Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

May 7, 2013

The euphemism imperative

President Barack Obama was proud to become the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood the other day. But not proud enough to utter the word “abortion.”

The right to abortion is the sneakiest, most shamefaced of all American rights. It hides behind evasion and euphemism and can’t.

So President Obama sang a hymn of praise to Planned Parenthood at the organization’s annual conference without mentioning what makes it so distinctive and controversial. He said its core principle is “that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own health.” He excoriated opponents involved “in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health.”

Listening to him, you could be forgiven for thinking that the country is riven by a fierce dispute over whether women should be allowed to choose their own OB-GYNs or to get cancer screenings. In his speech, the president said the word “cancer” seven times. About that he is happy to be forthright.

Imagine if he had been similarly frank about the core of Planned Parenthood’s work: “In 2011, according to your annual report, your clinics or affiliates performed 330,000 abortions. That’s a lot of abortion. Over 10 years more than 3 million. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. Think of all those women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies, and you were there for them. That’s what you do. That’s what you are about. And that’s what this country is about.”

Before that crowd, he might have gotten rousing applause, but talking in such honest terms would have been a gross faux pas. The unwritten rule when the left discusses abortion is that it shouldn’t be called “abortion,” but always “health” or, more specifically “reproductive health” — although abortion is the opposite of reproduction and, for one party involved, the opposite of health.

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