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Terms relating to pregnancy and abortion

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Overview of pregnancy and abortion terms:

There are fundamental differences in definitions used by pro-life and pro-choice advocates:

bullet Most Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians, pro-life advocates, and religious conservatives believe that:

bullet Pregnancy begins during the process of conception when a unique DNA is constructed.
bullet Human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon (i.e. forms of life with human DNA), becomes a human person at conception.
bullet Any medication that terminates the life of a person, whether in the form of a zygote, morula, pre-embryo, embryo or fetus is an abortifacient -- it induces an abortion.
bullet The "morning after pill" (a.k.a. emergency contraception, (EC) either is or can be an abortifacient.
bullet Essentially all medical specialists, pro-choice advocates, religious liberals, etc. believe that :

bullet Pregnancy begins when the pre-embryo embeds itself in the wall of the uterus, about twelve days after conception.
bullet Human life becomes a human person later in pregnancy -- e.g. when the fetus is viable, or when higher functions of the fetal brain first turn on and the fetus attains sentience, or at birth or at some other time.
bullet Any medication that terminates a pregnancy is an abortifacient.
bullet The "morning after" pill acts as a contraceptive in that it prevents ovulation -- the release of an ovum from an ovary, and inhibits conception. If conception has already started, it cannot induce an abortion. Thus, it is not an abortifacient.

With such differences in the basic definition of terms, meaningful dialogue between pro-choice and pro-life advocates is essentially impossible -- even if the desire were present.

If the two groups were able to work together they could achieve their common goal of reducing the abortion rate in the U.S. by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Since about half of the pregnancies are unintended, and about half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion, the abortion rate could be cut to a fraction of its present value if the use of contraceptives, including EC, were encouraged. Some countries in Europe have an unwanted pregnancy rate and thus an abortion rate than is a fraction of those seen in the U.S. Unfortunately, the lack of consensus on meanings of terms, and the level of animosity between the tro groups makes joint activity difficult.

Contrasting definitions:

Evangelical usage/term Some others' usage/term Comments
Chemical abortion A medically induced abortion that involves the use of a medication. This refers to the use of medication (e.g. RU-486) to terminate a pregnancy. "Others" include medical professionals, pro-choice advocates, etc. "Chemical" implies that the embryo is burned out; "Medical" implies that a pharmaceutical is used to induce abortion.
Pro-abortion, Pro-borts, Pro-abort Pro-choice Individuals and groups in favor of abortion access and free choice for others.
Abortionists, murderers Abortion providers References to physicians who perform abortions.
Abortuary Women's clinic; abortion clinic  
Pro-life Anti-abortion, Pro-life. Favoring major restriction or complete elimination of abortion access.
Pregnancy starts at conception. Pregnancy starts when the fertilized ovum is implanted in the womb. "Others" include medical professionals, scientists, pro-choice advocates, etc.
Human life starts at conception. Human life starts weeks before conception. Each sperm cell is clearly alive and contains human DNA, from the time that it left a testicle until a few weeks later, at conception. So too for an ovum. Both have been a form of human life well before conception.

Human personhood starts at conception.

Human personhood starts later in gestation or at birth.

This is a key difference! "Others" include many medical professionals, pro-choice advocates, etc.
"The unborn," "pre-born," "child," or "baby" Zygote, fertilized ovum, morula, blastocyst, embryo or fetus. These are largely medical terms. In popular use, the term "baby" is used to refer to any stage of development from pre-embryo to infant.
An abortion is an intentional termination of a pregnancy at any time from conception to birth A therapeutic abortion is an intentional termination of a pregnancy, from implantation to viability. "Others" include medical professionals, scientists, some pro-choice advocates, etc.
In a religious and moral sense, but not at this time in a legal sense, all abortion result in the murder of a human person. Abortion kills a developing embryo or fetus that may be a human person or have the potential to become a human person. Abortion becomes murder when the ovum, embryo or fetus has become a human person. There is no consensus on when this occurs.
A contraceptive device or medication prevents conception. A contraceptive device or medication prevents pregnancy. Physicians and pro-choice advocates generally define pregnancy as starting many days after conception, when the pre-embryo implants in the wall of the uterus.

It is important to realize that when one group defines something differently from another group, this does not make one group clueless, ignorant. backwards, etc. They are simply two groups using differing definitions. Denegrating others happens often in areas where religion impacts people's sexual behavior, as in abortion access, rights of persons with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity, access to marriage, etc.

Site navigation:

 Home page > Religious info > Evangelical dictionary > here

or Home > "Hot" religious topics > Abortion > Abortion facts > here

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Copyright 2000 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-OCT-02
Latest update and review: 2010-JUN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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