WASHINGTON -- From the clamor following the Supreme Court's ruling to ban partial-birth abortion, one might assume that American women have been robbed of choice.
In fact, women can still render themselves unpregnant, in the vernacular of choice-speak, by several means. They can ``disarticulate the fetus'' and even ``reduce'' or ``separate the fetal calvarium.''
If the vocabulary is confusing, that's the point. Using Orwellian language to sanitize the issue, so to speak, is a time-honored tactic of the ``pro-choice'' arbiters. If we don't say what it is, we can pretend what it isn't.
Herewith, a brief translation:
Disarticulating a fetus, which sounds like suspending a pre-born's instant-messaging privileges, means to dismember it. Reducing a calvarium -- a thoroughly desirable-sounding procedure, like lancing a boil -- means to suck the brains from the baby's head. Separating the calvarium means to sever the head with scissors.
Paying attention to the language of abortion -- or anything else for that matter -- is instructive when trying to consider right from wrong. If you have to dress something up to obfuscate the truth of what's in play, you can probably assume it's wrong.
When a man murders his wife, we don't say, ``Mr. X rendered his wife unalive by efficiently evacuating her cranial cavity with an instrument customarily associated with construction.'' We say, ``He bashed her brains out in a brutal attack with a claw hammer.''
We apparently have no stomach for similarly descriptive (honest) terminology when it comes to the unborn. But then, one might argue, Mrs. X -- unlike a fetus -- was a completely alive human being when Mr. X committed the deed.
With its ``partial-birth abortion'' (PBA) decision, the Supreme Court took a step toward defining the aliveness of not-quite-born human beings and drew a bright line between abortion and infanticide.
Until now, a baby whose head was still inside the mother's body was not alive enough to be protected under the laws of a nation that calls itself civilized. Understandably, it's easier to kill a baby -- sorry, ``terminate a fetus'' -- when you don't have to see its face.
Now, if a baby's body has been partly delivered from its mother, it is alive enough to be protected.
Opponents of the ruling assert that this is a dark day for Americans' constitutional rights and women's right to choose. They say this ruling is merely part of the pro-life strategy for gutting Roe v. Wade, one ruling at a time.
They also argue, correctly, that this ruling saves no babies from abortion. As stated previously, a fetus can still be disarticulated. And that ``procedure'' is, arguably, equally brutal, though perhaps not as painful as collapsing the skull.
According to expert testimony, a fetus from 20 weeks' gestation forward may feel ``prolonged and excruciating'' pain during a PBA -- especially when the skull is crushed or punctured for ``evacuation'' of its brains. The other side did not rebut the claim.
Reality pop quiz: When rational people can dispassionately discuss whether it's better to dismember or collapse the skull of a pre-born baby, are they still allowed to call themselves rational?
The main argument from the pro-choice side, and the constitutional issue at stake, has been that the PBA is sometimes needed to protect the health of the mother. But in no single court case were doctors able to demonstrate that PBA was ever a medical necessity. Instead, all arguments were in the realm of the hypothetical.
Indeed, the majority of PBAs are performed on the healthy babies of healthy women. Meanwhile, other alternatives are available that are safe for the mother, if no less unpleasant for the fetus.
It is, of course, true that pro-lifers are celebrating this ruling and that they also hope eventually to see abortion regulation reverted to the states.
It is also true that many states now will pass PBA bans as well as ``informed consent'' laws that may require women to view a sonogram before consenting to abortion. Pro-lifers expect the informed consent laws to be challenged and hope for a favorable ruling.
Whatever legal battles lie ahead, Wednesday's high court decision seems a civilizing step forward, affirming as it does that the state has a substantial interest in protecting and preserving life.
As an operating principle -- and assuming it is not misapplied -- it would seem to beat the alternative.