The western world is very nervous about what it calls ‘judgemental attitudes’. In order to make sure that moral decisions are not ‘pre-judged’ it prefers morally ‘neutral’ words. One of the most obvious examples is the way in which ‘abortion’ came to be called ‘termination’. ‘To abort a foetus’ bears a weight of disapproval by society at large, as well as referring very directly to what is actually happening in the process!
It’s interesting then, to observe the opposite happening – i.e. a change from a morally neutral term to one of ‘condemnation by description’. I refer to the shift from the use of the expression ‘female circumcision’ to ‘female genital mutilation’. The word circumcision has been used to describe an operation performed for religious (Jews and Muslims) or medical (mainly in the USA) reasons, and until recently understood by the public to refer to men! But in order to change public attitudes – quickly and effectively – campaigners against the use of circumcision on women have persuaded the media to use the expression ‘female genital mutilation’. ‘Mutilation’ is a judgement word: no-one, surely, could agree that it is right to ‘mutilate’ a woman?
But is it right to ‘abort a foetus’?