Words can kill

Saturday 11 October 2008 12:08 AM

The passage of legislation decriminalising abortion is in no small part a victory for selective parlance, studiously applied in public discourse. Throughout the public and media debate on this legislation, "pro-choice" lobbyists and politicians have steadfastly avoided any phraseology which might focus on the personhood of the unborn child. The language of rights, life, liberty, choice, dignity, security, sovereignty and even physicality have been unwaveringly applied to the woman, to the ideological exclusion of those of the child. The latter has been strictly a 'foetus', never a baby and certainly not a child or a life. Even 'mother' has been avoided as far as possible, along with any phrasing that allows a relationship between the woman and the child she carries.

Alongside this has been the insistence that this is all purely about removing the actions of desperate women and caring physicians from the criminal code. Under that guise, we now face the extraordinary possibility - which may one day be tested in court - of a doctor being prosecuted for protecting life by failing to make an acceptable referral. We now face some chilling state-sanctioned juxtapositions in daily life. On any given day in the same city, even the same street, whilst one doctor who did their best but failed to preserve life stands beside parents at their loved child's legally-mandated funeral, another acts in concert with parents with the same state's blessing to intentionally end the life of a child of identical age.

On this day I am ashamed to be a Victorian, this day on which it can surely be said that words can kill.