The anti-abortion activist Lila Rose has said on multiple occasions, most recently in a tweet, that removing an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. According to The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, she’s wrong. The definition Rose implies for abortion is similarly incorrect.
Rose is not alone in making the false claim. Another incorrect but popular tweet reads, “Abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life.” That’s false. The claim has popped up across social media, especially among ideologically-driven groups.
A list of outlets or fact-checking organizations with high reliability and low bias that acknowledge abortion can be necessary to save a life include:
National Catholic Register (this outlet received an exception for its accurate reporting, although it violates ethical standards by not disclosing funding)
When Rose says that treating an ectopic pregnancy does not “intentionally kill (a) child,” hence, it’s not an abortion,” the problem is that the definition of abortion is not intentionally killing a child.
It’s the loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks, according to the American Academy of Family Practice, Mayo Clinic, WHO, and the textbook Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology. Propaganda does not become reality.
Changing the definition is a manipulation tactic, described in World War-2 era texts as using “persuasive definitions.” The tactic can look like Begging the Question (petitio principii — circular reasoning) or a logical fallacy known as No True Scotsman.
No true Scotsman is a logical fallacy, meaning an error in reasoning, in which someone defends a generalization by redefining the criteria and dismissing contradictory examples.
We can explain this in simplified form:
All X are Y
(It is shown that not all X are Y)
All true X are Y
We cannot change the definitions of words to overlook our logical inconsistencies. Inconsistencies are what is so dangerous to everyone else, but especially those who are most vulnerable, poor, and marginalized.
Until the 1980s, when abortion issues became partisan for the first time in US history, all pregnancy losses before 20 weeks (the exact line where it becomes a stillbirth varies a bit) were abortions.
The law does not differentiate abortion, miscarriage, and premature delivery…Physicians failing to report known or suspected cases of abortion are open to suspicion of complicity and technically to criminal prosecution.
—Walter W. Jetter, M.D. • March 2, 1950 • NEJM