Union University
Union University Dept of Language


Politics and Egg-ish Language

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

December 9, 2011 - Though the institutions of journalism and science profess to be bastions of free inquiry, the extent to which a kind of Orwellian Newspeak has become common to both is astonishing. Consider, as an example, the phrase “fertilized egg.” This phrase is employed religiously in contexts where journalists or scientists wish to downplay the possibility that the destruction of a human zygote represents the destruction of a human life. 

In a recent op ed piece on Plan B, bioethicist Arthur Caplan offers a concise illustration of this phenomenon. “Abortion foes tried to stifle the drug [Plan B],” Caplan explains, “on the grounds that it works as an abortion agent even though the drug actually prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, which is not in the scientific sense of the term an abortion.”

This is a remarkable statement! For starters, Caplan concedes what some in the scientific community still deny – namely, that one of Plan B’s mechanisms for preventing pregnancy is preventing implantation of a fertilized ovum. However, like all journalists and scientists who identify with the pro-abortion establishment, Caplan describes the target of the drug’s agency as a “fertilized egg.” This, of course, is rhetorically premeditated. 

To write about a “fertilized egg” is to give readers the impression that that which Plan B flushes from the womb is no different in kind from the unfertilized eggs that discharge monthly. Rhetorically, this aims at making opponents of Plan B appear utterly irrational, if not completely insane. After all, on what rational grounds could a person oppose a drug whose mechanism of action does nothing more than mimic a normal, healthy female cycle? 

Of course, Caplan, like all journalists and scientists who employ such Newspeak, knows the truth. This is precisely why Caplan qualifies his charge against Plan B foes, alleging that the use of Plan B does not result in an abortion in the technical “scientific sense of the term.” This is a veiled way of conceding what Caplan’s own words, properly understood, mean. Specifically, Plan B can actually result in abortions in the non-technical sense.

How? Simple. So-called “fertilized eggs” are human zygotes – very small human beings. This is basic, high school biology. By definition, an abortion terminates the life of a human organism in utero. Plan B potentially terminates the lives of single-celled human organisms by making implantation impossible. Therefore, Plan B works as an abortion agent, just as its “foes” contend. 

Attempting to message the words used to describe these facts cannot help journalists and scientists escape this bio-logic. Lying to oneself and others about reality hasn’t succeeded in changing reality from the beginning. “You will not surely die,” the Serpent said. They did. And the “fertilized eggs” will too.