Carrie Gress has a doctorate from the Catholic University of America and is a philosophy professor at Pontifex University. She is the author of Nudging Conversions: A Practical Guide to Bringing Those You Love Back to the Church, and Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood. Carrie is the co-author with George Weigel of City of Saints: A Pilgrims Guide to John Paul II’s Krakow. A homeschooling mother of four, she and her family live in Virginia. Visit her blog at www.carriegress.com.
In an interview with Tucker Carlson about proposed cuts of half a billion dollars to the abortion giant in the American Healthcare Act, Planned Parenthood executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, made it clear again just how important the fetus is to their success. Fetus, of course, the Latin term meaning “an unborn offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human baby more than eight weeks after conception.” When asked specifically what she thinks a fetus is, Laguens explained that a fetus has a magical ontological status, which depends entirely on what each individual woman decides that it is.
Now, I have been pregnant six times, with four live births and two miscarriages. Never during that time has my doctor called the entity in my womb anything but a baby — but I suspect that has much more to do with his lack of education, weak commitment to classical languages, and frankly, casual approach to medicine. But Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, is clearly not falling into these traps.
There are, however, a few Latin words they should add to their lexicon – particularly based upon their own deep commitment to classical languages.
(1) Non sequitur
Non sequitur means “a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.”
Based on Laguens’ argument, if Congress stops giving money to Planned Parenthood, “1.5 million people are at risk of losing access to cancer screening, STD testing and treatment, and birth control because of this plan”. The unstated assumption is that Planned Parenthood is the only available provider of these services. If true, then Laguens has a sound argument. But we know it is false — there are plenty of alternative sources for these services. Her conclusion simply does not follow.
Later in the interview, Laguens makes it clear that she knows Planned Parenthood clinics aren’t the only game in town when she says, “…like any hospital we get reimbursed for providing a pap test or breast cancer screening” and later, “Like any gynecologist, we refer people for a mammogram at a radiologist office…”. Oops. There are thousands of clinics and hospitals — many of them offering free services – that can fill in any gap left by the absence of Planned Parenthood.
This is truly a case of silence being golden: for as long as the absurd assumption remains unstated, the weakness of the argument is easily missed and Planned Parenthood’s coffers continue to be filled with Congressional gold.
(2) Ignoratio elenchi
The ignoratio elenchi fallacy is also known as a red herring or misdirection. This is a favorite of magicians and parents trying to distract their children: “Look over there!”
In the interview, Carlson presses Laguens about what is driving pro-life protesters outside of her clinics and the deeper question of whether or not abortion is the taking of a life. Laguens quickly diverts the answer away from this uncomfortable topic to the issue that many women are in dire circumstances when they come to the clinics. The sad reality is that, yes, many women are in dire circumstances, but these circumstances cannot fundamentally change reality. Debts, regrets and other difficulties do not change the reality that a baby is a baby. And as pro-lifers have made clear over and over again – not just through words, but in countless actions – they are more than willing to help a pregnant woman no matter what her circumstances may be.
Okay, so maybe I’m not being strict enough here: even though euphemism is a Latin word, it is originally Greek. Perhaps Planned Parenthood can be let off the hook for not using it. Or not. In this category, however, Planned Parenthood shines as a true master. Even though they never explicitly use the word, euphemism drives everything they do.
Euphemism means “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.” Hmmm, yes, well when discussing killing a human person, it might get just a bit embarrassing to acknowledge that it is a baby. Instead, better for them to just stick to the Latin and not give anyone a chance to let the reality of a human life sink in.
After never getting past canned talking points, Carlson finished the discussion with perhaps the best closing ever: “That was a uniquely shallow conversation, Dawn. But thank you anyway.” Sadly, that’s the point, isn’t it? Planned Parenthood’s arguments are shallow and rely on us being shallow, too.