Why our words matter when it comes to affirming life

By Susanne Maynes

The three young couples sit around a backyard fire pit, talking and laughing. One of the young women, holding an infant in her lap, dramatically retells the tale of her long drive to the area with a fussy baby in the car.

Much to the amusement of her peers, she describes her consternation when “it” wouldn’t stop crying. Again and again, she refers to her little boy as “it.”

Her friends think that’s hilarious.

Eventually the group grabs their jackets and purses to head out for an evening at the bar. The baby is left behind with grandparents.

Fast forward three years…this mom lost custody of her little boy. Her drug addiction led to many bad decisions culminating with the loss of her son.

Not every mom or dad that jokes about their child being an “it” ends up losing the right to raise their son or daughter—but it always bothers me to hear parents use such depersonalized language about their children.

A small step toward dehumanization is still a step in the wrong direction.

When I was pregnant with my first son, a friend from my college days tried to wrap his brain around my experience.

“It seems kind of like Alien,” he said, referring to the sci-fi movie which featured an alien coming out of a human chest cavity. “You know, a foreign creature hiding inside your body and then popping out. Weird!”

At the time, I chuckled at the notion of comparing a hostile alien invader to the child developing in my body.

As I ponder it now, I realize how our culture influences us to think about preborn (and young) children.

Rather than seeing pregnancy as a beautiful part of the human experience—a part which pictures the nurturing heart of God—we see it as strange.

Rather than seeing children as deserving of love, nurturing care, and sacrifice, we keep them at emotional arm’s length by joking about them as an “it.”

I recall another example, this one more disturbing.

Our local pregnancy help center participates in the local state college’s welcome fair each fall. Over the years that I was involved, I noticed that some female students were disturbed by the sight of the fetal models we displayed on our table.

I remember one young woman muttering, “Those are gross.”

She had likely been through an abortion.

Guilt and remorse can be huge factors in causing emotional distancing from children, especially the preborn.

If something is gross, if it’s like an alien, if it’s just a foreign creature in your body or a blob of tissue, then it can be reasonably disposed of—so goes the thinking.

We don’t have to become attached. We don’t need to take on responsibility. The baby is just an “it,” a problem to take care of, something that can be destroyed depending on the circumstances.

Here’s the thing: We take on this attitude at great cost to ourselves and our society. On this issue, history can teach us lessons—if we are willing to learn them. ..

Most of us (hopefully) would not find it socially acceptable to use demeaning language for people groups of which we are not a part.

Hindsight can be 20-20.

However, it’s not so easy to see and stand up for those who are being bullied while it is happening to them.

One of today’s prominent (although hidden) victims of dehumanization and death are the preborn. They have even less power than any adult who has been treated in like manner.

They lack the voice, the physical strength, and the protection they desperately need—protection they deserve, simply by virtue of being human.

Therefore, we must continue to stand in the gap on their behalf. We must be their voice and their strength and their protection.

We cannot go along with the heartless, ruthless ethos of the day which diminishes the value of human beings prior to their birth (or even during their infanthood).

We must look at the unborn through the lens of imago Dei. They are created in God’s image, loved and valued by Him.

Let’s be careful to speak life-giving truth over preborn and young children. Let’s bless them with our words and protect them with our actions.

Rather than dehumanize little ones, let’s demonstrate how much God values them.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.