Is it a child or a fetus?

Darren Carlson gives a chilling personal account of how people euphemize the evil of abortion. He writes:

My wife is five months pregnant.  Last month we went for an ultrasound to see the baby and have the doctors check to make sure everything was progressing nicely.  We had done this three times before and were excited.  As we met with the doctor and ultrasound technician they referred to what they saw as “your child.”  They must have said it 50x during the ultrasound as they referred to “your child’s hand,” “your child’s heart,” etc.

But then something changed.  

Another doctor was brought into the room and for 5 minutes he stared at the baby’s heart.  The room was completely silent.  He then began to tell us that there was a tumor on our child’s heart and started to run down all the scenarios we were now faced with.  Then the doctor said to us: “If the fetus is abnormal and that is management problem for you, you have the option to terminate your fetus.”  The slight change in wording tells the story.  I was in too much shock to respond.  But later it dawned on me what he had done. The child my wife was carrying was only a child if we wanted to keep it, as if it was our choice!  However, if we did not want the baby, it was only a fetus.

Three weeks later we came back for another ultrasound.  The growth on the heart was not a tumor, but a normal variant.  In the doctor’s eyes, our child was a baby again.  In our eyes, nothing had changed.

The “slight change in wording” does tell the whole story. It is also a reminder to us not to fall unwittingly into worldly patterns of speech that deny the personhood of the unborn. If life begins at conception, then that thing in mommy’s womb is a “child,” a “baby”, a “person.” How we speak about what it is will determine whether or not we participate in the world’s efforts to cover its evil.

I am grateful that this particular baby is healthy and that he has parents that were committed to his life no matter what.

(HT: Collin Hansen)


  • Christiane

    It is strange that, even after a baby is born, the ‘labeling’ of the child often slots it towards a compassionate, love-filled up-bringing;
    or another path which is destructive of the child’s chances to survive in this world with the dignity befitting a creature of God, made in His image, and who possesses from God an eternal soul.

  • Don Johnson

    A fetus is a stage of a human life, it is just that many people do not recognize it as such. I went to a RTL dinner where the speaker introduced himself with “Welcome, former fetuses” in order to make that point.

    • Charlie Albright

      I think you are missing the point Don. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that there can be a classification about one stage of life such as fetus, infant, senior, etc.

      The issue, however, is using the classification to cover the personhood of the individual being talked about. I have heard pro-abortion people say that the child is “just a fetus.” This is not a classification such as “the human is presently in the fetus stage” but “it is not a human, it is a fetus.” This is how pro-abortion people use the term “fetus.”

  • Joe White

    As prolife people we dont have to shy away from the word “fetus”. is it a fetus or a child? it is both, just as a newborn can be both an “infant” and a “child”, and a 1 year old can be both a “toddler” and a “child” and so forth. the term “fetus” describes a stage of growth and doesnt deny personhood except in the minds of those who dont know what qualifies one as a person.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      It should have been obvious that Denny was referring to the way it’s been fraught with politically correct meaning in this era of death and de-humanization. Yes, it is a medical term, but you know that any pro-choicer who uses it is intentionally down-playing the child’s person-hood.

  • Sally

    Interesting post. I am a sonographer at a pregnancy resource center and sometimes use the word fetus and sometimes use the word baby. I have noticed that the word “fetus” can be less emotional or personal then saying, “Your baby.” Usually I use the word “fetus” when the person is very abortion minded and seems afraid that we are trying to sway her. I will have to be more aware of what I say and think about why I use one word over another. And I do agree that fetus is a stage of human development. There is nothing inherently wrong with that word and medically we are more used to saying “fetal demise, and poor fetal outcome.” We are taught that way. Of course most abortions are not done on fetuses but on embros (before 12 weeks). A fetus has all its little body parts present and accounted for. It just needs time to grow and mature. But it is good to look at our motives for why and when we use it. I think it can be a protective instinct (intellectualizing) to protect us from the impact of a poor fetal outcome (death or severe health problems in a baby).

  • Todd

    Science has an answer for many things, supernatural, in that we just don’t know yet. i.e. we can’t explain the Big Bang, but hopefully, eventually we will. In the case of humans, we continue to learn and each day we learn more and more. How tragic it would be if we eventually learned that along with life at conception, there is consciousness. What a tragedy it would be if we knew that the babies last thoughts were something along the lines of, “Why am I going to die?” What a sad world.

  • Riete

    In the Netherlands we have an even more disturbing name for a fetus. Pro-choice people call it a “fruit”. When fruit is damaged or you don’t want it you can throw it away. That’s how an unborn child (or fetus) is viewed by many … something you can throw away.

    It’s a way of dehumanizing the unborn child in order to protect themselves from becoming emotionally involved. Sad and disturbing!

  • Desiring Virtue

    We experienced this as well when we miscarried at 17 weeks recently. Suddenly our doctor began to refer to our baby as tissue, and began explaining the different options for removing that tissue. I knew that our doctor in particular was only trying to make the horrible situation easier for us, but I had to stop her and tell her that I would prefer for her to call it a baby. The horrible word play that goes on in our country as we debate the validity of an obvious life is nauseating. Even in that most painful of moments, I couldn’t bare for our little girl to be referred to as “tissue.” Thanks for sharing, I hope it gets people thinking!

  • Joey Kenow

    My wife recently miscarried at 16-18 weeks and we were fortunate enough to have doctors who referred to our child as a child. It was very helpful and I could not imagine how I would have responded otherwise to a doctor in your situation. As a pro-life advocate these are arguments I use and have found many who cannot remain consistent in their argumentation.
    Thank you for sharing. My heart and prayers also go out to the rest of the parents who posted who have lost a child.
    For the Kingdom,

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