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Words Matter

The topic of abortion has dominated the airwaves since the release of the alleged majority draft opinion was published by Politico one week ago. We’ve heard plenty of arguments both for and against a sensitive issue that requires those who identify as pro-life to talk about it with care.

In the 50 years since Roe, we’ve learned that word choice matters because it reveals how you feel about abortion. For example, you can tell which side of the debate you’re on by which of the following words you use or don’t use: “baby” vs. “fetus” “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life” “right to life” vs. “women’s rights.” Confuse your words and you betray your message, just like President Biden did last week when he said, “abort a child.”

In addition to the words you use, it also matters HOW you talk about abortion and the examples you cite. Polling shows that a slim majority of Americans agree with the right to an abortion. But when asked to specify how far into the pregnancy an abortion should be permissible, that same majority of Americans overwhelmingly think there should be limits.

This change in perspective is largely due to the technology that reveals how a baby develops in the womb, which means those on the pro-life side of the issue should lean on these developments to ground their case.

Here’s what we now know about a baby’s development in the womb:

  • You can hear a baby’s heartbeat as early as three to four weeks.
  • A baby responds to touch at eight weeks.
  • A baby feels pain by 20 weeks or earlier.

Words matter, but so do the examples you use. When discussing the life of an unborn child, focus on their development in the womb. Doing so will give great weight to your talking points in the pro-choice/pro-life debate as these facts and figures continue to change hearts and minds.

The One Word Rule

One-word answers to a reporter’s questions are never a good idea until they are.

Secretary Pompeo proved the effectiveness of this strategy in recent interviews around Soleimani’s killing. In the interest of safety and strength, he was right to answer serious questions like “Any plans to evacuate the embassy in Baghdad, sir?” and “Any plans to pull some of the 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq out?” with a simple “none.”

“None” communicated his point, left no room for misinterpretation, and underscored the severity of the situation. But it’s also interesting to note that he didn’t lean into the interview with a one-word answer. He first gave a 30-second assessment of what happened, which enabled him to be concise in his following two answers.

We often encourage clients to fill the time they’ve been given because you only get so many questions to communicate your message. But if the nature of the interview is such that national security is at risk, one-word answers are not only allowed but recommended.