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Redefining the Word "Fetus"

National Public Radio (NPR) just instructed its reporters to not use the terms “baby” or “unborn” to refer to the fetus. They explained, “The term ‘unborn’ implies that there is a baby inside a pregnant woman, not a fetus. Babies are not babies until they are born. They’re fetuses. Incorrectly calling a fetus a ‘baby’ or ‘the unborn’ is part of the strategy used by antiabortion groups to shift…public opinion.”

Taxpayer funded NPR understands understands that word choices matter.

In light of that, here’s a way you can reframe the entire issue using the word “fetus” but redefining the word in the process.

With a calm and conversational tone say,

“Personally, I don’t think a loving God is okay with cutting off the arms and legs of a fetus. Do you?”

Then stop. Say nothing more. Let the statement hang right there. Use the very uncomfortable silence to force them to respond.

Why reframe it this way?

First, this accurately depicts what happens in many abortions. The abortion industry does not want to have this conversation because it will not help women feel good about getting an abortion.

Second, it uses the term that “pro-choice” folks prefer to use: fetus. However, it then bends the term, infusing it with new meaning by creating a very clear visual image of the fetus in the mind of the listener—as a person, not a piece of tissue. Tissue does not have arms and legs; people do. If you visualize arms and legs you visualize a person. This response visually humanizes the fetus in a powerful way. In the future, we want people to think “arms and legs” whenever they hear the word “fetus.”

Third, it puts a “pro-choice” person in the position of having to defend cutting off arms and legs instead of “terminating a pregnancy,” or “having an abortion.” If they are savvy they will try to reframe the conversation as quickly as possible. However, you have now put a mental image in their head they cannot choose to “not see.” Let the mental image do its work over time. Keep in mind our target audience for this rhetoric is not the hardcore pro-abortionist; it is the person who is “pro-choice” but is at some level uncomfortable with abortion.

Fourth, it pits them against God, not against you. Are they really going to say they think a loving God is okay with cutting off the arms and legs of a fetus? Not likely.

They may react emotionally and accuse you of being anti-woman because they have no other viable response that allows them to feel good about cutting off the arms and legs of a fetus. If they do, simply respond by again saying as calmly and conversationally possible, “As I said before, I don’t think a loving God is okay with cutting off the arms and legs of a fetus. Do you?” Again, stop. Say nothing more. That’s an image that may make your listener angry, but the point is to reframe the issue to be about what God thinks. Otherwise, it’s simply your opinion versus theirs.

Piggy-backing your message on mental pictures your listeners already have in their heads is a potent and shrewd communication tool. It’s like Jesus calling the Pharisees “white-washed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones.” He hijacked images his audience already had in their heads to make his point. Truth can be stated in ways that make people yawn or in ways that engage their emotions using mental pictures.

One word of caution: Do not preach. Do not accuse. Do not point a finger. Use a kind and conversational tone. Don’t let the conversation broaden; keep bringing abortion back to this point thereby humanizing the fetus. However, if at any juncture they want to change the subject entirely, let them. If they indicate they have had an abortion assure them that God, who is love, loves them too and wants a relationship with them. It may be an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.

Jesus said we are to “be as shrewd as serpents but as innocent as doves.” Shrewdly reframe the issue to who God is (Love) and what He thinks (instead of what you think) using words to create powerful mental pictures, then look for ways to win the person, not just the argument.

©2019 Brad Bright

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