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Some on the right want to change the definition of ‘abortion’

The head of a prominent anti-abortion group testified that some abortions shouldn't count as actual "abortions," which was as bizarre as it seems.


As difficult as the debate over reproductive rights has been for many years, there was at least unanimity on what an abortion is: To have an abortion is to terminate an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. People could argue about laws, limits, and morality, but everyone could at least agree on this basic definition.

Except, for some on the right, that definition apparently isn’t good enough anymore. HuffPost highlighted an exasperating congressional committee hearing:

In a truly bizarre exchange during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, the leader of a national anti-abortion organization claimed that it “would not be an abortion” if a 10-year-old rape victim got pregnant and … had an abortion.

The relevant exchange came when Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell asked Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, about a hypothetical situation. If a 10-year-old girl were pregnant, would she — or should she — “choose” to take that pregnancy to term.

After initially avoiding the question, Foster eventually addressed the hypothetical: “I believe it would probably impact her life, and so, therefore, it would fall under any exception and would not be an abortion.”

Swalwell, understandably confused, couldn’t let that go. “Wait,” the Democratic congressman said. “It would not be an abortion if a 10-year-old with her parents made the decision not to have a baby that was the result of a rape?”

The CEO of a prominent anti-abortion group apparently did not misspeak. “If a 10-year-old became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion,” Foster testified.

In other words, the head of Americans United for Life believes a 10-year-old impregnated by a rapist should be allowed to get an abortion — because under her preferred definition, that abortion wouldn’t really count as an abortion.

If terminating a girl’s unwanted pregnancy isn’t an abortion, what is it? Is there a preferred word that conservatives would like us to use?

Let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Republicans and their allies have created a situation in which raped children will — in at least one instance, has — cross state lines in order to receive medical care. Unable to defend the legal conditions they’re responsible for, many on the right deny the legitimacy of real stories, while others on the right decide to redefine words for the sake of political convenience.

No one should be fooled. Abortions don’t become non-abortions when the impregnated Americans are sympathetic figures.