced sterilizations. Two hundred years ago, the “progressives” were the ones who enacted laws to hold abortionists accountable for preying on poor women (alas, Kermit Gosnells have long been with us).
“Progressive” and “advanced” are terms that mask a power play. They promote the idea that the “progressive” is at the vanguard of the future of justice and equality. As descriptors, though, they are empty of substance.
Besides, when you look at the surveys of Americans on abortion, you might conclude that the Democratic National Convention platform is not “progressive,” but “extreme” -- as in “out of the mainstream.” Do the majority of Americans really agree with the Democrats? A slight majority champion abortion rights, but 64 percent believe abortion should be illegal in the second trimester, and 80 percent in the third trimester. The DNC is far out of the mainstream on abortion regulation.
“We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing.”
There’s the “reproductive health” euphemism again. Translation: We believe that the ability to destroy one’s offspring is core to young people’s wellbeing. Of course, that only refers to the wellbeing of some young people. The younger you are, the more vulnerable. It’s hard to look at a dismembered corpse left after a second-trimester abortion and conclude that “reproductive health” makes a great contribution to that young person’s wellbeing.
“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
Translation: Not only do we believe in the right to abortion, we believe all Americans who have a moral objection to violence against the unborn must subsidize abortion through taxpayer funds. To put it another way, the DNC wants to take away a pro-life "woman’s right to choose" to not cover the cost of the abortion industry’s violence against the vulnerable.
“We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.”
For a moment, it seems the DNC platform sees “reducing the need for abortions” as a positive development. This is the closest the current statement comes to the “abortion should be rare” language from past party platforms. If the trajectory of these platforms holds up in the future, the next DNC platform will strip this language away, to fully hide any moral quandary over abortion.
“We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child.”
After arguing for the right to an abortion for any reason at any stage of pregnancy, the platform then speaks of a society that is safe for children. Sorry, but we will never create a society safe for children if we imagine the woman and her unborn child in an adversarial relationship, or argue for the right to kill a child up to the point he or she is in the birth canal.
Orwell was right about political language, which is why our manner of conversation about abortion conveniently shifts whenever we find it necessary to distance ourselves from the humanity of the unborn.
But no amount of euphemism can avoid the fact that in “medical waste” bags and freezers of abortion clinics, there are tiny, broken bodies of our fellow humans to be disposed of, all in the name of “reproductive health.”
(Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After”)