Using Language to Distort Reality: ‘Fetal Tissue’ vs. ‘Baby Parts’

Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, says it is not accurate to claim that Planned Parenthood is involved in the commodification of body parts taken from the bodies of aborted babies.  In an article for The New Republic, she explains that the right way to construe Planned Parenthood’s activities is to speak of their “fetal tissue donation program.”  Thus, it is medically illegitimate for the Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices, to describe embryonic or fetal tissue as “baby parts.”  The videos achieve their effect, according to Gunter, not by reporting on Planned Parenthood’s procedures in an honest way, but rather by eschewing medically approved language in favor of tendentious characterizations and overly sentimentalized terminology.

Gunter would like us to think that using terms such as “fetal tissue” and “products of conception,” though perhaps distasteful to the ordinary person, gives us greater biological accuracy.  The reason why this is not simply wrong, but completely opposite is that the reverse is true: it is Gunter’s language choices that end up distorting reality.  Gunter, of course, peppers her article with references to her medical credentials and invokes science as though the linguistic norms practiced by medical professionals and scientists go any distance toward settling what is at bottom a philosophical dispute.