My Old Kentucky Homesite

“Unborn” Again

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 03/11/2010

Every now and then I go on a rant about our failure to challenge specific language used by politicans.

What got me started today was this story in our local rag.

It seems that two Jesublicans in the Kentucky House of Representatives have stalled a number of bills by attempting to attach completely unrelated anti-abortion amendments to them. The halted pieces of legislation, which are supported by most Kentuckians and their elected representatives, deal with issues like, among others, disclosing information on child fatalities, lowering case loads and improving security for state social workers, regulating physicians’ assistants, and collecting data to review alternative education programs for “at-risk” students. Even the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky opposes adding anti-abortion obstructions to those worthy bills.

Why are those bills stalled? The oh-so-craven Democrats, fearing a prolonged fight on the anti-abortion amendments, have chosen to return the bills to committee. That’s the governmental equivalent of hiding your dirty laundry in the back of the closet. I could — but I won’t (at least not here) — go off on a tangent about how useless Democrats are when allegedly fighting for the people. One rant at a time is enough.

By cleverly handicapping the passage of needed laws, the two men — David Floyd and Tim Moore — are holding up the legislature because of their own religiously driven agenda. On David Floyd’s Web site, he promises always to “Defend the rights of the unborn.” Similarly, Moore said that in his proposed amendments, he’s trying to “protect the rights of the unborn.”

No matter how sneakily anti-abortionists couch their terms, they’re always talking, ultimately, about human souls. That’s what “the unborn” means: live souls that have yet to emerge into the world from the insides of their mothers. If you dismiss the specifically religious concept of “souls” — as the First Amendment says the government must — then the term “unborn” is meaningless. You might just as well apply it to children that will first see the light of day 100 years from now, or to wild animals, or to rocks, for that matter. An egg is not a chicken. Any creature or thing that hasn’t been born is, obviously, “unborn.” Such an organism is not a person, or a pig, or a dinosaur, or even a dung beetle, until it’s been born (or hatched). Before that, it’s merely a potentiality. No matter how loony your interpretation of the Constitution is, you can’t find in it any guarantees about the rights of non- persons, mere potentialities. So, really, all anti-abortion laws are unconstitutional, because anyone who even speaks about “the rights of the unborn” is clearly seeking to establish one religious viewpoint over others.

One of the things that got me angriest about the story was a response by Terry Brooks, the Executive Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. Brooks said, “I find it sadly ironic that the same voices that want to protect unborn children are willing to put children at risk after they are born.”

That riposte is cute, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. It’s time for all of us who are not anti-abortion to stop allowing words like “unborn” to go unchallenged. Opponents of people like Floyd and Moore must not accept their linguistic sleigh-of-hand. We must make them define their terms clearly. When we call them to task, especially if they’re the smug Christian bullies I suspect they are, they probably won’t be able to avoid demonstrating the blatantly religious underpinnings of their ideas, as expressed in the very words and phrases they use. Their unconstitutional notions are nestled comfortably into their language choices.

Let’s not just nod dumbly when the religious zealots sneak terminological razzle-dazzle into our public debates.


38 Responses to ““Unborn” Again”

  1. John Evo said

    Great points, E… err… Larry!

    And perhaps we should start asking the zealots if these “babies” who are aborted go to Hell? I’m pretty sure 90% of Christians think they go to heaven.

    So – then what’s the problem? Give me an award for sending souls to heaven and get the fuck outta my way while I abort another fetus!

  2. The Kentucky constituents should just let the asswipes continue until they’ve reached the logical conclusion of their little game- – completely shutting down the state.

    Today they block a few programs until they get their anti-abortion amendment. Tomorrow, the governor should refuse to send out paychecks until the anti-abortion amendment is passed. Then he should shut down all the state elevators, lock all the doors, turn off the traffic lights and close the streets, and everyone should go home. Then, and only then, will those two clowns be happy.

    And all for the unborn. Brings a tear to my…ummm…armpit.

  3. Evo:
    I don’t think those unborn babies get a free pass to Hosannah World. They’re unbaptized, aren’t they?

    I’m not sure anyone here would care if the state completely shuts down. Most Kentuckians wouldn’t even notice unless the basketball season was suddenly cut short.

  4. John Evo said

    E… err… Larry, I think that was formerly a problem for the Catholics (hence purgatory) but they’ve had a Holy Revelation, batman and the Pope found out from God that there is no sich animule. The Baptist never had a problem with little kids dying. They ALWAYS went to heaven for them. “Bring unto me the little children”… I guess stuff like that made them believe they were safe. That’s why most Baptist groups (and Mormons) don’t baptize little kids. They want them to “understand Jaysus” (as our friend, MacNutz can articulate better than I) before dunking them in the pond.

    So, yeah, I’m quite certain that those zygotes and blastocysts are heading straight for Massa Yahweh and the great plantation in the sky.

  5. Evo:
    I’m quite certain that those zygotes and blastocysts are heading straight for Massa Yahweh and the great plantation in the sky.
    There to be slaves to their lord for all de doo-dah eternity, eh?
    I hope you’re not going to be on this Stephen Foster kick for long.

  6. John Evo said

    I thought this was all supposed to be done in “Kentucky theme”. Sorry…. ;)

  7. MacNutz said

    Still born Catholic babies used to go to limbo. Purgatory is where adults are purged of sin before being allowed to enter the pearly gates. But now Limbo is no more. The Pope demolished the place with the little baby souls still inside. Mean old Pope. Now where do they go?

    Yeah, we really need legislation to protect the fantasy prone and things that don’t exist. If real people suffer in the process, well God likes it that way, or so it would appear.

    Good point about that term “the un-born”, very good.

  8. John Evo said

    LIMBO! I knew Purgatory sounded _wrong_ but had to go with it. I should have know the Limbo. I love Caribbean music!

  9. Evo:
    As the man said, “How low can you go?”

    What I want to know is: Do we have to change the name of the cheese to Purgatoburger? (I don’t see any way to work that stinky joke into the Kentucky theme, except to say that the stuff smells like bare feet.)

    Now that there’s no Limbo, those dead Catholic babies sit invisibly on the shoulders of the six Catholic Supreme Court Justices, whispering instructions from Jesus.

  10. John Evo said

    Fuck! Is it really 6 of them now that are Popistas? That is NOT a good thing.

  11. the chaplain said

    Opponents of people like Floyd and Moore must not accept their linguistic sleigh-of-hand. We must make them define their terms clearly.

    This is a basic principle, yet it’s surprising how many people forget it.

    The Salvation Army doesn’t practice communion, nor do they practice baptism (well, not water dunking anyway, they have a ceremonial equivalent). Maybe Vachel Lindsay got it wrong and General William didn’t get into heaven after all.

  12. Evo:
    The Catholics are: Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor. We’ve yet to find out for sure whether number six votes the Jesuitical party line on abortion and religion cases.

    Getting washed in the blood of the lamb sounds awfully messy to me. But I suppose it works well if someone has thrown a shepherd’s pie at you. While you bathe, can you relax under bubbles and drink some fruit of the ovine?

  13. the chaplain said

    I know some Ozzie Salvos who eat the flesh of the ovine with relish.

  14. Chappy:
    In India, they eat it with chutney.

  15. srsny said

    Even the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky opposes adding anti-abortion obstructions to those worthy bills.

    I don’t think the opinion of Catholic Conference of Kentucky has much influence in your state. As I learned from living in North Carolina – Catholics are barely considered Christians in the south. I found that quite shocking. Yes, of course I expected them to hate New Yorkers – or northerners in general – Jews, and gay people. But, by far, in North Carolina anyway, Catholics were on the top of the list of those to hate.

    Of course, although I was a triple threat, I was a little safer than most of those demons – I lived in Chapel Hill. And, as I’ve mentioned before in a comment here, Jesse Helms is famous for saying, “North Carolina doesn’t need a zoo; just put a fence around Chapel Hill.” I hadn’t thought of it before, but I’m guessing there were plenty of Catholics living there to qualify as a part of Jesse’s Zoo.

  16. Postman said

    You know what they say about great minds, Larry. I was just contemplating the “unborn” thing and who it’s supposed to encompass earlier.
    And about SI’s point, I’ve often wondered what the world would look like if the right-wingers got what they say they want.

  17. Srsny:
    According to this chart, 15% of the Kentucky population is Roman Catholic. But, based on my own anecdotal research, the Catholics speak 42% louder, and are 73% better funded, than other religious organizations.

    What’s alarming is that many reasonable people on the Anti-Forced-Maternity side have not contemplated the meaning of “unborn.”

  18. The Rightwingnuts always dictates terminology. On that, they’re very clever. They should be forced to say “fetuses”. Every reporter should follow up their comments with, “and by unborn, you mean fetuses, correct?”

    I agree that if you press them, they’ll reveal their Christian underbellies. Deep down, they want to yell their nonsense from the highest hill, and they’re SO full of that righteousness that I don’t think it takes much for them to drop the facade and go all Christian. I think they hate having to hide their intents. btw, I’m sure there’s a passage from their bible about how you shouldn’t hide your true beliefs. Anyone?

  19. Philly
    The Rightwingnuts always dictate terminology.
    But that could stop if the rest of us refuse to deafly accept their words. Yeah, reporters questioning them is a good idea, but it probably won’t happen. The change has to come from the public. What pisses me off is when reasonable people just go along for the linguistic ride. That’s why I’ve never used the phrase “Pro-Life.” I always use “Pro-Forced-Maternity,” which is basically the same as “Pro-Slavery.”

    I also dislike “Pro-Choice,” because it’s too bland. Letting a kid pick out his own brand of peanut butter is being pro-choice. Handing your spouse the TV remote is being pro-choice. Getting the family together to decide what name to give your new puppy is being pro-choice. Insisting on a woman’s right to control her own body is in a whole different category.

  20. We abdicated to the word Nazis when we refused to stick to our guns and use “pro-abortion”. We’re afraid people will think we are pro-killing.

    You’re damn right I’m pro-abortion. I favor abortion as an option for anyone who feels the need to have it.

  21. Perhaps the whole “sanctity of human life” thing should be usurped and used for the ones who get pregnant instead.

  22. SI:
    Yeah, you’re right. Why should people who support a woman’s right to have an abortion be embarrassed about calling themselves “pro-abortion.” But that does make some Anti-Forced-Maternity types uncomfortable, because they mistakenly think that the term makes them sound as if they favor abortion in all cases. It’s something like the difference between “legalizing” drugs and “de-criminalizing” them.

    I wouldn’t use “sanctity” in any context. That word, alone, should give the anti-abortionists’ game away.

  23. Larry:

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Semantics is an important theme in loon-speak.

    Faith that the sun will rise = faith that the Son will rise.
    A hypothesis called a theory in the common parlance = a scientific theory such as evolution or relativity.
    “Unborn” applies the rules of humanity to a zygote.
    The statement “I don’t believe in God.” accepts the premise that the god of the listener exists.
    Also, the word “sanctity” is usually only used by sanctimonious pricks.

  24. the chaplain said

    The statement “I don’t believe in God.” accepts the premise that the god of the listener exists.

    That’s why I want to be more careful about saying that I don’t believe in any gods when I speak with people. It’s easy to fall into the habit of speaking on their terms, which is precisely what Larry is warning us not to do. A typical exchange could go like this:

    Fundie: Did you know that Jesus died for your sins so that you could have eternal life in heaven with God?
    Atheist: I don’t believe in God.

    Bingo. The evangelist has sucked the atheist into playing his/her game. Now, if the discussion continues, it will be about the fundie god. If the atheist is interested in continuing a conversation with the fundie, he/she should wrest control away from the fundie:

    Fundie: Did you know that Jesus died for your sins so that you could have eternal life in heaven with God?
    Atheist: Really? Which one? Vishnu? Odin? Krishna?

    Don’t let the fundie make you play defense. Take the offense and make him/her defend his/her position. Or, tell him/her you’re not interested and walk away. More often than not, I’m inclined to do the latter. In spite of what they think, I really have heard it all before and I don’t care to go through it all again.

  25. Des:
    I try to avoid loon-speak. To elaborate on your examples, I:

    * never use the word “faith” (except in the phrase “faith-free”), but instead use “trust.”
    * avoid entirely, when speaking with non-scientists, the word “theory” in either of its meanings. (For me, it’s the “Principle of Evolution.”)
    * refuse to say “unborn.” (Note to vampire fans: I don’t say “undead” either.)
    * announce, as Chappy recommends, “I don’t believe in any gods,” rather than singularizing.
    * don’t even think about “sanctity.”

    Some day, a bunch of us atheists will have to get together and come up with a Terms-to-Avoid Dictionary.

    Walking away may be a successful tactic on the street, at the shopping mall, or in a large office. But it doesn’t work so well if you’re in a legislature, or a school, or a courtroom, or a news bureau. We need atheists who are ready for those situations, and are always prepared to challenge semantic goddism when they hear it.

  26. the chaplain said

    The pernicious thing about goddism is that it’s so thoroughly pervasive that it’s easy not to recognize it for what it is.

  27. chappy:
    That’s why we have to continue to warn one another whenever and wherever we see it.

  28. Damn it, I meant to replace those = signs with ≠ signs prior to hitting the submit button, but I forgot.


    That sounds a lot like a conversation I had with myself here.

  29. Des:
    I thought you were being sarcastic.

  30. When the issue of a god or religion comes up, I usually say I’m not into superstitions. I avoid the whole god thing altogether and continue to do so as long as they want to keep talking. For them, that’s the point, their god, whereas for us it’s not. The point for us is believing unwarranted claims, especially when it leads to irrational behavior based on those beliefs.

    Fundie: Did you know that Jesus died for your sins so that you could have eternal life in heaven with God?
    Atheist: Do you know you’ve just asserted a claim that involves at least six things which no one has yet shown exists?

    Or you could just reply with equal nonsense about how the FSM embraces us all in his noodley appendages, or hop on the crazy train with them and say something like, “well he didn’t exactly die, now did he, and what kind of sacrifice is that then if you get to come back in three days as a god?”

  31. Philly:
    Or you could really turn on the sarcasm with, “Thanks for telling me that; I hadn’t heard.”

  32. Postman said


    That’s an excellent point. I mean, I’d be happy to “sacrifice” myself for everyone* if a) I were only going to be dead for a long weekend and b) I were going to be the most bad-ass superhero ever – who didn’t actually have to help anyone.

    * Democrats, Jews and Gays need not apply.

  33. the chaplain said

    About the bad-ass superhero thing: Clark Kent got Lois Lane, while Jesus got Mary Magdalene. Yeah, Superman actually does something every now and then, but, which gal would you rather have? And, why would Mary Magdalene fall for a guy who doesn’t actually do anything? At least Lois was attracted to a man of action (and steel).

  34. Postie:
    What, your asterisk doesn’t apply to Atheists?

    Jesus got everybody. That guy could have any woman (or man)he wants, just by snapping his fingers. Don’t you read your bible?

  35. Postman said

    I am reliably informed that Superman never made any money saving the world from Solomon Grundy, (and others). So there’s that against him. And if I can get the girl without having to do anything, well, that seems like a win/win to me.

    Oops! I forgot about the filthy, filthy atheists.

  36. Postie:
    You’re too kind. Only a pair of “filthy”s?

  37. the chaplain said

    Rumors of Jesus’s prowess as a lover have been greatly exaggerated.

  38. Postman said

    For that matter, rumors of Jesus have been greatly exaggerated.

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