I read the lengthy column on abortion by Dan Shannon, who claims to be the “Smartest Man in the Room.” Surely the smartest man knows the difference between a child and a fetus. But he used the terms interchangeably numerous times.
Merriam-Webster defines a fetus: “An unborn or unhatched vertebrate especially after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind; specifically a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth.” Conception is measured from the first day of the prior menstrual period, and so is imprecise.
Mr. Shannon used the term fetus 15 times in his column. He used the term “unborn child/ren” to refer to the fetus ten times. He used the term “born fetus” once, and “unborn fetus” (a literal redundancy) three times. The “Smartest Man” used child to refer to a fetus six times in his article, and he further claimed that the hypothetical fetus was a “23-week old baby”.
Mr. Shannon did not, however, consider the host body, whom he named Nancy for the purpose of his “whataboutism” exercise. This hypothetical woman has no agency. She is going for a scheduled abortion when she is T-boned and suffers a spontaneous abortion as a result of the automobile accident, which is the correct medical term for what we call miscarriage.
Mr. Shannon gives no thought to her decision to schedule her medical procedure, he does not deign to consider whether she may already have children, whether she has health issues that make pregnancy life threatening, whether she is in an abusive relationship or whether her birth control methods have been sabotaged by her abuser.
Mr. Shannon won’t consider the host body’s personal situation, but he can imagine her to be beneath contempt. He describes a drugged out, irresponsible criminal in his second example of “whataboutism”.
All of this serves to confuse his readers (fetus or child). His judgement (is Nancy lacking agency or beneath contempt?) indicates he hasn’t had to consider the risks associated with an unplanned or poorly timed pregnancy in his own life. How fortunate is the Smartest Man? Despite his good fortune, he must share his perspective with the rest of us. I suspect he hasn’t had to consider the risks of pregnancy for himself. Mr. Shannon writes as if he has only considered the most hypothetical aspects of abortion.
Which is precisely why the pregnant person, her physician, and if appropriate, her partner are the only people who should be consulted. Certainly Mr. Shannon is not interested in the facts of pregnancy risks, costs, or other impacts on the lives of the host bodies. If he was, he would have included some statistical facts about who utilizes the procedure. But he is looking to create an emotional response, as illustrated by his improper use of terms.
One hopes “The Smartest Man in the Room” would care about accuracy in communication. Perhaps that was never his intent.