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The First Week of Life: Words We Use

JCWillke   |   October 01, 2004

“Stem cells,” “cloning,” “emergency contraception—all of these are being discussed to a degree and with an intensity that has never before existed. Inappropriate or flatly deceptive wording is clouding much of it. Therefore, it is of extreme importance that we consistently use the right pro-life language and not fall into their semantic shadings and distortion. Let’s review some of this wording.

“Stem Cells”
They like to say these cells are “harvested,” but harvest is a positive word; —the end of a growing season, a successful planting or a bountiful harvest is what we think of, and none of these apply here.

They sometimes, and sadly for most of us almost all of the time, speak of “destroying” stem cells. But that is not the best word either. We destroy things. We kill people. When you use the word destroy, you subtly undermine their humanness, reducing them to an inanimate “it.” When we speak of killing human embryos, we bring the reader up very short, for it is obvious that you only kill humans, therefore you are testifying to their humanity. While we are at it, human embryos are not an “it.” A human embryo is already a him or her from the first cell stage (X and Y chromosomes). In referring to a human embryo it is best to say, “kill him or her, or he or she implants…”

“Fertilized Egg”
Pro-lifers make this mistake inadvertently while pro-abortion people do it with clever calculation. A fertilized egg, or zygote, is the first cell stage and exists for only 24 hours. After cell division, this is no longer a fertilized egg. We then use several other names, which are incomprehensible to the general public, but one name covers them all and that is “embryo.” So after the first day, he or she is a “living human embryo.” Most importantly, “fertilized eggs” do not implant within the womb. There is a certain power to their sneering comment, “Why would you want to protect a fertilized egg from planting?” It makes a difference if you say, “Why would you want to prevent a living human embryo from planting?”

We hear there are two types. This is incorrect; there is only one type. They speak of reproductive and therapeutic cloning, “reproductive” being when the new living human is planted and carried to term and delivered. “Therapeutic” is when “it” will not be planted in a womb, but will be experimented upon and then “destroyed.” We can accept the term “cloning for reproductive purposes,” but it is best not to use “reproductive cloning,” for that indicates there are other types. “Therapeutic” cloning is a total lie, for there is nothing therapeutic about this. President Bush uses the term “research cloning” which is quite adequate and accurate. But since they don’’t allow these tiny humans to live when they are done with their destructive research, very commonly the best words to use are “clone and kill.” Finally, they often now don’’t use the word “cloning” at all because it is too negative. They use the term “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” This is the scientific term for cloning, however it does confuse the public and sounds awfully important and scientific. From our standpoint we should not use those four words. Let’’s call it “cloning.”

“Embryonic Stem Cells”
This is a perfectly legitimate way of describing these cells. The other types are “adult” stem cells or, better, “non-embryonic stem cells,” which includes stem cells from the umbilical cord. Never pass up the opportunity of describing how embryonic stem cells are obtained. You take a five-day-old living human embryo, cut him or her open, and extract embryonic stem cells from the inside. Obviously, to obtain these cells you must kill a living human embryo.

“Human Life”
But does human life begin at the first cell stage? We have all been asked this question and will be in the future. Your answer must be very scientific. Each one of us was a zygote, a fertilized egg, a single cell; and all we have done has been to grow up. At that first cell stage, we were alive. We were not dead. Our single cell body was programmed by nature to proceed in an ongoing, self-controlled pattern of growth and maturation, ending only when the old man dies. We were human as identified by human chromosomes. We were not a carrot nor a rabbit. We were sexed, i.e. male or female, as shown by X and Y chromosomes at the beginning. Very importantly, we were complete, for nothing has been added to the single cell whom each of us once was, nothing but nutrition and oxygen. All we have done since we were a single cell is to grow up. There is no scientific way of drawing a line in time before which you can say, ““He was not human,”” and after which you can say, ““He is.””

So, in your debate, your opponent has no answer; they cannot dispute when you say, “”You and I each once were a single cell, a zygote.”” This is a medical fact, which is undeniable. What your opponent wants to do is assign a different value to an existing human life at whatever stage your opponent chooses. So the argument is not about whether human life exists; it does. The argument is about the value that you, they or our government places on human life and at what stage in his or her growth.

Words are of immense importance. They are, when face to face in direct discourse. They also affect the listener’’s unconscious. Use them wisely. They are tremendous tools.

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