Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Lovejoyfeminism has an entry that I can't find where the author says she doesn't know how to explain her pregnancy to her kid because she can't say it's a baby in her tummy, because it's not a baby yet, but she can't say it's a fetus because her kid doesn't know what a fetus is.

I could tell her kid what a fetus is.  It's a baby that's still in the womb.  My biology book has some illustrations of babies at various ages in the womb that could show her exactly what a "baby in the womb" is.

It is totally accurate to call a fetus a baby.  Why?  Because that is one of the common uses of the word "baby".  Baby is not a technical term, so it doesn't have a precise definition.  It tends to refer to things that are young or to things that people love.  People sometimes call their friends and spouses baby, to express love.  A fetus is definitely something young, and for many people it's also something they love.  I'm not saying it's wrong to call it a fetus.  That term is correct.  But baby is also correct.

The pro-choice crazies often say, "It's not a baby, it's a fetus."  But then after it's born, you could just as correctly (incorrectly) say, "It's not a baby, it's a neonate."  The technical terms are embryo, fetus, neonate, and infant.  And the word baby can refer to all of those, and more.  But using the same word for all of them doesn't mean we're equating an embryo with an infant.  Like, the japanese word for leg is the same as the word for foot.  They're both "ashi".  That doesn't mean that japanese people think that a foot is exactly the same thing as a leg.  It just means they have something relevant in common.  And an embryo, fetus, neonate, infant, and all the other things that the word baby can refer to, do have something relevant in common:  They're all young and/or loved.  So when someone refers to a fetus or embryo as a baby, they're telling you what they find relevant -- that it's their child and they love it and they care for it, and they'll keep feeling that way after it comes out of the womb.

I've pointed this out to the crazies many times.  I tell them that it is correct to call a fetus a baby, because that is a common usage of the word baby.  And that's how language works.  And baby isn't a technical term.  They never accept this, or even respond directly.  But I think I've figured out what they're thinking.

They think that if a fetus is called a baby, then that makes it a person, and that would make it immoral to get an abortion.

There are two problems with this.  1, fallacy of equivocation; 2, bodily integrity.

The fallacy of equivocation is when you have the same word in two different contexts and then you claim that the word has to mean the same exact thing on both contexts.  For example

A chess player is a person; therefore a bad chessplayer is a bad person.

Chess player is not a synonym for a person.  Also, the word bad has two different meanings here.  First it's modifying chessplaying ability, then it's modifying a person's character.

The pro-choice crazies's argument about the word baby uses a fallacy of equivocation.  Calling something a baby does not necessarily make it a person.  People sometimes refer to projects or objects such as cars as their babies.  And I'm totally willing to agree that there's a period of time at the beginning of a human's gestation during which they are not a person, because they don't even have a brain or any thoughts or feelings.  But they're still human, and they're still young, and people can still feel love for them.  So they fall with in one or more of the definitions or connotations of the word baby, but not of person.  Language is complicated like that.

But even if a fetus is a person, that still doesn't make abortion immoral.  Here's the article that convinced me:  Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion
Read it.  Basically it says that you still are not obligated to share your body with someone, even if they are a person.

So, it's not incorrect to call a fetus or embryo a baby, because it falls under one or more of the meanings of that word.  And it's not a danger to the pro-choice stance, because something being a baby doesn't mean it's a person, and something being a person doesn't mean you have to sacrifice anything of yourself to it.

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