Talk:Abortion/First paragraph

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Archives[edit]

  1. Archive 1 - Opening line straw poll, euphemisms, proposal by GTBacchus, edit warring, viability
  2. Archive 2 - Use of "Death", medical definition sources, Sympathetic vs. Accurate, 'Quoted definitions' proposal
  3. Archive 3 - Andrew C's two definitions proposal, pseudo-consensus, G&E's concerns and subsequent poll
  4. Archive 4 - AnnH's proposal, SlimVirgin's proposal, more Death
  5. Archive 5 - AnnH's proposal tweaks, versions 4.1-6.0, WHO and dictionaries, death

Death[edit]

I changed "causing its death" to "causing its termination" because "death" implies that the foetus is alive, which is not NPOV. User:The Lizard Wizard

I changed it back, because at least the death article is pertinent, while the termination article really isn't. Your objection has been raised before, and I agree that we don't have the most neutrally worded opening paragraph imaginable, but the solution is going to involve a lot more than just changing that one word. -GTBacchus(talk) 18:47, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, we had this argument last week. Please, it doesn't take a read of the Talk archives to see these things. --BCSWowbagger 18:42, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
So you're saying that when I am scratching my nose, I am killing my skin cells? I don't get the difference between death and discontinuation of cell division. Death seems to describe a cell that has stopped functioning after it has already mature. Old people die the same way as an embryo does. The difference is that the mitotic cell division gradually slows down to the point where they stop their mitotic cell divisions and are unable to function as a life unit. I am anti-abortion so don't get my views confused, but I tend to look at everything scientifically, no matter how controversial it may be . plz do remember that wikipedian articles must have a neutral point view. --• Storkian • 00:27, 3 October 2007 (UTC)
Please see and read all of: [1].LCP 00:58, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

rehashing old views[edit]

(in reply to User:Str1977) There are many mere biological facts that are not reported in this definition. As I have said in the past, the death of cancer cells is not the defining point of Chemotherapy, the death of sperm is not the defining point of male masturbation, the death of skin cells is not the defining point of scratching, etc. From cited sources, the vast majority of medical definitions do not include the D word. I never, ever tried to purge the POV that you are pushing. I always said included both. Have two definitions, the medical and the common definition, where the latter used the d word. However, focusing on death can clearly be POV. What would the meat article be like if it definied meat as the death of animals? Focusing on mere biological facts, by itself can be POV. I readily admit that we cannot make a definition of abortion that is cleansed of all POV, so my solution was to simply report multiple POV from cited sources, per wikipedia guidelines, instead of trying to create some new definition using original research in the name of faux neutrality. --Andrew c 17:27, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Andrew, just a quick reply:

  • the difference is that all these others "deaths" are not in any way relevant to any debates. Hence leaving them out or posting them wouldn't make any difference. The issue really at hand is what or who it is that dies. We won't decide that here on WP but we also will not preclude the question by glossing over the fact that there is death occuring.
  • Another issue is of course your joy in dehumanising language here. (And no: meat is not the death of animals, but the product of it. Of course, a meat article that would hide the fact that animals are killed for their meat would be just as ridiculous. If you wonder, I am a carnivore.)
  • Two definitions is IMHO not suitable for an encyclopedia, especially when no medic in his right mind would dispute the common one. There is no POV difference in the definition, as long as all facts are presented. And no, it is not OR. Read the policy. Str1977 (smile back) 18:47, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
I'll add to that. Chemotherapy and male masturbation are not defined by cell death. Abortion is; fetal death is what distinguishes abortion from natural birth or c-section. Str1977 has a point about meat, as well; meat is the product, not the process. You'd more accurately use slaughter, which, in fact, does use the word "kill" (as in "kill it dead"). Your position of appealing to medical definitions is the most reasonable dissent I've heard so far, but I can't agree that those definitions are more precise, for the reasons I discussed above, or that the use of termination would be appropriate for Wikipedia, especially seeing as the termination article has no link to death and, in fact, links back to abortion with regards to termination of pregnancy. So it would be a logical loop to use "termination".
Where was I? Stupid other people in same room... Ah. Yes. I went back and found that list of medical sources you posted. It bears relinking: [2]. I don't have time to go over them right now, so I'll leave it there for the time being. --BCSWowbagger 20:41, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
One more thing about the medical definitions linked to. From what I gathered, there were some not mentioning death, while others did mention it. Why should this be decided by a "majority vote of links", when the existence of medical definitions including death ipso facto refutes the claim that "death" is somehow un-medical. Str1977 (smile back) 21:06, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
To answer Str1997's concern, this is the epitome of POV pushing. Hypothetically, if we gave a definition from a specifically medical POV, and included the word "death" we'd be giving undue weight to a very small minority of the cited sources. As for BCSWowbagger. Wikipedia is not a dictionary. Furthermore, we are not required to have proper articles for all the techinical terms we use. Just because wikipedia doesn't yet have an article on this medical sense of the word "termination" does not mean we are forbidden from using that term. As for meat being a product of a dead animal, so is a dead fetus the product of an abortion. I still see the situations very aptly comparable. The other comparisons are ment to illustrate how mentioning something that is "a mere fact" can be seen as POV. To complicate matters, there is the whole issue of what sort of "death" is going on (and this matter is a real issue, just look at the recent RfC over at the Talk:Death.) Just as not mentioning death can be seen as pushing a POV, mentioning death can also be seen as POV from someone who believes the death of fetal cells is no more morally wrong that the death of tooth cells during an extraction, or the death of skin cells when one scratches. I am not saying I hold these POVs, just that the current wording is POV, and that there is NO WAY that I can see to "clense" the definition from POV (which isn't even the purpose of the NPOV policy in the first place). All this has lead me to say "include both POV". Besides, there are different meanings of the word "abortion" and there is nothing unencyclopedic about explaining the many uses of the word (how it can sometimes mean miscarriage, and how it sometimes only refers to pre-viability procedures, and how some people think the most important aspect of an abortion is the death of a pre-born human, etc). I'm not trying to hide POVs, I'm trying to a) include all relevent POV and b) specifically say where these POVs come from (a la the "Attributing and substantiating biased statements" section of the NPOV policy). What we have now is an unsourced, unqualified intro that has the illustion of neutrality, when there is still inherent POV. I still believe the safest thing to do is cite sources, state who hold these views, and include all relevent views. As seen from the constant edit warring that hasn't gone away, this issue isn't going to go away. People are going to see the d-word and shout bias (just as I imagine if we removed the d-word completely from the intro, we'd have people shouting in the other direction). We can't simply keep saying "this is the best compromise we've had so far, and we are tired of working on a solution," and we can't say "there is nothing biased about the intro" and make it true. If we admit there is bias, qualify it, cite it, then I believe we can avoid these issues. Acting like there is no bias is the problem. (remember, "neutral-POV", not "No-POV").--Andrew c 21:26, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree that we can not rely on a minority of medical sources. That would be POV. Secondly, I want to say that I am not criticizing you for intentionally pushing POV. I am seeing an honest attempt at improving the article from you. I simply disagree with the content of your changes, because I believe that they are POV. I very much believe that you are acting in good faith.
Response to points about me: Wikipedia is not a dictionary. I don't see your point. We are not a dictionary; we are an encyclopedia. WP:LEAD is very clear that "the lead section should provide a clear and concise introduction to an article's topic, establish context, and characterize the terms." This involves defining them, and, by your own admission, we are supposed to define "abortion" in a manner that both clearly defines it and explains the context in which it is important.
Furthermore, we are not required to have proper articles for all the techinical terms we use. My point, with regards to termination, is that the word "termination" is only relevant to the fetus insofar as "termination" is a synonym for "death." Indeed, the only way to use it with regards to the fetus would be to say something like "...caused by, or resulting in, the termination of its life," because you can not end a fetus; you can only end its life. (If referring to the pregnancy, "termination" would be appropriate, since the pregnancy itself is being brought to its end or "terminus.") I brought up the link because the people at the termination article seem to understand that. People here do not.
As for meat being a product of a dead animal, so is a dead fetus the product of an abortion. I still see the situations very aptly comparable. Yes, but this article isn't called dead fetus; it is called abortion. The article on meat, logically, does not contain the word "death," but, logically, the article on slaughter does. I think this is a mostly minor point, but your use of other articles to back up your point simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny, because you are drawing imprecise analogies.
The other comparisons are ment to illustrate how mentioning something that is "a mere fact" can be seen as POV. The whole point here is that mentioning "death" is not a "mere fact": it may be "merely true," but fetal death is the central crux of this entire issue. It is the main reason abortion is notable, and it is the single most important part of contextualization of the issue.
To complicate matters, there is the whole issue of what sort of "death" is going on (and this matter is a real issue, just look at the recent RfC over at the Talk:Death.) There is no scientific question of what sort of death is going on. A member of species homo sapiens, with all the biological qualities of life, dies in an abortion. This is not cell death; this is the death of a separate, complex biological organism, and I defy anyone to find a biologist who says otherwise. The RfC at Talk:Death more closely relates to the cultural significance of the death of the unborn life and whether that life consitutes a person, which is a strictly philisophical issue that we go into more deeply later in the article and elsewhere in the WikiProject.
The rest of your response deals primarily with your longstanding idea of a "dual-definition" lead. I confess I don't really understand what you're looking for. We already have two defintions, although both could use cleanup: "Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point in the pregnancy; medically, it is defined as a miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable." What are you looking for here? The current lead-in consists of 100% fact. It includes both POV's, with no undue weight. Could you, perhaps, post a proposal for a new version? I think this would be... what, 7.0 or 6.1? It would be easier to discuss a concrete proposal rather than vague generalities. --BCSWowbagger 04:00, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
EDIT: Could be v5.3, too. --BCSWowbagger 05:56, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
It took longer than I expected for this to come up. - RoyBoy <sup>800 06:05, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
I have only edited this article once in the past 3 months, and that was just to clean up some spacing issues. I don't know to what changes you are refering. Sorry about the confusion about dictionary. I understand the the first sentence lead is supposed to be dictionary style. I was just critical of your reasoning behind not using termination because of the manner in which it is currently treated on wikipedia. We shouldn't let the current status of wikipedia effect our decisions, but instead, change the rest of wikipedia to fit cited sources if necessary. Does that make sense? If the termination article doesn't mention the medical use of the word, we can simply add it. It seemed like faulty logic to use that as a reason not to use the term. As for termination specifically, you are misusing the term. Termination is not a euphemism or synonym for death. Fetuses are not terminated, pregnancies are.
I'm sorry you don't like my analogies. All analogies fall apart on some level. I apologies that the bigger meaning behind the analogies were not communicated adequately. As for death, this is part of the bigger abortion debate. We cannot say what you said and called it settled, because this issue is still debated. Does a fetus have all the biological quantities of life? Is a unborn human a unique organism? Saying that this is a bigger sort of death than cell death is just a POV, and we cannot push that POV without qualifying it and giving the other perspective. I agree completely that the reason why pro-lifers find this issue so significant is that the fetal death "is the single most important part of contextualization of the issue." However, that is just one POV. It is obvious that this first sentence definition is problematic due to the edit changes that don't go away. Wikipedia can't say "we have decided that something more than cellular death has occured in an aboriton procedure, and that this is the single most important and defining aspect of an abortion and if you don't like it, we will protect the page".
As for specific proposals, I stand by my proposal that had consensus before the stacked vote. However, I am also content keeping things the way they are for the time being. I just needed to say "look, everyone, the reason why the intro still gets edited is because it isn't perfect. There is still POV in it, and we should at least acknowledge that. I can't act like we have the perfect solution, so I'm going to rant for a bit. But it seems like I am alone, standing on my soapbox, so I'll just step down."--Andrew c 14:32, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
The pursuit of a perfect solution is a laudable goal, and as I've said I don't like death in the first sentence. However, I'm doubtful there is a definition that doesn't have potential POV in it; given the ambiguous nature of language. - RoyBoy 800 15:59, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree. And just because I am critical of the current version doesn't mean that I don't understand that it is the best we have done so far, and that there was strong consensus supporting this as a compromise for an issue that has so many extreme POVs.--Andrew c 16:14, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't see why we shouldn't keep trying to hash this out, as long as we all have gobs of spare time laying around. I mean, this is bound to come up again, so if all the current editors could present a united front, that would make it easier to defend whatever we end up using.
"I don't know to what changes you are refering." My bad. I meant to write "your proposed changes" would push a single POV. Proposed somehow got dropped somewhere between my mind and the keyboard. I agree that, if the rest of Wikipedia is doing something wrong, we should fix it, not conform to them; I was arguing that termination was doing it right, and showing it as precedent. Termination does refer to the termination of the pregnancy, by linking back to us. But the clause of the sentence in question refers to the fetus, which is not terminated, but killed. I noted this distinction in my last response, and I here reaffirm my agreement that a pregnancy receives termination, but the fetus receives death.
"I'm sorry you don't like my analogies. All analogies fall apart on some level." True, but mine, comparing abortion to slaughter (livestock) was better. Which was my point. As for the biological death of the fetus, it's immediately evident, based on the qualities of life, that a separate being is killed. I will acknowledge the debate over this when I see a credible source participating in it. Maybe I just live in a bubble, but I haven't seen it; the closest debate I've seen is whether or not the fetus is a parasite, but that concedes that it is alive. If you have a new source, please, bring it forward, but the debate seems to be over whether or not the living fetus has a right to life.
"As for specific proposals, I stand by my proposal that had consensus before the stacked vote." Would that be version 4.0.1? Or is there a later version that I'm not finding?
"However, I'm doubtful there is a definition that doesn't have potential POV in it; given the ambiguous nature of language." Exactly what Andrew's been saying all along. I still agree both with that and that multiple POV being included is the solution. And, while a perfect solution may be impossible, it doesn't hurt to try. Hey, we've got to get this to an FA someday, so we might as well keep trying, right?
If you still want to let this go until next time some anon editor strikes at the opening, I'm down wit' that, but I'm also more than willing to keep discussing this. Or I can just let you rant. That's cool too. ;) --BCSWowbagger 20:56, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Hi guys I'm considering terminating a pregnancy and when I read the sentence I definitively found it was carried with opinion. I'd change the 'death' to 'terminate'/ —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.44.217.219 (talk) 10:02, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

According to sources we have looked up in the past, especially medial sources fetuses are never terminated. Pregnancies are terminated. Furthermore, when you change the word "death" to something else, we run the risk of using euphemisms. Though I don't care for your suggested change, that doesn't mean that I may not be sympathetic to your general complain. Do you have any other suggestions for change, or want to explain further why you feel the sentence carries an opinion? -Andrew c [talk] 14:17, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Well, teachnically, you wouldn't kill any skin cells by just scratching your skin. If you took a blow-torch to it, then you'd definately injure your cells beyond repair or reversibility in which the cell is from that point on, unable to sustain life. This is the definition of death, and this understanding can be applied to cells, people, and embryos. Please let us not alter the article to appease any group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.101.148.144 (talk) 23:56, 6 March 2013 (UTC)

Death[edit]

The opening sentence makes an assumption, namely that the aborted child is alive. But that is a point that is at the core of many discussions on the subject. So that sentence takes sides. And an encyclopedia needs to be neutral. Shouldn't it read something like "Abortion is the termination of pregnancy, through natural or artificial causes"? DirkvdM 09:32, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Many thousands of words have gone through the tubes discussing just this issue. I think the opening could still be improved to be made more neutral, but it hasn't been a priority to address it for some time. See Talk:Abortion/First paragraph, which has about 5 pages of its own archives, for a taste of the debate so far. -GTBacchus(talk) 09:50, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

The aborted foetus does not 'die' for it never was a living thing, a foetus remains a mere parasite until upon delivery it takes its first breath. Comradeash 00:01, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Even if your "fetus = parasite" statement were correct, that wouldn't prove that the fetus doesn't die and is never living. Parasites, in fact, are alive, and do die. Go to the cagegory for parasites, and click on some of the articles. You'll find that ticks DIE at the end of a two-year LIFE CYCLE; that tapeworms LIVE in the digestive tract of vertebrates; and that head lice can be KILLED by a 1% permethrin or pyrethrin. AnnH 00:25, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Whether something is a human person or another type of living tissue (whether that tissue be a parasite, an animal, a human fetus, or some other thing just short of a human person) it can still die. I don't think it advances a POV to say that the fetus can do the same. It would advance a POV if there were reference to a person or baby dying.--Chaser T 00:06, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Before that whole discussion fires up again, isn't it easier to avoid the issue (and inherently choosing sides) by calling it a termination of pregnancy, as I suggested? That's nice and neutral, isn't it? DirkvdM 20:09, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

No, it's not nice and neutral. To conceal that the fetus dies is inherently choosing sides. The fact that it dies shouldn't be shocking unless someone thinks it's a human. If I read an article about Hitler, I'm shocked, and I feel uncomfortable, because I happen to believe that it's abhorrent to kill Jews. If I read an article about treatment of head lice, I'm not shocked, and I don't feel in the least bit uncomfortable, because I happen to think there's nothing wrong with killing lice. So the word "death" only causes discomfort because of questions in the mind as to what it is that dies. That's why it would be extremely POV to put "baby" (which is what I believe) or "parasite" (which is what Comradeash apparantly believes) in the article. There's nothing wrong with death, unless the thing dying has a right to life, which the article does not assert. And, in addition, we've been through the argument many times that "termination of pregnancy" does not distinguish abortion from a live birth. AnnH 00:25, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
But a live birth is also a termination of pregnancy, so that term doesn't work. -- Cat Whisperer 20:22, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I think we need to add another topic under Notable precedents in discussion in the archives nav box. *sigh* When a cell dies, it is death. When an organ dies, it is death. When a fetus dies, it is death, regardless of whether you consider the fetus to be a vital human endowed with a soul, a forming mass of tissue, or something else. Death is death. KillerChihuahua?!? 20:25, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Is a single cell or organ alive? That is open to discussion. If I lose an arm, does the arm die? Not in normal English. DirkvdM 10:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Cat: that is a semantic argument (a word game, if you will). Termination of pregnancy is a technical term. Do a google search of the term. What is the first hit that uses the term to not be synonymous with abortion? #60, an employee manual having to do with maternity leave. The next hit is #113. I do not find the argument against this term compelling.--Andrew c 23:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
And if that is a problem it is a matter of choosing between problems and picking the lesser one. Taking sides is a strict nono in Wikipedia. DirkvdM 10:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I guess this is as good a time as any to suggest that there's a way to avoid taking a side in the first sentence. This came up before, but we didn't want to deal with it then, having just hammered out 5.3 versions of opening sentences.

The trouble is that whether you include or omit "death", you're seen as speaking from one side of the debate. Instead, we could begin with "An abortion is a type of termination of a pregnancy. The definition of abortion is controversial...." Then we could quote two definitions, from very reliable sources, one with "death", one without, and note that each is problematic. Is that a feasible solution? -GTBacchus(talk) 10:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

At talk:abortion#Definition of abortion I have approached this in a broader sense, looking at various sources for a definition of abortion. Almost all definitions use a variation of 'premature termination of pregnancy' or 'termination of pregnancy before something, something '. Not one definition uses the word 'death' and only the Dutch dictionary uses the word 'life', but then in the sense that the foetus could not live outside the uterus. This avoids the issue of whether the foetus is alive. So the definition of abortion is not controversial at all. It's just the English Wikipedia as it is now that is the odd one out. DirkvdM 11:11, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Definition of abortion[edit]

There is a continuing discussion over which definition of abortion to use in the intro. To resolve this (POV and OR), I've looked for some sources (what else can we use, especially if we can't agree?). The definition in dikke van dale, the de facto official Dutch dictionary is as follows (translated):

miscarriage, untimely birth, that is, during that period in which the foetus can not stay alive outside the uterus.

And then the definition of abortus provocatus:

artificially brought about miscarriage, termination of pregnancy

Not that this does not say whether the foetus is alive, thus avoiding that issue. Also note that the Wikipedias in other languages I can read don't use the word 'death' at all and all use variations of 'termination of pregnancy' or 'pregnancy-interruption'.

  • Spanish: "la interrupción del embarazo antes de que el desarrollo del feto haya alcanzado las 20 semanas"
  • French: "l'interruption avant son terme du processus de gestation"
  • German: describes the process in stead of giving a definition, but this is a separate article form 'abortion', called 'pregnancy-termination'.
  • Italian: "l'interruzione prematura di una gravidanza"
  • Portuguese: "a interrupção (espontânea ou provocada) de uma gravidez antes do final do seu desenvolvimento normal"
  • Dutch: voortijdig afbreken van een zwangerschap door (medisch) ingrijpen
  • Indonesian: "berhentinya kehamilan"

(note that they all deal with 'abortus prenatalis', although some articles are about abortion in general.)
Also try googling "definition of abortion". I haven't quite looked through them all, but what I have seen all says pretty much the same thing. That's quite some concensus. The English Wikipedia is the odd one out here. DirkvdM 10:55, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

You may want to read through the archives. We've been over a lot of this before. You may find the 21 definition list more a bit more thorough Talk:Abortion/Archive_18#Medical.2C_Reliable.2C_.26_Reputable_Sources_WP:RS.--Andrew c 21:43, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, there are reliable sources that use "death", and there are reliable sources that don't. A lot of sources that don't use "death" are written from a medical perspective, but the argument has been raised that Wikipedia is not a medical textbook, and that abortion is much of a political topic as it is a medical one. If we use the most clinical definition we can, then we're taking a position that abortion is more importantly seen as a clinical act than a moral one, which is already a biased stance. -GTBacchus(talk) 06:12, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Note: someone moved this thread, claiming it's part of the 'death' dispute. But that's just part of it. It's very simple. There is a standard definition of abortion that (practically) all the sources agree upon. Giving a different definition is OR. This is so straightfroward that I'm tempted to change the article, but given the long dispute over the word 'death' I'll wait a bit. DirkvdM 09:01, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I've said the exact same thing before, that creating our own definition to cater to multiple POV is OR. My solution was a two definition solution which almost passed consensus. However it didn't. This version isn't perfect but it works. I personally have spent way too much time discussing this issue over the past year, when there is still a rather large to do list. Perhaps you may consider holding off this debate, and instead put your energies towards improving the actual content of this article. Then, after we have improved these other issues with the article, maybe we can tackle this issue again. Also, your posts are being moved, not because it is the 'death' dispute, per se, but because you are discussing the first paragraph. Note the title of this page. Historically, when we fill up the main article talk page, all progress and other discussions stop (however, I will say that there isn't really any ongoing progress or discussion to be disrupted). Anyway, would you consider putting this debate on pause and helping out with the to-do list instead? We obviously need help from other editors in this department.--Andrew c 15:31, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I echo what Andrew said above. I'm not attempting to be difficult, or to shoo away your topic because it's related to the "death" wording, but rather because this topic is relevant to the first paragraph more broadly. Earlier this year, the "death" and first paragraph discussions crowded out all others on the Main talk page, so we created this topical sub-page for the specific purpose of discussing the first paragraph. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem not to notice it in the archive box on Main talk; I have to move threads at least once a month. -Severa (!!!) 15:46, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
You have to? You mean you do? DirkvdM 09:37, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
And even when I knew there should be such a link, I still had a hard time finding it. No wonder others can't find it either. DirkvdM 10:12, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
That's why I always leave a post explaining why I've moved the thread and directing people here. It's hardly an anomaly that this article's discussion page should have topical sub-pages. Take Talk:Jesus, for instance. -Severa (!!!) 11:54, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
No. The consensus on political correctness isn't the concern of the accurate and balanced English definition. The fact Encarta uses the word "death" removes OR from serious consideration. The fact it isn't in many other Wiki you've checked speaks more to the Wiki-process than to unassailable truths on the definition of abortion. - RoyBoy 800 04:13, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
This post keeps on being removed from the talk page and I don't feel like a revert war over that, so I'll continue here.
As far as I'm concerned this is about the intro giving the most used definition of abortion, which is something along the lines of the premature termination of pregnancy, through natural or aritificial causes. But some seem to find the inclusion of the word 'death' a big deal, so that needs to be addressed. I hadn't seen that other list of definitions before, and it indeed includes some that use the word death. However, those are just 4 out of 12 definitions. And that's not counting the sources I mentioned above, where I haven't found a definition using the word 'death'. Also note that all definitions using the word 'death' are from US sources, so maybe that's a factor here. The talk pages of the other Wikipedias hardly address the issue. Only in the Portugueses one there is one remark that the use of the word 'death' is inappropriate. The definition I copied above namely continues to say "muitas pessoas o definem como a morte do embrião ou feto", or "many people define it as the death of the foetus". Maybe that would be a good basis to satisfy the discussion here.
So what about "The medical definition of abortion is 'the premature termination of pregnancy, through natural or aritificial causes'. However, more moral definitions, especially in the USA, sometimes use the word 'death'. This touches on the difficult issue what what the definition of life is." That last bit is very open to change, but on the initial definition there is so much consensus that using any other definition would be OR.
There are really two issues here. One is whether the word 'death' should be used. I'd say that's an issue that needs to be addressed, so yes. The other is if that word should appear in the definition. I tend to disagree since that is not in keeping with the most common definitions. But another solution would be to use both a medical and a moral definition, as Andrew suggests.
And about stopping this discussion. If many people protest the present, deviating, definition, then something needs to be done about that. Such as giving both views. What could make more sense? DirkvdM 09:31, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Just to clarify, I find your research good, your rationale sound and your intentions well placed. So if I'm brief and/or sound(ed) dismissive; it's only because I've spent what I consider too much time on this issue.
Death is not OR, so I'm just going to ignore that part.
At a key point in crafting the lead and in the debate I explicitly asked someone to help me justify putting the medical (termination) definition first. I couldn't come up with a rationale to do so; so the less technical moral (death) definition went first. Was that a mistake, *shrug*, not really... it was a choice based on defining the articles subject as quickly and simply as possible.
As such both views are given, although they indeed are not contrasted as you propose, but they needn't be since it is technically correct that a fetus dies. (meaning it is not merely a moral stance) While death does hint personhood (alive); using the term fetus hints not a person. So both views are being given, both in a subtle and more importantly summarized way.
Death only seems wrong because pro-choice semantics are more prevalent in Wikis and elsewhere.
While there was a time when termination seemed to be the reasonable/only wording to me; when a pro-life editor pointed out it (and other alternatives) are longer, avoiding the issue, and more technical wording and hence less encyclopedic (in those respects), I found that to be a compelling argument that our abortion definition was avoiding the obvious.
Now some have argued that "death" and "culture of death" are words used and defined by the pro-life movement; and to include them here regardless of its technical accuracy is therefore incorrect and/or naive. My response so far has been that "fetus" and "embryo" are defined predominantly by science and pro-choice advocates. So I really do feel it balances out; even though at first glance death sticks out like a sore thumb... but it sticks out because of socio-political, rather than technical/moral reasons. This touches on your astute U.S. centric point; as I hope I've explained, while that is true... it is equally possible European definitions do not accurately reflect worldwide opposition (moral demographics) on abortion. Either because it is less prevalent in those respective countries; or as I alluded to earlier; merely not yet reflected in the smaller and more "progressive" people logging into newer/smaller international Wikis.
As to putting both definitions and to elaborating on what death/termination imply, and who uses it makes the lead longer; and puts the abortion debate here rather than in its sub-article. Initially the lead second paragraph elaborated on the debate; but that was rejected as awkward and unnecessary.
In the end it would undoubtedly be easier to remove death; and avoid someone new every month trying their level best to "improve" the lead... and your original point of having agreement among Wiki definitions is reasonable and brought up by Andrew among others previously. To sum up, the current lead is accurate, short, clear and I (currently) think a better and more inclusive definition than other Wikis. - RoyBoy 800 23:25, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Ah, if only we could remove death. :) DirkvdM 18:19, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I disagree with the statement that "pro-choice semantics are more prevalent in Wikis". Both views are represented, and, if we're interpreting the prevalence of medical terms like "fetus" over colloquial terms, like "unborn child," as being representative of an imbalance, I think it's a misinterpretation. Both "fetus" and "unborn child" have semantic issues, "fetus" being sterile, dehumanizing, in the minds of some, and "unborn child" emotionalized, loaded in the minds of others. But both, in general, are neutral; true examples of non-neutral, slanted language would be "clump of tissue" or "pre-born human baby". -Severa (!!!) 08:29, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Oh and I almost forgot, I think the technical (and primary) reason why I eventually found death preferable, is because Wikipedia is not a medical dictionary. Primary definitions using "terminate", I think, are more technical and therefore less encyclopedic; ironically I just realized Encarta's definition uses termination and death in the lead. LOL... what a tangled semantic web we weave. I guess I should tweak that to say, primary definitions that rely on terminate. Perhaps, I should have just written this paragraph rather than all that stuff above :"D; but I suppose it helps clarify death isn't wrong... or at least not clearly wrong. - RoyBoy 800 23:57, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
For it to be technically correct that the foetus dies, there would have to be an unambiguous technical definition of life, which there isn't. That's the whole issue in the forced abortion issue. It is considered permissible because the foetus is not conisdered alive. Death can only occur to something that is alive (using the word is not a hint but a statement), so stating that the foetus dies is POV. Added to that, using a definition that deviates from the majority of the definitions is OR.
Btw, I'm also pro-life. I believe that word is hijacked in the US by the anti-abortion movement, making others look like murderers. I'm not pro-murder. I'm a philosopher. :) Also, I'm not basing my proposal on a specifically European pov, just on what I find on the web. If other cultures are underrepresented I can't help that. That's a problem all over Wikipedia. Anyway, I tried to find a wording that is as little pov as possible and I don't see how 'premature termination of pregnancy' can be improved upon. Except that 'terminate' might be replaced with 'end', to avoid associations people might have with 'death'. :) Other than that it's short, neutral and accurate. Any other, more complex considerations can then follow.
Wikipedia may not be a medical encyclopedia, but this is a medical subject. Which can be a medical condition (natural abortion) or a medical procedure (forced abortion). About the latter, of course, there can be moral opinions, which should also be explained. After the definition. DirkvdM 18:19, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I understand your logic, but, again, I like we need to take into account cultural differences and how it can subtlely effect the process of writing an article. For instance, above, you refer to "forced abortion." I assume, in other languages, this is a literal English translation of the term for "induced abortion" or "artificial abortion," but in English "forced abortion" is used to refer "compulsory," "mandatory," or "coercive" abortion, i.e. when a woman is forced to terminate a pregnancy against her will.
I wholeheartedly agree that there should be consistency throughout all Wikipedias, but, I don't think it should come about by imposing a universal standard at the expense of cultural or linguistic subtleties. After all, the Dutch Wikipedia is written for Dutch readers, the French Wikipedia for French readers, the Japanese Wikipedia for Japanese readers, etc. I don't see why the English Wikipedia, alone, should bear the burden of being written to suit everyone, or why the global perspective standards applied throughout EnWiki should be much tougher than that applied to all other Wikis.
I, too, would prefer an introductory definition which focused on the "termination of pregnancy" angle more than the outcome of the fetus. But, a lot of time was dedicated to reaching a consensus, and it's a debate which I'd hestitate to reopen. I've almost come to the conclusion that no one is ever going to be 100% satisfied with the opening — including myself. But, perhaps, an arrangement such as the following could harmonize this article with foreign Wikipedias while still maintaining past consensus: "An abortion is the premature termination of pregnancy, consisting of the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death." -Severa (!!!) 09:35, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry I used a bad translation for abortus provocatus (which, btw, redirects here). And I don't mean to say Wikipedias should all be the same. I just meant that as an example. In other Wikipedias there is little or no dispute over the definition and the definitions are all pretty much the same. So it's not an issue elsewhere. The English Wikipedia is the only one where there seems to be a strong lobby to include word 'death' in the definition and I suspect that is because of a strong US influence. If so, that would make it POV. Or maybe I should call that bias (before you correct me again :) ). I don't get your point about the English Wikipedia having to bear extra burdens and why it should be different. It shouldn't. That's the whole point. You speak of a consensus, but all I see is disagreement.
Anyway, it's really the other definitions found on the Internet and elsewhere that count here. That's what should be the basis for the article. It should not be based on minority views/definitions. Whether that would constitute OR, POV or bias, I don't know. But it's obviously wrong.
The start of your definition looks good. But what's the point of that last phrase? If it adds anything it's POV. A POV held by a reasonably large group of people, but that should then be given in the ensuing moral discussion section (and maybe stipulated in the intro), but not in the definition. Why take the definition beyond the definition proper? It doesn't add anything. DirkvdM 07:43, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Going through the Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, and Indonesian Wikipedia links that you posted above, I found that none of their articles on abortion had substantial discussion pages, going back 2 years. The only exception was the German Wikipedia, where the article relating to abortion is a Featured Article, and thus has a discussion page spanning 3 archives.
English Wikipedia, according to the Main page, currently has two or more times as many articles as any other Wiki, and, thus, probably has a greater readership as well. I would thus attribute the differences between English Wikipedia's article on abortion and that of other language Wikipedias to higher activity on the discussion pages (24 pages of archives going back to 2001). More users have contributed to the article and thus it has deviated more from the Wiki "standard."
I wouldn't say that support for the inclusion of "death" is necessarily linked to a U.S. worldview. One supporter was AnnH, who is Irish, and Str1977, who is from Germany. Also, although I wouldn't say I support the inclusion of "death," I accept the consensus for it, and I'm Canadian. And there were American editors who objected to "death's" inclusion.
The purpose of my compromise definition was to address your concerns about this article deviating from those other Wikis, in the absence of some reference to "termination of pregnancy," while still maintaining the text others had agreed was important. Although some editors, myself included, object to the inclusion of the word "death" in the intro, many supported it. I can't condense 5 archives worth of discussion, but, many of your points have already been raised and addressed there. Removing the last portion of my proposed definition would be to disregard that prior consensus and to cut the compromise off at its knees. If we're going to remove the text dealing with death, it'll have to be after agreement between multiple users, not just you and I. That said, of course, there's a lot to be done around here, and I'd rather dedicate my time to improving the article in ways mentioned on the to-do list than reopening this debate. -Severa (!!!) 12:50, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Well there is the source of your confusion; the fetus is certainly alive. The technical definition of life is easily defined, ingestion, respiration, procreation. An embyro, let alone a fetus, ingests nutrients, expels waste and it procreates (grows) through rapid division. Personhood (alive) is a matter of philosophical concern for abortion, not life. It is a developing lifeform, and it most certainly can and does die when it is aborted. One definition of "aborted" is ceased growth. - RoyBoy 800 04:52, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm sorry, RoyBoy, but are you replying to I or Dirk? Thanks. -Severa (!!!) 15:58, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
Replying to Dirk's lack of a definition to life. - RoyBoy 800 06:54, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with royboy, at least on a biological level the fetus is undeniably alive, and after abortion it's dead. Beforehand fingers are popping out and legs are kicking, and afterward? It's certainly strange to assert that abortion doesn't result in the death of the fetus. "A technical definition of life?" Come on, the thing's alive and then it's dead, it shouldn't be so controversial --frothT 13:01, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Before a tonsillectomy, the cells in my tonsils show all the signs of life. The cells organize together to make an organ. The cells reproduce via mitosis and grow. The cells metabolize energy supplied by blood. The cells will respond to stimuli and adapt, for instance if infected with Streptococcal pharyngitis. My tonsils are obviously alive. But do we define a tonsillectomy as "The removal of expulsion of the tonsils from the throat, caused by or resulting in their death"? (and I know a fetus and an organ aren't necessarily the same thing, but all analogies fail at some point). I personally do not believe the defining aspect of an abortion is the death of the fetus (because the placenta and membranes are clearly alive, and an abortion results in their death as well). One point of view, that clearly frames the matter in terms of life and death do focus on the death of the fetus as the most important aspect of an abortion. So I believe framing the definition in these terms is playing to that POV. My solution was to include two definitions, a medical/technical definition that didn't use death and focused on the termination of a pregnancy, and a common definition that focused on the death of the fetus. I never tried to create one single definition, because I acknowledged that there were multiple POVs. Instead, I tried to included many different relevent POVs. Now I don't mean to be dwelling on the past, but I still stand by the inclusion of "death" being controversial and am still searching for some solution.-Andrew c 18:46, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

in many places[edit]

The end of the lead was changed to this from "in many parts of the world". Personally I find "places" weaker and less specific. World by its nature is more of a worldwide view that Wikipedia wants us to adopt in articles. Thoughts? - RoyBoy 800 04:00, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

This was changed by Resonanteye as part of an effort to trim down article size through copyediting (see the thread, "Word count and grammar"). His edit is a good step toward that goal, but I see now, "in many places" is a lot more ambiguous than "in many parts of the world." Technically, "places" could refer to Mars, Io, or the Andromeda Galaxy — not exactly places where abortion is hotly debated among humans (at least, not yet). I suppose "in many parts of the world" puts the debate in a more appropriate context, so I've restored it. -Severa (!!!) 11:46, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Heh, I hadn't considered the galactic dynamic! There must be a bad joke in there somewhere. - RoyBoy 800 02:50, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, well, too much Carl Sagan for me. Blame Pale Blue Dot for raising my consciousness to "earth chauvinism" or anthropocentrism or whatever you call it. -Severa (!!!) 20:58, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Severa suggestion[edit]

I was re-reading this section to pass the time, and I realized that Severa had made an interesting suggestion, which I had pretty much glanced over since I was focused on Dirk.

"An abortion is the premature termination of pregnancy, consisting of the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death."

I think that is a great suggestion; this might be because of my recent reading of the Encarta lead. Now I do still think "termination" is a touch technical for the defining sentence, but (just thinking out loud) perhaps a more general impediment is wanting to avoid repeating the words "pregnancy" and "termination" in the lead. I suppose the biggest "problem" with it is that it wouldn't accomplish what it set out to do... to take the sting out "death". If it actually helped do that, then it should be used in my opinion. - RoyBoy 800 03:21, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

I interpret "termination" in an entirely non-technical sense, i.e., not as a synonym of "death," but of "stopping" or "ending." In that context, then, the opening of the sentence would read "an abortion is the premature ending of pregnancy." If you don't read it as a synonym of "death," perhaps it does take the sting out out of the word. -Severa (!!!) 04:55, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Cefaro Suggestion[edit]

Cefaro suggested a very sensible edit to the first paragraph, but it was reverted for lack of discussion on this page. Well, I'd like to say I support it. The first paragraph now says:

"Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable."

Cefaro raised the point that the "common" understanding in the first part of this sentence is not phrased in common language at all. Cefaro is correct. Cefaro instead proposed this:

"Commonly, abortion refers to the deliberate early termination of pregnancy, resulting in the death of the embryo or fetus; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable."

Does anyone object to this change? It makes a lot of sense to me.Ferrylodge 04:14, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

We want to avoid repetitious language and we also want to specifically avoid using the word death again. Abortion is already defined in the first two sentences. So its hard, from my perspective as a native English reader, to justify repeating it for a common definition. If "procedure" is the difficulty, it might be changed to "event" or possibly "abortion"... though at first glance those are poor substitutes. - RoyBoy 800 04:28, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
RoyBoy, if non-repetition of the word "death" is desired, then Cefaro's suggestion could easily be modified: "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to a deliberate termination of fetal or embryonic life at any point during pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable."
Incidentally, are you sure that the medical definition of this word does not include induced termination of a viable fetus? Don't doctors call that an abortion too?Ferrylodge 05:39, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
That is a better suggestion. As to viable terminations; doctors define those as "Late-term abortions". So the word abortion is there, but it isn't simply referred to as an "abortion". Give it a few days and see what others think of your suggestion. I might message some people/admins for input; a sticking point is the word "life" is pro-life. Although that isn't a bad thing in itself, more than a few people think having "death" in the lead already gives more than enough space for the pro-life point of view. If "life" were removed it would more likely be implemented:
Commonly, 'abortion' refers to a deliberate termination of a fetus or embryo at any point during pregnancy;
"Life" doesn't seem necessary to make the sentence work; the second thing I focus on for leads after NPOV is making things as tight and short as possible. - RoyBoy 800 14:39, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I would change "termination" to "destruction". Otherwise, it sounds like the fetus or embryo is being given a pink slip.
Regarding late-term abortions, any competent member of the medical profession would tell you that they are a form of abortion, just like early-term abortions and mid-term abortions are forms of abortion. To say that a late-term abortion is not an abortion is incorrect, it seems to me.Ferrylodge 15:02, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I stand by the longstanding version over this new proposal. It introduces a lot of redundency, and both suggestions continue to frame the definition in terms of life and death (something that is very important to a certain POV). It has been hard to keep a balance in the intro. On top of that, the redundency: both suggestions are repeating the first sentence but adding the two bits of information "deliberate" and "any point". You can see that the only additional information provided in the proposal is already included in the longstanding text. "Induced" is a very common technical term. I also beleive it is easily understood by lay readers. Same for "procedure" and "termination". I see no reason to 'dumb' it down. The whole point of this section is to say "commonly, abortion refers to the act of a pregnant woman going to a clinic or hospital to end her pregnancy, although technically speaking, 'abortion' only occurs before viablity and includes miscarriages". So the initial proposal changed the language to an extent that lost the intended purpose of the sentence (which is to contrast the common usage with the technical definition).
Now you also bring up the issue of the technical definition. All I am going to say for now is to please read the achives and trust me when I say that in medical dictionaries and literature, "abortions" technically stop around viability. (plus, to disagree with Roy, the term "late-term abortion" also gets a very low number of hits on pubmed). To recap what I said a while ago, we basically have 2 definitions. The medical one that includes miscarriages but stops at ~20 weeks, and the 'common' one that does not include miscarriage, but includes late-term procedures (both definitions of abortion exclude stillbirths). The longstanding intro was worked on by a large number of editors to get the best wording to include this information. I do not see the new proposals as an improvement. - Andrew c
Interesting suggestion, although destruction has been rejected in the past as too violent; it may be an option here in order to avoid repetition. But it could get as much resistance as "life" would.
As to late-term abortions; I wasn't maintaining they are not abortions... I am saying medical professionals will make a distinction between the two and that they won't/shouldn't be sloppy enough to call it just "an abortion". My understanding is they (experts involved) have to make a distinction because it involves different bio-ethical protocols as a result of possible or ambiguous viability. There was some discussion on this topic in Talk:Abortion/First paragraph/Archive 5 because we had to decide whether to even mention late-term abortions in the lead. It was ultimately decided, since they are very rare, and hardly referred to in the literature as "abortions" (Andrew c looked into it), that they weren't notable enough to mention and abortion experts don't consider them as simply an "abortion". Now if doctors refer anecdotally to them as an "abortion", I'd say they are using the common definition and it isn't a bonafide medical definition. They are both certainly abortions, but experts involved do make a distinction. Andrew c could likely elaborate further. (edit conflict, speak of the devil) - RoyBoy 800 17:47, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Many kinds of abortion require different medical protocols. That doesn't mean they're not abortions, medically speaking. To say that abortion is "medically...defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation...." excludes later abortions. Of course, post-viability abortions are uncommon, which makes it even more odd that Wikipedia is going out of its way to exclude them from the definition of "abortion."Ferrylodge 19:43, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
[sarcasm]Yes, it is odd that wikipedia is following our cited sources, even if that means going against how the term is used in common parlance[/sarcasm]. Seriously, saying what we say is no more odd that pointing out that 12 of the 21 definition list (which includes non-medical sources) refer to viability or a gestational age. I feel strongly that this shouldn't be about what we think abortion should mean, but instead should follow our cited soures. We cannot ignore phrases like "before 20 weeks' gestation" or " prior to the stage of viability at about 20 weeks of gestation (fetus weighs less than 500 g)" that occur very commonly in our sources. We cannot ignore the language used by medical professionals in scholarly journals (via pubmed, etc).-Andrew c 21:08, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Although I'd have put it differently; in short Wikipedia is not excluding them. They are merely defined differently by medical experts; while more importantly, as Andrew c points out, an "abortion" medically speaking is defined very specifically. We want to illustrate that and show it is defined thusly for legal/bio-ethical reasons. Late term abortions, which are included in the common definition, simply aren't mentioned because of their rarity. They are excluded from the medical definition, but that isn't Wikipedia's fault. - RoyBoy 800 23:13, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for linking to that list Andrew C. I am aware of several additional sources that provide definitions of the word "abortion". May I add them to that list? The list says "Add any other sources you may have to list below", but the top of the page says, "Do not edit the contents of this page." Ferrylodge 23:38, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

It would be best, and easier to list them here; as that list is old and we want to see these additional sources as part of this discussion thread. Keeps things in context. - RoyBoy 800 05:07, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
OK, thanks, it will take a little while to put them together. I just wasted my weekend on the definition of "stillbirth."Ferrylodge 05:26, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
What might be best is to create a subpage subpage. Something like Talk:Abortion/First paragraph/Definition where we can copy and paste the old sources, and add to the list. (and we can of course link to it at the top of the page)-Andrew c 17:06, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
While that might organize things a bit, we could accomplish the same thing by having a *read this first* sticky section at the top (a section that isn't archived) which contains sources and notes for newcomers. Another subpage would further fragment an already complicated talk page structure. This should work assuming we can keep the section to a civilized length. - RoyBoy 800 04:42, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

LCP, dangling modifiers, and medical definitions[edit]

LCP made a BOLD edit to the LEAD which was reverted. Let's discuss and propose changes to the lead. Some of LCP's concerns were basic, grammar things, others are bigger.

LCP modified the word "removal" with "surgical" and "expulsion" with "natural" and "its" with "the embryo's or fetus'" so An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death would read An abortion is the surgical removal or natural expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the embryo's or fetus' death. About modifying "removal or expulsion". I these words were chosen to make sure to cover nearly all cases of "abortion" from induced to miscarriage. I think that meaning is conveyed. Adding the words "surgical and natural" makes it even clearer, almost to the point of being verbose. However, we have to keep in mind abortoficiences and medical abortion. These are non-surgical methods that some people would clearly not classify as "natural" that cause abortion by expulsion. Therefore, making this dichotomy doesn't account for all case of abortion and therefore I cannot support adding those two words.

Regarding the second change to this sentence, I believe one use of "embryo or fetus" is clunky, and two is even clunkier. It would be nice if there was one nice word we could use (like products of conception), but we can't just use embryo or fetus. 80% of the abortion in the use are embryonic, while fetus is a more generic, commonly used term. I think that keeping "its" is better than repeating "emrbyo or fetus".

One thing that LCP's edit did was completely remove the medical definition. I think because we had around 21 cited source (there is a talk page link), with the majority of them mentioning a gestational age, we are not doing our sources justice by ignoring this very common definition of the word. It is giving undue weight to the non-medical definition by not mentioning something so sourced.

Finally, there was concern about the last part of the sentence being gramatically incorrect, if not awkwardly worded: which is considered nonviable. Does anyone have any suggestions for improvements on how to convey that a fetus before 20 weeks is considered non-viable (while keeping the medical definition intact)? -Andrew c 00:48, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Here is the last sentence in all of its consensus approved glory: “medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable.” It is “patent nonsense” for two reasons. First, a reader is left guessing at meaning. What exactly is non-viable? The words don’t state. You yourself state, “I cannot find what part of the sentence the phrase is ambiguously modifying.” Second, “medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination” is incorrect and redundant. “Miscarriage or induced termination” is not a “definition.” It is a label. And “miscarriage” and “induced” are already mentioned in the lead before this point.
Wikipedia:How to copy-edit defines copy-editing much differently than Severa does: “Copy-editing refers to the improvement of prose, including its grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and paragraphing, and the correction of misspellings; it extends to the improvement of tone, style, cohesion and texture, and the removal of redundant wording.” That is exactly what I did.
I said my revision were a “copy-edit,” not a “grammar fix.” Big difference. And I did respect the content of the fist paragraph, including the medical definition. I stated, “An abortion is the surgical removal or natural expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the embryo's or fetus' death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical, or other means. Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy.” This version includes everything stated in the current version—except the current dangling modifier. It includes “miscarriage” as well as “induced.” I removed, “medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination” because, as I mentioned, it is incorrect and redundant.
LCP 00:55, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
I think Andrew c raises some good points. I would propose the following:
An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the embryo's or fetus' death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical, or other means. Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy. In medical terminology, what is commonly referred to as an abortion is called “miscarriage” or “induced termination.” In 2002, only 1.4% (~18,060) of all abortions in the US (~1,290,000) were carried out after 20 weeks, the point at which a fetus is considered viable.[3]
The Changes I’ve made:
  • I’ve reintroduced a specific ref to “medical terminology.”
  • Although clunky, I propose we have to keep “embryo or fetus death” as the two things are different.
  • I’ve interpreted what I think the dangling modifier is trying to say in the current version and included the text at the end of my version.
LCP 01:15, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't think it's kosher to say that "abortion" is medically defined as something that only ocurs before 20 weeks, or before viability. There are lots and lots of medical sources that do not make this distinction, such as this one. Some medical sources do make this distinction and some don't. Some of each are listed here among the 21 various definitions mentioned by Andrew c, although I think it would be best to just stick to those of the 21 sources that are freely available online (otherwise a million sources could be cited on both sides of this question, and they could not be easily verified). Even some of the 21 sources that are available online are ambiguous, such as "The Gynecological Sourcebook" which says, "Technically, the word abortion simply refers to pregnancy loss before the twentieth week," but also says “Late abortion is any abortion beyond twenty-one weeks.”
I also agree with LCP that it would be best not to refer to an embryo or fetus in the lead as an "it", but perhaps LCP's solution is a bit clunky (perhaps instead, "resulting in or caused by death of the embryo or fetus").Ferrylodge 01:22, 21 June 2007 (UTC) I would also drop LCP's last sentence regarding the percentage occurring after viability, because it's somewhat arbitrary (i.e. we could just as easily select the percentage after the first trimester or the percentage after an embryo becomes a fetus).Ferrylodge 01:39, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
So, how about this: "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by death of the embryo or fetus. This can occur spontaneously as in a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure, but medically speaking it need not be induced."Ferrylodge 01:46, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
LCP, this proposal doesn't account for Andrew c's concern, which is preserving both the lay definition of abortion and the medical definition. One of the main points of contention in last year's first paragraph debate, as I recall, was which definition should be presented: the definition of "abortion" as applying to induced termination of pregnancy at any gestational age, or, the definition of "abortion" as only applying to induced termination before 20 weeks. Some editors thought we should opt for the broader, more inclusive definition ("at any stage"), while other editors thought it was giving undue weight to omit the definition preferred in medical literature ("before 20 weeks"). The solution, ultimately, was to present both definitions, but to place them within the context of how these definitions are used and by whom. Removing either of these definitions would reopen the can of worms which the compromise closed and send us right back to square one. We can attempt to rework the definitions to make them clearer, but, given the history of this discussion page, I think they will both need to remain in the article in some form. I also do not see what U.S. statistics would add to the intro, as these are already covered in the "Incidence" section, and, being too country-specific, serve to decrease the global perspective of the intro. The term "nonviable" is wikilinked, so anyone who is unfamiliar with it can click the link and learn what it means in its article. I think it's pretty clear from the immediately preceding text that "which is considered nonviable" refers to "twenty weeks." But anyway, any ambiguity would be better resolved through modifying the wording of the definition, rather than removing the definition entirely. This could be as simple as changing "which is considered nonviable" to "the point at which a fetus is considered viable" (working from LCP's suggested text). So: "medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, the point at which a fetus is considered viable." -Severa (!!!) 02:43, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
The type of revision you suggest is actually what I was shooting for. I added the stats only for the sake of precision as I thought that was what the text was trying to communicate. Before I attempt another version that takes into account your comments and suggestions, can you please comment on Ferrylodge's point that the fetus or embryo should not be referred to as an "it"? Also, I would appreciate your thoughts on the viability statement in its current form since, as the stats show and Ferrylodge points out, abortions after 20 weeks are not unusual.
Also, I am not clear on why you say my version "doesn't account for Andrew c's concern." Here are the two version side by side (minus the text about viability):
MINE: An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the embryo's or fetus' death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical, or other means. Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy. In medical terminology, what is commonly referred to as an abortion is called “miscarriage” or “induced termination.”
CURRENT: An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination.
Is it just the omission about viability info that you find problematic? Otherwise, I can see no essential semantic difference between the two version.LCP 18:03, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it is the omission about viability info that I find problematic. Dig through the archived discussion. We went through the sources (the 21 list was just compiled by one user, there are more definitions cited throughout the archives), we discussed them, made proposals, and agreed to mention that there is a technical definition of the word that commonly has a cut off point. I believe those discussions were valid, and I agree that it's a good thing to present multiple POVs in the lead (and I also feel that the manner in which we present the POVs is neutral). Anyone is more than welcome to go through the sources again, or present new evidence, or make new proposals. But forgive me for not being eager to go through this process again (it was quite taxing, just look at the size of the archives, but I feel good came out of it in the end). What I've always said is that we should work on the to-do list, and try to get FA status BEFORE tackling the lead again. We literally spend months discussing the lead, and finally reached something the everyone could agree upon.
As for "its", I'm a little confused. FL said I also agree with LCP that it would be best not to refer to an embryo or fetus in the lead as an "it" and LCP said can you please comment on Ferrylodge's point that the fetus or embryo should not be referred to as an "it". I'm confused about who made the original point, and I'm confused as to why, because I have not found a discussion describing WHY we shouldn't use the pronoun "it" in reference to an embryo or fetus. According to the Chicago Manual of Style] Some personal pronouns have special uses ... It eliminates gender even if the noun’s sex could be identified. Using it does not mean that the noun has no sex—only that the sex is unknown or unimportant {the baby is smiling at its mother} {the mockingbird is building its nest}. -Andrew c 02:58, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't have any big objection to keeping "it" in the lede, although I do think it's often improper to refer to a human being as "it," and I would have no problem if the lede were changed to say "resulting in or caused by death of the embryo or fetus."
Regarding the statement in the lede that, medically speaking, "abortion" can be both induced and non-induced, that's 100% correct. But the lede also says that something occurring after 20 weeks cannot be an "abortion", medically speaking. It's that latter assertion that is not uniformly true, and medical sources often discuss "abortion" of viable fetuses, as in late term abortion. I don't see any problem with discussing that fact here on the talk page, regardless of whether a featured article review may be under way or imminent. If this article becomes featured, then mistakes may only become more difficult to correct.
Andrew c mentioned 21 various definitions. Let's briefly consider them. Many of those 21 definitions make no distinction at all about "abortion" only occuring before viability. #1 makes no distinction. #2 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("late abortion is any abortion beyond twenty-one weeks"). #3 makes no distinction. #4 and #5 are not available online. #6 makes no distinction. #7 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("expulsion of the human fetus prematurely, or before it is capable of sustaining life"). #8 makes no distinction. #9 is is a Medline Plus discussion of "miscarriage", and their definition of abortion (which yet again is not quoted) makes no distinction. #10 is the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #11 makes no distinction. #12 makes no distinction. #13 makes no distinction. #14 is again the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #15 makes no distinction. #16 makes no distinction. #17 and #18 do make the distinction. #19 is a definition of "therapeutic abortion" that only applies before viability, but there is also a definition of "partial birth abortion" which is defined as a "method of late-term abortion" so again there is no distinction. #20 makes no distinction. And, #21 is not online. So, the vast majority of these sources do not make the distinction in the lead.Ferrylodge 05:03, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

[reset indent] I disagree with your counting. I believe discounting a source because it isn't online is not valid, and I believe discounting a source because the word abortion is later modified by another word or phrase is not any more of a contradiction than defining "threatened" or "incomplete abortion" different from an unmodified "abortion".

To make it clear, the reason why I'd just like to let the lead sit and move on is because I feel that these matters were quite timely and consuming in the past and that it took a lot to build a version that most everyone could agree with and do not want to open that can of worms again. I do not feel right spending a great deal of effort going over the same matters again when there are other areas of this article needing attention. It's like, how many editors at Jesus want to argue AD vs CE again? How many editors at Roman Catholic Church want to argue RCC vs. CC again. These are all top tier articles that are not featured (but should be), but editors always find ways to argue over the same stuff instead of focusing on improving the less talked about areas of the articles. So forgive me if my past experiences makes me jaded. Maybe this discussion can be cleared up in a jiff.

Perhaps the simplest way we could address your concerns is by adding the word "sometimes" to the current version. So the last sentence would read along the lines of Commonly, "abortion" refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable.

To address LCP's concerns, maybe we could rephrase the final portion to say defined as miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability.-Andrew c 14:28, 22 June 2007 (UTC)

Andrew c, I sympathize with the need to put issues to rest. The better the solution is, the more lasting it will be. So, thanks for your suggestion, which is a better solution for the first paragraph. The first paragraph now states:
"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable."
If I understand correctly, you're basically suggesting to write instead the following (I have also gotten rid of the word "it"):
"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by death of the embryo or fetus. This can occur spontaneously as in a miscarriage, or can be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
This would be fine with me, and would make the lead more accurate and well-written, in my opinion. What do you think, LCP? Regarding the word "it", please see this article, titled "The Textual Abuse of Children; In the Press and In the Child Protection Community" by Bernadette Saunders and Chris Goddard, Childhood, Volume 8 (2001). Thanks.Ferrylodge 16:00, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
You are correct in summarizing my proposal. I don't like removing "it" though. I can understand the concerns that "it" can be dehumanizing to a gendered, born entity (ignoring the arguments against gender dichotomy briefly). However, the source that your source cites even admits the use of ‘it’ for a baby or infant may be considered acceptable: when the child is not yet born, when his or her sex is not known, or when the child lacks ‘reason and speech’. I think the arguments concerning calling children "it" are more persuasive and may be something to consider on other articles. However, style manuals and even the source you provided recognizes that the pronoun "it" is fine in these instances. I think the phrase "embryo or fetus" is clunky, confusing, and partially inaccurate. However, I don't want to get into a discussion on what it could be replaced with because I feel that we almost have reached a consensus on these few changes. One instance of the clunky "embryo or fetus" is slightly disagreeable to me, but two is too much. I can live with one, and I do not find the arguments for not using "it" persuasive (your source doesn't mention embryos or fetuses at all). I hope we can agree and move on. Thanks for your kind consideration so far.-Andrew c 16:40, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
I can understand your concern about clunkiness of using the term "embryo or fetus" twice in one sentence. This can be easily resolved. The article on pregnancy has long used the term "developing human" in its lead. So:
"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the developing human's death. This can occur spontaneously as in a miscarriage, or can be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
This is a simple and easy way to avoid the whole issue of describing the embryo or fetus by the word "it." The Saunders article discusses the inadvisability of using this word: "Even small words may be powerful." Those authors praise the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and they quote it: "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth..." I'm not advocating that we should refer in the lead to an embryo or fetus as a "him" or a "her", but neither should we refer to the developing human as an "it". There's no need to. You're correct that the Saunders article does mention a study by Wales which suggests that the word "it" is appropriate when the child is not yet born, but Saunders does not endorse that, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which I have just quoted) also takes a different approach. The more I think about this, the less appropriate it seems for the lead of this article to take a position that a fetus or embryo can be appropriately referred to as "it" while an older human cannot be appropriately referred to in this way. Can we just circumvent this issue by using the term "developing human" as is done in the pregnancy article? Thanks.Ferrylodge 18:04, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
P.S. Here's another option that relies on #18 and #20 of your 21 various definitions (and relies on Andrew c's first comment in this section):
"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of the products of conception from the uterus, resulting in or caused by death of the embryo or fetus. This can occur spontaneously as in a miscarriage, or can be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
Does anyone have any objection to this? It avoids the problem of referring to the subject of an abortion as "it".Ferrylodge 00:18, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
The fact is that the definition in the introduction was written to take into account all abortions. The term "abortion" applies equally to an animal's miscarriage, or an abortion induced by a veterinarian, so we shouldn't construct the introduction in a manner such as you've suggested. Most dictionary definitions of abortion stick to "embryo" and "fetus," likely because these are open-ended, and apply to any mammal. We also spent time trying to write the introduction in such a way as to accommodate abortion in the case of a multiple pregnancy. This is why the current wording is "an embryo or fetus" and "its death," rather than "the embryo or fetus" and "the embryo or fetus' death," because a definite article precludes other embryos or fetuses. I recall a number of proposals included a clunky caveat to address the first concern ("all mammalian pregnancies can be aborted") and an even clunkier stab at combined singularity/plurality to account for the second ("embryo(s) or "fetus(es)"). It was nothing short of linguistic gymnastics trying to work this all out. However, we eventually arrived at a consensus, and implemented a version that everyone could agree upon (or at least live with) in the article. Someone added a new agenda item, "Expand lead section to something more substantial," to our to-do list a couple of months ago. I don't think we're going to find time to expand the rest of the lead if we dedicate all of our focus to the first paragraph — not to mention all the other portions of the article remaining to be addressed. I think LCP's concern over the ambiguity of "which is considered nonviable" is easily resolved, but per "it," I can only point to "death," which is still included in the article, although several editors have objected to it before for a number of reasons. No one is going ever going to be 100% satisfied with the introduction, but, in last year's first paragraph debate, we came pretty close, and reached a consensus. I agree with Andrew c: don't reopen a closed can of worms. -Severa (!!!) 01:11, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
The following language is no more limited to humans than the existing language in the article, and the following language is no more unaccomodating to multiple pregnancy than the existing language in the article.
"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of the products of conception from the uterus, resulting in or caused by death of an embryo or fetus. This can occur spontaneously as in a miscarriage, or can be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means. Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
We are all in agreement on the changes in the last sentence. The changes in the first sentence are basically what Andrew c suggested in his first comment in this section of the talk page ("products of conception"). The word "death" does not ameliorate use of the word "it" in reference to the subject of an abortion; lots of things die (like bugs and weeds and leeches). This article discusses the problems that one encounters when referring to a human being as "it." One would never say upon the death of an adult that "it died." A neutral solution here is to use neither "it" nor "he" nor "she". There is no can of worms here, because no one has identified any problem with the blockquoted language. It is no more limited to humans than the existing language, and it is no more unaccomodating of multiple pregnancy than the existing language.Ferrylodge 01:29, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

"It" herein is referring to any mammalian fetus — not just human fetuses. My is point is that, although several editors have objected to "death" before, suggesting that it should be removed from the article, formulations which avoided using "death" have not passed the test. I see purposely trying to avoid the word "it" as being the same. The above proposals ("products of conception" and repetition of the phrase "embryo or fetus") remind me of some of the awkward, overly complex constructions that have been designed to sidestep using "death," namely, "An abortion is the termination of an embryo of fetus' gestation in a womb, so as not to result in a live birth." I think, in this case, going out of our way to avoid particular words only serves to decrease the clarity of the text, by making it more complicated than it needs to be.
Does everyone here agree with the idea of changing the last sentence of the first paragraph to, "medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, the point at which a fetus is considered viable?" in order to address LCP's initial concerns? -Severa (!!!) 02:56, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Severa, are you saying that you disagree with Andrew c's proposal to rewrite the last sentence of the first paragraph as follows?
"Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
I think that Andrew c's proposal here is a good one, and I do not agree to anything else at this point.
Regarding the first sentence of the first paragraph, my understanding is that you object to the following: "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of products of conception from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the death of an embryo or fetus." Is your only objection that the term "products of conception" is awkward? That is a very common term, and I do not agree that it is awkward. Andrew c suggested it in his first comment in this section of the talk page, and I do not see any problem with it.Ferrylodge 03:03, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
According to WP:Consensus, editors should accurately and appropriately describe the different views on the subject, including their own. So, if anyone is opposed to the following proposed last sentence of the first paragraph (which was suggested by Andrew c), then please explain your reasons: "Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability." The reasons in favor have been explained above.
Likewise, if anyone is opposed to the following proposed first sentence of the first paragraph then please explain: "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of products of conception from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the death of an embryo or fetus." The reasons in favor have been explained above. The phrase "products of conception" is already used in many Wikipedia articles, and it was suggested in Andrew c's first comment in this section. The proposed first sentence adequately allows for non-human abortion and multiple pregnancy, and it also avoids the problem of referring to the subject of an abortion as "it" (see Saunders article). Many abortion-related articles at Wikipedia have already been edited to remove the word "mother" in connection with a pregnant woman, even though that is a correct use of the word "mother", and it seems like a POV problem to simultaneously insist on the word "it" for a fetus in the first sentence of this article. The fact that the first sentence of this article may allow for other species besides humans does not solve the problem, because the lead does not mention other species, and it surely applies to humans.
Thanks.Ferrylodge 15:31, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Hi Ferrylodge.. your link doesn't prove a woman carrying a foetus should be called a mother.. that is contingent on accepting the POV that the foetus may be called a "child". Zargulon 19:14, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Hi Zargulon. The definition of the word "mother" is a bit tangential to my previous comment, but you're correct that the link I gave leaves the word "child" undefined. However, the very same dictionary clears up any ambiguity here. Other dictionaries agree, as does the Wikipedia article on Mother (and Google turns up quite a few hits for "pregnant mother"). Anyway, even if the word "mother" were not applicable to a pregnant woman (which it is), still it would not be good form to refer to the developing human as "it" when other words are available.Ferrylodge 20:02, 23 June 2007 (UTC)


Hi.. are you saying the phrase "joining mother and fetus" in the definition of "after-birth" proves that carrying a not-just-about-to-be-born fetus makes someone a mother? This is not very a very good argument given the word under definition is *after* - *birth*.. I would at least expect to see something under the definition of "mother" or "fetus". I looked through the other dictionaries link and I couldn't find anything that supported the position that the definition of mother applies in any situation other than immediately surrounding the time of birth and thereafter. Of course many people either casually or deliberately use mother to include any carrier of a foetus, as you noticed with your Wikipedia and google search. Zargulon 20:22, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Zargulon, "joining mother and fetus" was from a definition of "placenta" which is a biological feature that exists well before birth. Regarding the other dictionary definition I gave, it defines a mother as: "A female person who is pregnant with or gives birth to a child" which obviously is not limited to the last few days of pregnancy. I have never seen a definition of "mother" that says motherhood starts at birth or soon before birth. Anyway, like I said, this is tangential to the issue at hand. Cheers.Ferrylodge 22:00, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
Hi ferrylodge.. I have never seen an (apolitical) definition of "mother" which says motherhood starts at conception, or that motherhood is generally applicable to a pregnant woman.. "pregnant with a child" presupposes that the pregnancy results in a live birth, since the word "child" is used. Zargulon 22:19, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
Hi Zargulon. No one disagrees that a mother is a female parent. And, no one disagrees that, in a broad sense, a parent is any organism that produces or generates another. Therefore, it is not incorrect to say that a pregnant woman is a mother. It is merely a matter of preference and style whether one does so.
That is disingenuous. I hope you would agree that for someone to say that they were the father of their sperm or the mother of their gut bacteria was so misleading as to be incorrect. It is reasonable to put the foetus in the same category; the only difference is that the (pseudo)parenthood is shared.
You have suggested that a woman can be a mother prior to birth, but only supposing that she ultimately gives birth to a child, and consequently you say there's no way to know if a pregnant woman was a mother until she gives birth. Your suggestion seems odd to me. You can look up the word child in many different dictionaries, and you will see that it is not limited to a human being after birth. But I agree with you that, if you are looking for an apolitical definition of "mother" that explicitly says motherhood starts at “conception”, then it may be difficult to find.Ferrylodge 23:11, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't feel I have suggested this, I think you are extrapolating. Rather it seems to me that the word mother is used for pregnant women in the context of anticipation of a live birth. Outside of this context, and particularly in the context of terminating a pregnancy, I see no evidence that it is not incorrect to give a pregnant woman the label of mother.. unless, for whatever reason, one is seeking to change the context e.g. by recalling her potential to give a live birth. That, however, is begging the question. Zargulon 23:39, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I don’t think there is any dictionary anywhere that unambiguously says that a pregnant woman is or is not a “mother” depending upon her intentions. Here is just a small sample of evidence that it is not incorrect to give a pregnant woman the label of “mother”, regardless of her intentions: [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]Ferrylodge 02:05, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
This is veering into a general discussion of semantics. The introduction of this article doesn't contain the term "mother," "woman," or "pregnant woman," nor is anyone proposing that it should, so let's try to keep discussion focused on things that are on the table. Thanks! -Severa (!!!) 04:00, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, if we are on a kick to remove anything in the lead that may be POV or controversial, such as the dreaded pronoun, why don't we also remove the word "death". There have been more than a handful of editors who have commented negatively about that word's inclusion for the first sentence (and look at how many sources use the d-word. More sources mention a time limit (20 weeks) or viability than mention death.) So how does the following sound? An abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception from the uterus. We don't say death, we don't say its, and its very close to a couple of the definitions on the list. The reason I have a problem with Ferrylodge's first sentence proposal is because it specifies that the removal or expulsion of the POC is caused by the death of the fetus or embryo. This is technically inaccurate, because some miscarriages are caused by placental problems (i.e. if the placenta dies, then the fetus is going to be expelled). However, if my proposal is disagreeable, then I think the current lead is superior to efforts to try again to come up with a perfect 1st sentence. I believe no one is going to be 100% happy with it, but we can at least agree it is sufficiently good. I also only suggested the new last sentence to try and address LCP and FL's concerns. It isn't something that I want, per se, but an attempt to reach a compromise. I personally think the sentence works without adding "sometimes" (just to clear up where I stand, because I feel I was being misrepresented). Believe me, I am interested in the outcome of this article, but I am not interested in filling up the talk page, so excuse me if I don't respond to everything because I'll be doing (what in my mind) are more important things over the next few days.-Andrew c 20:52, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I'll go ahead and modify the last sentence of the first paragraph, according to Andrew c's suggested compromise, since no one has given any reason for objecting to it.
Regarding the other (first) sentence, I suggested this: "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of products of conception from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the death of an embryo or fetus." Andrew c objects, because he says it specifies that the removal or expulsion of the POC is caused by the death of the fetus or embryo. That's obviously incorrect, because of the word "or" that I have bolded and italicized. But I will leave the first sentence as it is for now, since he objected (incorrectly).Ferrylodge 22:00, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I would like to (seriously) suggest changing the word "its" in the first sentence to "his or her or its." This would make it clear right up front that the authors of this article are trying to be even-handed about a very touchy subject. There is no doubt that the word "its" is often used to dehumanize.[11]Ferrylodge 06:13, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Severa has reverted. Take your time to think it over, Severa. Andrew c previously proposed this, and reconfirmed the proposal at 16:40 on 22 June. Then, at 15:31 on 23 June, I asked for people to explain any objections they might have to this edit. Then at 22:00 on 23 June, I said I'd go ahead and make the change. Then at 04:00 on 24 June you visited this page and made a comment on another subject. It was not until 5:58 on 24 June that I finally made the edit. Please don't say that I'm jumping the gun. Okay? Thank you for kind indulgence.Ferrylodge 06:47, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

And she was right to revert. This edit is not an improvement. KillerChihuahua?!? 19:45, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
Would you care to explain why?Ferrylodge 20:07, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

(unindent)Sorry to have been so silent. I've been off-line. The current version resolves the main issue that I had with the previous lead. Many thanks to everyone who pitched in!LCP 18:29, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Consensus[edit]

No one replied to this post, where Ferrylodge stated, "I'll go ahead and modify the last sentence of the first paragraph" — probably because the "mother" vs. "pregnant woman" discussion expanded above it and it was easy to miss — but a lack of reply is not the same as an agreement to go ahead. There hasn't been any definitive agreement that any of the proposals put forward should be put into action in the article. I never expressed that I thought this proposal should be enacted. Nor do I interpret the following comment from Andrew c as exactly giving the green light:

"I also only suggested the new last sentence to try and address LCP and FL's concerns. It isn't something that I want, per se, but an attempt to reach a compromise. I personally think the sentence works without adding "sometimes" (just to clear up where I stand, because I feel I was being misrepresented)."

Specifically, Andrew c expressed concerns over the word "sometimes," but this was still included in the intro revision. I also have an issue with the addition of the word "sometimes," which I feel is weasel wording, but also with the removal of the reference to "twenty weeks," which was agreed upon by last year's consensus. At the peak of that discussion, over 10 editors were involved, and the debate proceeded for over a month. In comparison, we have four (maybe five) editors now participating in this discussion, which has been going on for a couple of days, and none of us have agreed conclusively on a course of action. Things are still up in the air. Let's not get hasty and think that we are in any kind of a rush here. The introduction is as stable as it is because people were willing to take the time to cooperate toward finding a solution. Perhaps we can take a page from last year's debate and build a list of proposals on which users can vote. Personally, I would like to know what some of the users who participated in last year's discussion think. -Severa (!!!) 08:27, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

I am in no rush, and am glad to go slowly, as I already emphasized in the previous section of this talk page. The last sentence of the first paragraph is currently this:
"Commonly, ‘abortion’ refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable."
There clearly is room for improvement here, such as disambiguating the viability wikilink. Regarding the notion that “abortion” is medically defined as occurring before viability, that is an inaccurate statement.
Most online medical sources do not limit the definition of abortion in this way, and therefore the last sentence in the first paragraph of our article needs to be corrected. I briefly considered 21 various definitions that had also been considered last year. Many of those 21 definitions make no distinction about "abortion" only occurring before viability. #1 makes no distinction. #2 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("late abortion is any abortion beyond twenty-one weeks"). #3 makes no distinction. #4 and #5 are not available online. #6 makes no distinction. #7 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("expulsion of the human fetus prematurely, or before it is capable of sustaining life"). #8 makes no distinction. #9 is a Medline Plus discussion of "miscarriage", and their definition of abortion (which yet again is not quoted) makes no distinction. #10 is the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #11 makes no distinction. #12 makes no distinction. #13 makes no distinction. #14 is again the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #15 makes no distinction. #16 makes no distinction. #17 and #18 do make the distinction. #19 is a definition of "therapeutic abortion" that only applies before viability, but there is also a definition of "partial birth abortion" which is defined as a "method of late-term abortion" so again there is no distinction. #20 makes no distinction. And, #21 is not online.
So, the majority of these sources do not make the distinction in the lead regarding viability. Andrew c responded by suggesting the word “sometimes.” If you think the word "sometimes" is weasel wording, then perhaps the best option would be to footnote the lead:
”Commonly, ‘abortion’ refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination. Some medical sources further specify that abortion refers only to a procedure prior to the point of viability, which occurs after at least twenty weeks' gestation (see Dorland’s Medical Dictionary), whereas other medical sources use a different chronological marker (see Merriam Webster’s Online Medical Dictionary), or use no chronological marker at all (see The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary)."
What do you think about that? My main concern is to correct the notion that medical definitions limit the word "abortion" to procedures prior to 20 weeks. In fact, most do not, and the medical literature is full of references to late term abortions that occur after twenty weeks.Ferrylodge 09:25, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
Although this appears to be a straightforward factual matter about the accuracy of the first paragraph, Severa said, "I would like to know what some of the users who participated in last year's discussion think." Therefore, I have invited a bunch of people including RoyBoy, Pro-Lick, GTBacchus, AvB, Isolani, GoodandEvil, Wikicats, Str1977, Homestarmy, patsw, AnnH (now Musical Linguist), and Dominick.Ferrylodge 20:00, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Do you bother to check things? Goodandevil (talk • contribs • deleted contribs • nuke contribs • logs • filter log • block user • block log) has been blocked 7 times for edit warring on Abortion articles to promote a POV, and has not edited since 5 August 2006 - probably a good thing since that's the last person I'd think would help us to reach any kind of consensus; Pro-Lick (talk • contribs • deleted contribs • nuke contribs • logs • filter log • block user • block log) is banned permanently, which surely you saw on his page, why are you inviting banned users?; WikiCats has not edited since 9 December 2006. Why wasn't User:Spaully, User:SOPHIA, or User:SlimVirgin invited? All were active in previous discussions, and all are editing now. KillerChihuahua?!? 21:10, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

I will invite Spaully, Sophia, and SlimVirgin if you wish. I simply invited people who had participated in this poll. I was not trying to invite everyone who has ever edited the abortion article. Please address the accuracy of the last sentence of the first paragraph of the abortion article. It is inaccurate and misleading. Most medical definitions do not limit the word "abortion" to procedures prior to 20 weeks, and the medical literature is full of references to late term abortions that occur after twenty weeks.Ferrylodge 21:28, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

If the medical definition of abortion is only an abortion before 20 weeks, what's the medical definition for the common understanding of abortion after 20 weeks? Also, I (almost) hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the entire lead as a whole seems too short for, say, FA status if that's the ultimate goal, in particular, the health effects sections seem too long for there to be no apparent mention of it at all in the lead. Homestarmy 22:09, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

Viability doesn't seem to be part of the definitions that are used in the UK - time limits are the key points as far as I am aware. What about taking some ideas from this definition [12]? Sophia 22:52, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
The MedTerms definition that you cite is yet another medical definition inconsistent with the first paragraph of the abortion article, and I hope we can fix our article.Ferrylodge 00:19, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Homestarmy: You're not really bearing bad news, more highlighting a harsh reality resulting from a contentious lead. The shorter it is, the less there is to disagree about. :"p You're suggestion for inserting health effects is a good one, social issues needs to be put in and the abortion debate could use a little expanding. - RoyBoy 800 02:35, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
  • "mother": As I've stated on Ferrylodge's talk page, I find "mother" more ambiguous and does not improve the lead in a quantifiable way. All that would be accomplished is to remind people mother includes those who are pregnant... *shrug*. - RoyBoy 800 02:35, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
  • As to twenty weeks: My understanding from past discussions and my own opinion is... that there are clear time constraints on abortive procedures in medicine for bio-ethical and/or legal considerations. There needs to be, it not being in the 21 definitions given does not change that. If I'm wrong, I'd be surprised. The medical community deems abortive procedures after that period to be something other than an "abortion". They use "partial-birth abortion", or IDX or "late term abortion" or some other terminology that differentiates this from a non-viable abortion. This isn't just a exercise in semantics to hospitals, they do this to clarify and delineate the procedure from the standards, requirements and health care they would apply to an "abortion". - RoyBoy 800 02:35, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Twenty weeks: The Canadian Medical Association defines induced abortion as, "the active termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability," then later clarifies that "extrauterine viability may be possible if the fetus weighs over 500 g or is past 20 weeks’ gestation, or both." [13]
  • Homestarmy: Expanding the introduction has been an item on this article's to-do list for a couple of months. I, personally, would like to see this done.
-Severa (!!!) 04:42, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
The issue here is whether the first paragraph is accurate or inaccurate when it says: "medically, it is defined as miscarriage or induced termination before twenty weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable." I have gone through the definitions, and only a small fraction of medical sources deny that a termination after 20 weeks is a type of abortion. The lead is presently giving undue weight to a small fraction of medical sources.
This is a fairly straightforward issue. The simple fact is that the lead is inaccurate, because lots and lots of medical sources use the word "abortion" with reference to a termination of pregnancy after twenty weeks. A "late-term abortion" is still an abortion. An "illegal abortion" is still an abortion. It makes no sense to say that, merely because many medical authorities attach an adjective like "late-term" or "illegal" then somehow the noun "abortion" does not apply, which is what our lead now asserts. Likewise the term "senior citizen" does not imply non-citizenship. This is a very straightforward issue, and I feel like people are dancing around it here. The majority of medical sources say that the word "abortion" is not limited to a previability procedure. That's all that matters here. Many medical dictionaries define abortion without regard to whether it occurs before viability or after. (See here and here and here). They do not restrict when the event occurs. Likewise, numerous medical articles use the term "abortion" after 20 weeks. See [here] and here and here and here. It is simply false and misleading for the lead of this article to say that there's no such thing as an abortion after viability, medically speaking.Ferrylodge 05:43, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
The arguments against "Medically ..." seem convincing to me. We didn't give it much thought last year, and may have overlooked that rare procedures will not generate much by way of literature and (updated) definitions. However, simply removing the sentence would also remove consensus information about fetus viability and/or the 20-week point which underpin or inform abortion laws in many countries. Perhaps something along these lines would solve the "medically" problem:
x% of all induced abortions take place before 20 weeks' gestation, which is considered nonviable.
If this would be adopted, I would also be in favor of adding: See also Late term abortion. As to possible undue weight arguments: I believe that precisely the fact that it is a rare procedure is important/notable.
AvB ÷ talk 09:34, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
The link I gave in my previous post could help avoid these issues in the lead as it defines abortion as the premature loss of a pregnancy. The word "loss" is important as this shows that it was an unsuccessful pregnancy (ie did not end in a live birth) so does not conflict with very premature births that do end in live births. It then covers both spontaneous and induced abortions. Maybe what we need to do is split at that point into the miscarriage and stillbirth articles and then into an Induced abortion article (not as a redirect) that covers all the methods used at the various stages. We still need talk about time limits as is done in the stillbirth article as these are legally defined and vary from country to country. Possibly the problems we have been having are due to trying to cover too much under one word "abortion" so we need to make these difficulties clear in effectively a disambiguation article which indexes and pulls together all the various topics this covers. Thoughts? Sophia 09:55, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
As has been brought up previously we need to be able to cover the dicotomy that in the UK a 23 week termination is an abortion and a 23 week natural live birth is premature. A post 24 week termination is an abortion but a natural birth of a dead fetus is a still birth and must be registered. The laws are a mess which is why the definitions are so difficult. Sophia 09:59, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
Split/rename/etc: Not a bad idea at all. The current article contains very little on spontaneous abortion as it is. A slightly different option: remove any miscarriage/stillbirth info from the current article and add a dab at the top. Something like This article is about induced abortion in humans. For other meanings, see Miscarriage or Stillbirth AvB ÷ talk 10:10, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
For now I would like to keep the 20-week/nonviable info (the article is still rather US-centric in other aspects as well). Perhaps we should qualify the 20 weeks etc. by saying In the US, ...? The time limits problems can be worked out in the article, after which the lead can be updated. AvB ÷ talk 10:19, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

<uindent> I'm not advocating any radical changes just yet - just throwing out ideas. What it seems to be coming to is a confusion of an event and a procedure all mixed up with the differences in medical, legal and common use definitions. Sophia 10:53, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

Understood; I think your ideas are going in the right direction. The miscarriage/stillbirth/(induced) abortion one looks uncontroversial to me so perhaps it can be done soon. I also agree about the confusion; losing the "medical" here in the lead looks like a start to me. AvB ÷ talk 11:17, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

This comment is referring to FL's statement A "late-term abortion" is still an abortion. Under that logic, I submit that the lead is inaccurate by saying an abortion is the removal or expulsion because we have "incomplete abortions" and "threatened abortions", both cases of "abortion" where the embryo may not have been removed nor expelled. However, that said, I disagree with the logic. A word is specifically modified by these terms "late-term" or "incomplete" or "threatened" because they do not meet the standard definition of the term "abortion". I also question FL's assertions that Likewise, numerous medical articles use the term "abortion" after 20 weeks. and the medical literature is full of references to late term abortions that occur after twenty weeks. Anyone can do this, do a pubmed search for "abortion". I just got 62577 hits. Then do a search for ("late-term abortions" or "late-term abortion"), and you get 53 hits. That's .085% I wouldn't call that "full of" or even "numerous". But it gets worse. Start reading through the results. 7 of them are popular newspaper articles from places like the New York Times (not part of the "medical literature" by any means). At least 5 are from legal journals, again not part of the medical literature. At least 6 are from partisan publications such as Reproductive freedom news "from the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy", and Conscience which is put out by "Catholics for a Free Choice". So that takes us down from 53 hits to 35. Let's look at these results. The vast majority of the results deal with animals (cows, pigs, horses, sheep, nilgais). And when you look at many of those articles, they make a distinction between a LTA and a stillbirth. (quotes like Two were late-term abortions, two neonates died 1 or 2 days after birth, and one calf survived. No stillbirths or perinatal deaths were observed in other bovids in the zoo that year.[14]) How many of the results deal with humans? and how many of those deal with abortion procedures? I think it's clear how prevalent this usage of "late-term abotion" is in the medical literature.

However, here are two interesting quote from the results:

  • In this article, early second-trimester abortion procedures refer to those performed at 13 through 15 weeks of gestation. Mid second-trimester abortion procedures are those performed at 16 through 19 weeks of gestation. Late second-trimester abortions refer to procedures performed at 20 through 27 weeks of gestation. Late-term abortions refer to procedures performed during the third trimester, defined as 27 weeks of gestation or more. Weeks of gestation are defined in terms of the first day of the last menstrual period. However, gestational age may vary depending on whether the stage of pregnancy is calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period, from the estimated time of fertilization, or from the estimated time of implementation.3-4 Such distinctions are important when regulations or legal provisions refer to weeks of gestation or trimesters ... Viability is presumed to exist after 27 weeks of gestation (assuming an otherwise healthy fetus) and is presumed not to exist prior to 20 weeks.5-7 The time between 20 and 27 weeks is a "gray zone" in which some fetuses may be viable and others are not. The definition of viability used herein is the same as that used by the US Supreme Court: "the capacity for meaningful life outside the womb, albeit with artificial aid," and not just momentary survival.8 The distinction between measuring viability in terms of weeks of gestation vs "meaningful life outside the womb, albeit with artificial aid" is important with respect to late-term abortion. It is not clear whether the proposed federal legislation would ban all third-trimester abortions or all postviability procedures, some of which may occur during the second trimester. Some medical procedures used to induce abortion prior to viability are identical or very similar to postviability abortion procedures.[15]
  • Following US jurisprudence, American commentators often define abortion as the "expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it is viable".14 This makes it difficult to speak of "late-term" abortions, for in the American sense these are not abortions at all, but acts of feticide. From this perspective it is therefore necessary to distinguish between abortion as the termination of a pregnancy and abortion as the termination of a fetus. The former is a constitutionally protected right in the US, while the latter is justified only under rare conditions of fetal best interest ... Abortion in Israel, on the other hand, is broadly defined as termination of pregnancy without regard to gestational age or fetal viability and, at later stages, inevitably includes fetal termination. Abortion at all stages of pregnancy is freely available for any of the following conditions: maternal age (<17 or >40 years of age), premarital pregnancy (or pregnancy resulting from rape or incest), danger to the mother's physical or mental health and/or fetal birth defects. Requests for abortion must be approved by a hospital committee. Abortion law is similar in Denmark while provisions in the UK specify "severe" fetal anomalies. In spite of the flexibility of the law, late-term (third trimester) abortions are generally avoided in the UK and Denmark. Israel, on the other hand, has one of the highest rates of late-term abortion in the world.[16]

So what is all this getting at? I believe the most common medical use of the term "abortion" in the medical literature has a cut off point. They make a distinction between abortion (miscarriage) and stillbirth. The medical literature does not deal with abortion procedures in humans nearly as often. And this is the stumbling block. We are all used to hearing the word "abortion" and thinking of medical procedures that humans use to end their pregnancy. And in our rational minds, we think "the procedure doesn't change just because the fetus is a little older, so why on earth does it stop being an abortion procedure? Those medical definitions must be wrong, and we shouldn't even mention them." However, that's simply disregarding our sources because we don't like what they say. NPOV says we should present all sides, if notable. Sophia brings up a great point that there is a distinction between a medical procedure attached to the word "abortion" and an event. The medical literature that uses the word "abortion" in this manner is rarely talking about the medical procedures that humans use to end their pregnancies. And even some articles dealing with humans keep to the medical usage of the term "abortion" (i.e. this deals with what wikipedia calls late-term abortion, but the word "abortion" isn't used to describe the procedure). Granted, there are also journal articles dealing with humans that do use LTA in the wikipedia sense. But, as noted above, I also contend that the term "late-term abortion" is simply not filling the medical literature by any means. And a last issue to consider is the variations in definitions between different countries. According to the article cited above, and Severa's cited Canadian reference, not all countries agree on the definition of "abortion". To be completely accurate for every case (which I think shouldn't be our goal, but..), we may need some refining. However, completely removing a mention of viability is not an option because we would be ignoring significant POVs.

And finally, I'm going to throw this out here again. It seems like the reason why we are concerned over saying an abortion is medically defined as being before viability, is because not all medical sources say those exact words. Going through the definitions, a good majority of them don't even mention "death" (more mention viability or 20 weeks than mention "death"). I propose removing the ending clause in the lead, and using a definition similar to the one Sophia cited: An abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception from the uterus. I have always thought "products of conception" is more accurate than "embryo or fetus" because more than just the embryo or fetus is removed during an abortion procedure. If a doctor only removed the embryo, and left everything else, the patient would become ill. In the past, a few users were concerned that POC was a euphemism, but I contend that it is a technical term, and that it's meaning is obvious to the lay reader. It also avoids any of the pronoun issues that revolve around calling an embryo an "it".-Andrew c 15:29, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

Sorry to write even more. The whole issue that started this back in the day is that there are many definitions that mention viability, or a specific week. According to NPOV, we should include all views. It isn't our place to judge our sources. By removing mention of viability, we are in essence, saying we know more than our sources, that our sources are wrong. Our solution in the past was to include multiple definitions, the common and the medical. Maybe it was too simplistic to think that there were just two definitions of the word "abortion" (false dichotomy), but it was a generalization that worked for the time being. I feel that these discussions are being too nitpicky, and that if we tried to accurately describe every possible scenario, the lead would turn into something quite outrageous. My proposal a few days ago was to temper the phrase "medically, it is defined" with "it is sometimes medically defined". This was an attempt to address FL's concern that "abortion" wasn't ALWAYS medically defined as this. I personally feel that for a lead, we can only be so precise, and that the medical literature uses abortion in this manner more than it uses abortion in the common manner. Others may disagree with this, so hence the "sometimes". But like I said, I could live without the sometimes. It seems like there is enough people concerned about the precision that "sometimes" may be a good solution. (I think we could look at most of the words in the lead and find some instance where the word is inaccurate. "spontaneous" implies something impulsive, or fast, or "without apparent external cause", but some miscarriages take weeks to complete, and some are caused by something external, like a direct blow or injury to the lower abdomen. and "artificially" may not cover someone who takes natural abortifacients to induce abortion. the phrasing "an induced procedure" may imply something who having labor induced because they are post-term, and that results in a livebirth, etc) I'm not bringing up these small inaccuracies to say the lead is poor. I'm bring them up to mention that there is an acceptable level of accuracy in generalized statements for a lead, and efforts to be too precise will only lead to a bloated, verbose lead (which is the opposite purpose of a lead). To sum up, could we all agree on FL's proposal that was introduced and reverted here, and move on to writing a few more paragraphs for the lead?-Andrew c 16:17, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

I agree with Andrew c that an acceptable compromise would be for the last sentence of the first paragraph to say, "Commonly, 'abortion' refers to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; however, it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability." If there is a concern that the word "sometimes" is weaselly, then we could simply put a footnote at the end of the sentence to prove that "sometimes" is exactly correct: Dorland’s Medical Dictionary uses viability, Merriam Webster’s Online Medical Dictionary uses a different cutoff, and The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary uses no cutoff at all. Does anyone disagree with this approach, with or without the footnote? If not, then let's do it and move on. Thanks.Ferrylodge 00:39, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
OK, since there's no objection, and since it seems like there are enough people concerned about the precision that "sometimes" may be a good solution, I'll go ahead and try this edit again, but with a footnote so as to eliminate any possible weaseliness.Ferrylodge 04:46, 27 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm ok with "sometimes" as we are not being weasly but indicating that this is not a precise science. The lead mustn't be bloated but we really should say something about how definitions vary by country as this should stop future misunderstandings. Sophia 06:23, 27 June 2007 (UTC)


Neutrality of the first paragraph[edit]

With respect to the intense debate and discussion with regards to this introduction, I feel it necessary to say that I believe the first paragraph carries with it a certain undertone, or connotation in describing what an abortion is. I believe that the first sentience of the paragraph makes an assumption, or rather places a certain point of view on the nature of what is and what is not life, which is at the center of the "Choice/Life" debate. My basis for this belief is the use of the word "death".

"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death."

The section above in bold is specifically what I'm referring to. What I propose is to change the wording, such that it states what is certain rather than what is possible. By this I mean to say that a potential better way of stating it is:

"An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by the unnatural termination of a naturally occurring biological process."

For lack of a better analogy, (and I do feel quite a bit of distaste in using it, but I feel it's never-the-less the best analogy available to me), when a tumor is surgically removed it is not referred to as "resulting in the death of....the tumor".

Rather than getting deeper into the debate about what constitutes life or death, since the terms are arguably wholly subjective and in many cases applied inconsistently See: Afterlife I humbly suggest that we sidestep the entire issue by referring to it with better defined, less subjective, and more widely accepted language. While a great many would argue that a embryo/fetus is either Living or not Living at the time an abortion is performed, I do not see any argument against that it is a "naturally occurring biological process".

While one may further break that statement down such that the word "naturally" need not apply since in the case of Artificial insemination then abortion, I believe that with respect to abortion itself, that is the most neutral way of stating what it is, without taking sides in the great debate.

Edit: After spending some more time reading through the paragraphs above, I've come to realize the my proposed change relies primarily on exchanging the word death for termination, which seems to be less universally accepted than I anticipated when I decided to add this section.

So I'd like to further examine the reasoning behind using death in place of termination. It seemed to me from my reading above that the word death was chosen, because not to include it was perceived as dehumanizing. Well then isn't including it "humanizing" it and thus taking a side? The definition of termination isn't in dispute, but the definition of what is alive (and by proxy what then has a death) is in dispute. Anyone seeking to establish the state of the embryo/fetus as either alive/not is in fact taking a side, since the debate centers around this very issue. The entire discussion above is riddled with contradictions from many users. Use wiki precendent for example: Look up any other medical procedures in WP and point to one that refers to a part as having a "death" after it's been surgically removed.

To say the embryo/fetus has a "death" is directly implicating that it is in fact a separate entity, and thus clearly takes a side on the issue To make the claim that "medically speaking cells have a death after they have been removed" goes against not defining the abortion medically. It's just one example of contradiction after contradiction that has completely sapped any neutrality from the definition of what abortion is. To say it has a "death" for the sake of humanizing the definition is also clearly taking a side.

"Death" is not taken as an absolute (again see: After life), has considerable emotion attached to it, and as such should not be used to clearly define the result. Termination or ended defines the result of the procedure without the emotion or nuance attached to "death".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:NPOV_tutorial#Bias_in_attribution:_Mind_your_nuances

Toastysoul 09:16, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't suppose there's any chance we could use a medical dictionary's definition, is there?

In medicine, an abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception (the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta) from the uterus. It is the loss of a pregnancy and does not refer to why that pregnancy was lost.

or

abortion /abor·tion/ (ah-bor´shun) 1. expulsion from the uterus of the products of conception before the fetus is viable. 2. premature stoppage of a natural or a pathological process.

I don't know, I just thought I might make the suggestion. Of course, if there's already general consensus on the current wording, I would say leave as is because I'm sure it took a lot of discussion just to choose the current revision. Stanselmdoc 13:51, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Death has always been a sticking point for me, and right now I'd favor something along the lines of An abortion is a termination of a pregnancy resulting in or caused by the premature exit of the products of conception from the uterus. Toastysoul has put a lot of thought into this, and I appreciate that the effort was taken to review some of the past archives. That said, unless there is more significant momentum to change this (which I doubt because the d-word has been so controversial in the past), I think it's better to put energy into improving other parts of the article for now (seeing as not too long ago we got out of a first paragraph discussion). I do not intent to discourage, but I will admit I tire easily from these discussions if they go nowhere.-Andrew c [talk] 16:35, 11 July 2007 (UTC)


I whole-heartedly agree with both of you. From my perspective however, if the former contributors are either not watching the page, or have ceased to care enough to contribute to the on going discussion, then their opinions should not be further considered beyond what has already been stated. In reading above, it was clear to me that the "consensus" was more about satisfying the beliefs of a group rather than objectively presenting the information. "Humanizing" the definition with the inclusion of the word death, which in the context it's presented very clearly infers that wikipedia takes the position the fetus is "alive" prior to being aborted, is in fact taking a stance on the issue, and violates WP's NPOV policy.
The previous contributors claim that "not saying it's has a death is taking a position" is specious reasoning. In fact, not specifying the status of the embryo/fetus, by direct means or inference such as in the case of using the word "death" is the only way to have a neutral statement. The "dehumanizing" effect of the statement should not be a factor in determining how to word it because by humanizing it, you are in fact adding personal bias to the statement. The previous claims against removing the word "death" essentially reads that by not taking a side, you are taking a side (i.e. Absolutes, "If you are not with me, you are against me" mindset). The wording has a very clear message the more I read it, and I think it is pointless to address the content of the article if you can't even objectively describe what it is that you are trying to discuss.
You wanted momentum, you've got it. Toastysoul 18:12, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I always felt "death" was inaccurate as there is no certainty that the foetus would correctly develop (e.g. molar pregnancy). Miscarriage is usually of a malformed foetus that would never have "lived" so how could it die? Does a tumour die? Sophia 20:36, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

There was extensive discussion previuosly about the word "death" and I support keeping it in there, the way it has been for quite a while. It is technically accurate. If a malformed fetus is born naturally with only a week to live, we ordinarily say it "dies" when it expires. When a bug is swatted with a fly swatter, we ordinarily say it "dies." When a microbe ceases to have biological activity, we ordinarily say it "dies."

If this lede is to be changed from the prior consensus by altering the word "death", then I would urge that the people who particpated in the prior consensus be invited here.

Additionally, I believe that altering the word "death" will open up a can of worms. For example, there has been a consistent and deliberate effort to eliminate the word "mother" from all abortion-related articles, even though that word is technically accurate.Ferrylodge 21:23, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree with Ferrylodge on those two points (that "death" is accurate and that "mother" is accurate). And in answer to Sophia, I would say that miscarriage is usually of a foetus that could not have continued to live, but it was alive until it died. Otherwise, why would a miscarriage at nine weeks not have happened at seven weeks? Whether the thing that dies is really a human person or not is a separate question, and one which Wikipedia should not take a position on. ElinorD (talk) 21:32, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Did you look at the molar pregnancy article? It's counted as a pregnancy but there is no foetus, just a ball of cells - does anything die? Sophia 23:24, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that Wikipedia article has an external link to medlineplus, which says that a hydatidiform mole results from over-production of the tissue that is supposed to develop into the placenta. In this condition, the tissues develop into an abnormal growth, called a mass. Often, there is no fetus at all. If there is an embryo or fetus, then at some point it dies, and that seems consistent with the first sentence of the present article. Our Wikipedia article on molar pregnancies says, "It consists of a nonviable embryo which implants and proliferates within the uterus." I'm not sure if that is 100% correct, given that medline plus says that sometimes no fetus at all is present. In any event, I don't see a conflict with the first sentence of the present abortion article.Ferrylodge 00:35, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Not quite sure what you are getting at? In the case of a molar pregnancy nothing dies as there never was a foetus - the cells just never stop dividing and can look like a bunch of grapes. It happened to my cousin and she certainly was never told her "baby died" neither did she feel like a mother afterwards - anymore than a cancer patient is when they have a tumour removed. However it does medically count as a pregnancy. It just annoys me that we can't be technically and scientifically accurate. Sophia 06:47, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
No one is suggesting that the lede of the abortion article should say that a "baby died," or that a molar pregnancy is not a "pregnancy." What is it exactly about the current lede that you think inaccurately describes a molar pregnancy? Are you saying that a molar pregnancy ends with an abortion, or does not end with an abortion? I'm glad to discuss this, but I just don't see what it is that you think is inaccurate about the current lede.Ferrylodge 07:00, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The pregnancy will end in a spontaneous abortion or, as in most modern cases, an induced abortion to prevent possible problems. So yes - this article does need to cover this and the lede should not make sweeping statements. Sophia 07:08, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The Wikipedia article on a molar pregnancy says that, "It consists of a nonviable embryo which implants and proliferates within the uterus." According to the lede of the present abortion article, that implies a molar pregnancy will end in an abortion. You don't disagree that a molar pregnancy will end in an abortion. So, that leaves me puzzled about where you think the inaccuracy lies. Do you disagree with the statement in the molar pregnancy article that "It consists of a nonviable embryo which implants and proliferates within the uterus"?Ferrylodge 07:35, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
So what "dies"? Sophia 09:57, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The clump of cells. Death does not imply personhood. If I bite off a hangnail, that bit of flesh will die, but it is not a person. -- Karada 10:42, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
But the wikipedia article (and no other I can find) does not refer to "its death" as if it were a separate entity. You yourself make this point by saying that the cells die - you do not personify the hangnail by saying "its". The cancer article also does not say that the removal of a tumour results in "its death". This is not about forcing agendas - it's about being technically correct. I don't see why describing things in their real terms is seen as a pro-choice agenda. Sophia 10:59, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I disagree that the word "it" personifies anything. Quite the opposite. The word "it" depersonifies.Ferrylodge 16:07, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
This is avoiding the point - does the removal of a tumour result in "its death"? Should we be adding this to the cancer article so as to cover all interrpretations? Sophia 17:03, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the removal of a tumor results in its death. You can see many medical texts that say that the "tumor will die", the "tumor dies", and the "tumor died". Also see various Wikipedia articles that say: "If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 1-2 days", "When the B cell fails in any step of the maturation process, it will die by a mechanism called apoptosis", "If the egg is not fertilized within about a day of ovulation, it will die and be absorbed by the woman's body."Ferrylodge 17:38, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
P.S. Here's a general Google search result about tumors dying.Ferrylodge 17:52, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
With 89 ghits this shows it is a very narrow usage of the term. Sophia 20:59, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Compare the Google hits for "death of the tumor" to the Google hits for "termination of the tumor".Ferrylodge 23:12, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I see no point in hunting down members of the previous discussion, their position is no more valid than anyone else's. If they are interested, they should be watching the page. The fact of the matter is, there is a significant number of people that disagree with the wording of the statement, and they shouldn't be ignored for the sole purpose of maintaining an agreement between a group of people that aren't currently participating. The fact of the matter is, there is little defense for using the word death other than it was already agreed upon.
The problem isn't if the word "death" is or is not technically accurate. The problem is that the use of the word death unduly attaches emotion to a statement that could be rendered just as accurate in more neutral language. Instead of me trying to further explain why termination should be used, explain why death should be kept, other than because it was already agreed upon. Toastysoul 05:58, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
As far as not addressing the issue simply because it might lead to more debate, if keeping up with the discussion is too much effort feel free not to participate. ;) The issue of whether "Mother" should be used is unrelated to this specific topic. Wikipedia should not be kept static simply for the sake of stifling debate, last time I checked that's not what it's about. Toastysoul 06:06, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
If folks really want to rehash this issue, and really want to replace accurate medical terminology with a euphemism, then I guess it would be appropriate for me to go ahead and invite all the participants from the previous lengthy discussions about this issue (seeing as how you don't want to invite them). I'd really prefer not to, because there are better ways for us to spend our time improving the abortion article and Wikipedia. And no one is trying to stifle debate here. Have you read through all of the archives at the top of this page? A great deal of thought went into this issue. We should use accurate words, without trying to influence the emotional reactions to those words.Ferrylodge 06:34, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The main problem here is that people equate a medical definition as being "the neutral version". This has led to strong disagreement amongst Wikipedians, as abortion is not just an abstract medical concept but a live social issue. One reason for the use of "death" (as opposed to to the coldly clinical "termination") is to balance out the use of "fetus" (as opposed to the passionately emotive "unborn baby"). You can probably see in the archives others' attempts to replace words to suit their personal agendas. It was agreed that to achieve a balanced point of view, which is the only possible NPOV in a controversial topic, terminology used by both sides should be included, so as to not sway the reader one way or the other. Using clinical terminology throughout could only be contsrued as encouraging a pro-choice agenda, while using words such as "unborn child" and "murder" would be seen as emphasising the "pro-life" perspective. Hence this uncomfortable compromise. If the proposed definition were to be adopted, the pro-choice aspect would be over-represented in the lead. The best compromise is one where neither side is fully satisfied. If the pro-lifers/pro-choicers were to get all the changes they wished, the article would be framed in a certain way that would not be neutral and unbiased. Pro-choicers wish to frame abortion as a mere clinical exercise, while pro-lifers wish to frame it as murder of the unborn. Neither side should get everything they want in this article, and the removal of "death" would tip the balance too far. Brisvegas 09:11, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I agree. The use of the word "death" seems to me to be objective and uncontroversial and in keeping with the NPOV policy. The death of the fetus or embryo -- immediately or eventually -- as a direct consequence of the event is what distingishes an abortion (natural or otherwise) from a birth. -- Karada 09:19, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
But to imply that every pregnancy would have led to the live birth of a recognisably formed human, unless naturally or artificially interrupted, is inaccurate. Sophia 11:05, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Reading into what something implies is a subjective exercise; to you, using "death" implies that "every pregnancy would have led to the live birth of a recognisably formed human", but this is based on your personal interpretation of the words, which are influenced by your own personal biases and experiences (in the same way as every other Wikipedian, hence why it is difficult to ever be truly neutral). Others may imply something different from the words, or simply take the text at face value and imply nothing at all. But I agree that this is a tricky exercise. Brisvegas 12:03, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Not at all. The personification implied by referring to "its death" is an expression of a strong, if subtly expressed, POV. It has nothing to do with my experiences or interrpretation - it's basic grammar. Sophia 12:10, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think that's necessarily the case. Things can die without being people: speaking of "its death" about a blob of tissue does not personalize it any more than my speaking of "its surface" about a brick personalizes that. -- Karada 13:04, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Brisvegas, I'm amazed. I really think you couched the issue in the correct light. No one will ever be satisfied about an article on such a controversial topic, and I think that the article itself has come a very long way. I said before that if a previous compromise had been made on the lede, then I think we should stick with it. While I don't want to discourage discussion on this point (for certainly anyone can disagree with the compromise), I don't see how a new discussion is going to bring new results. No matter upon what compromise is agreed, some will always dislike it. Stanselmdoc 14:09, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Whatever we do, we have to watch out to avoid WP:CANVASS. Contacting contributors who voted in the past to support the current version could be seen as stacking the vote in favor of one position. I was involved in those discussion and I have this page on my watch list. If other old editors care enough, we can leave a message at the main Talk:Abortion page. Contacting them individually could be seen as negative canvassing. If we honestly need more opinions, why not start a RfC? However, it doesn't seem like there is momentum for change, so we may not even need to go that far. -Andrew c [talk] 14:17, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Andrew c, I agree. Only inviting contributors who voted one way would be stacking the deck. Therefore, all contributors on both sides would have to be invited. But is it necessary to elevate this matter to that level yet? Apparently, there is no consensus here that the lede is now inaccurate or should be changed.Ferrylodge 16:16, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I stated it before and I'll state it again. If the contributors of the above discussion were sincerely interested in the issue, they would have added the article, the talk page, or this discussion page to their watchlist. When I made the initial proposal on this page, nobody at all responded. I was going to just change the article, but I felt that given the discussion above, it was more prudent to simply leave a note on the main talk page that I made a suggestion here, and hopefully pull more people into the discussion. Obviously there was enough sway with the previous contributors as to form the paragraph the way it is. Actively seeking to draw them back into the discussion serves no purpose other than to add further inertia so as to prevent any change from getting a chance to be debated. Toastysoul 19:42, 12 July 2007 (UTC)


I wish to respond to the above user: Ferrylodge about a previous section, but I am not certain where to place it so I'll start a new paragraph. I again want to point out that the technical accuracy of the word death is not in question. Just as Stanselmdoc believes Ferrylodge has couched the issue for him, I believe Sophia has embodied the issue for me with the following statement: The personification implied by referring to "its death" is an expression of a strong, if subtly expressed, POV. It has nothing to do with my experiences or interrpretation - it's basic grammar.

With respect to the assertion that termination is a "coldly clinical" term, I completely disagree. Something along the lines of "ceasing to continue biological function" is coldly clinical. The word termination conveys the idea that whatever it was that your were talking about has stopped what it was doing without (not so subtly) hinting that it was also considered "alive". Further, I completely disagree that the use of the word "fetus" instead of unborn baby somehow balances out using the word "death". If you were to represent the POV of P/C (versus P/L) then you would say something along the lines of "collection or mass of cells" or "Developing Organism" instead of fetus. The use of the word fetus is itself a compromise. As in all cases (save molar pregnancy) the clearly accurate technical term is in fact fetus, which STILL has an emotional attachment to it associated with PL views. The use of the word fetus clearly identifies that the object you are trying to describe is in fact a developing human being.

The term "Death" conveys a much more abstract concept than need be applied to the statement to get a basic understanding of what abortion is. That should be the purpose of the leading statement. Your assertion that it must somehow address the fact that abortion is also a social issue is completely false. There are many places in the article that can be completely devoted to the issue of describing how each party views AND defines what an abortion is. Toastysoul 19:42, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Toastysoul, I do not feel that any new arguments are being made here that weren't already made previously, as shown in the archives listed at the top of this page. "Attempts to change consensus must be based on a clear engagement with the reasons behind the previous consensus - not simply on the fact that today more people showed up supporting position A than position B....A good sign that you have not demonstrated a change in consensus, so much as a change in the people showing up, is if few or none of the people involved in the previous discussion show up for the new one."
The idea that the words "its death" convey a strong POV is not self-evident. Entire articles have been written about the fact that referring to a human being as "it" is dehumanizing, rather than humanizing as you assert.[17] Moreover, the word "death" is frequently used in reference to animals, plants, and parts of animals and plants, including tumors.[18] And, even if the phrase "its death" were truly a pro-life, POV term (as you assert) then it would merely counterbalance many of the POV pro-choice terms already used in this abortion article. For example, the word "mother" has been completely and intentionally erased, as has the word "child" and the word "baby."Ferrylodge 20:13, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

The Oxford University Press defines Abortion as the following: Abortion means the end of a pregnancy before the fetus can survive. It may be either spontaneous — when it is also known as miscarriage — or induced, when it is a deliberate termination of pregnancy.

This definition is accurate, neutral, and inclusive of what an Abortion is. It does not cater to P/C or P/L and at least from what I comprehend completely sidesteps usage of controversial terms. Why can't we craft something like it? Toastysoul 20:43, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

I sympathize with your desire to simplify the lede of this article. However, there are many subtle issues involved. For example, the definition you cite (from the Oxford University Press) is not a typical medical definition; it excludes both embryonic abortions and post-viability abortions. The lede currently has a footnote---check it out, because the three cited definitions are from reputable medical dictionaries, and are not consistent with the Oxford University Press definition that you mention.Ferrylodge 20:55, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
In response to why the consensus must be challenged, I submit that the original straw poll leading to the "consensus" was itself biased. In reading over the options in the poll (Options 1-7, 8 does not deal with the leading paragraph and 9 was removed), the options by a majority of 3:1 represented the use of the word death. This includes mentioning "live birth" as use of the word "live" and or "alive" infers death, just as death infers live. This fact was mentioned by one of the voters in the poll.
Further, I want to point out the following section from your quote of WP:Consensus: Once established, consensus is not immutable. .... A small group of editors can reach a consensual decision about an article, but when the article gains wider attention, members of the larger community of interest may then disagree, thus changing the consensus....
I am not declaring the consensus has changed, just that I wish to challenge a specific aspect of it and solicit more opinions from the community at large. So far, I don't think many people even know the discussion is taking place. While a obvious solution to this might be to invite back members of the former consensus that have not already posted, I believe that this would assuredly only have the effect of adding further inertia to the consensus to prevent it from being changed. As difficult as it might be, I think we need a much wider sampling of opinions to decide the issue satisfactorily. A critical number of say at least 15 to 20 people would be enough to settle the issue. While not exactly imperical, I think that this number would still stand a better chance of smoothing out the effect of just a few votes in one direction or another. Simultaneously this also has the secondary effect of generating additional suggestions for alternatives. Toastysoul 21:22, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
One note on "termination": The word "termination" conveys the idea that whatever it was that your were talking about has stopped what it was doing without (not so subtly) hinting that it was also considered "alive" Toastysoul.
In terms of grammar, "death" is defined as "the termination of life." Soooo "death" and "termination" are interchangeable. Meaning that both of them assume the premise that the thing was living in the first place. So if you think the ball of cells isn't living, you shouldn't like either word. "Termination" may have many nuances of meaning, but placed in the context of the abortion article, it must be conceded that abortion is a "termination of whatever the ball of cells was doing to begin with." What WAS the ball of cells doing to begin with? Seeing as it was developing (into whatever, it doesn't matter what it's developing into), it was most definitely living. Even if the language was changed to "resulting in the termination of its development", the phrase still assumes the premise that the ball of cells was, in fact, developing. Meaning that it was, in fact, alive. So the idea of switching "death" to "termination" is a moot point. Stanselmdoc 21:01, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
"Termination" and "Death" are no more interchangeable than "Orange" and "Ball" (as in the case of the fruit orange). Your definition itself proves my point. You define it "Death is the Termination of life" thereby you specify a certain type of termination, thus making termination apply properly to death, but not visa-versa. Just as the concept of death is more abstract, so is the concept of "alive". Wikipedia is developing and can be terminated, it might even be said to have a death, but one would hesitate to use the word death, because that is reserved for something that is attributed as having been alive, which is not asserted by everyone in the debate over abortion. Because that issue is so central to the debate, it should not appear in the leading definition of the article. The point of a "definition" is to specify what is commonly agreed that something is. Everyone agrees that the fetus is terminated, everyone does not agree that it has a "death", BECAUSE death is different than termination. Toastysoul 21:52, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I want to say that I have never supported the use of "termination" as a substitute (euphemism) for "death". Termination has a technical use, and in that use, fetuses are not the ones terminated, it is pregnancies. One thing that I find interesting is that a lot of definitions mention than an abortion ends or terminates a pregnancy, but we don't mention this anywhere in the lead (yet not many mention the d-word, but we do mention it in the lead). We define an abortion based on a side effect, if you will. I think it is important to state the other main purpose/outcome of an abortion: the termination of a pregnancy. This is why I have suggested recently a rewording along the lines of An abortion is a termination of a pregnancy resulting in or caused by the premature exit of the products of conception from the uterus.-Andrew c [talk] 21:12, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I could agree with your posted definition if instead of using "products of conception" you refer to it as a fetus or embryo. the term products of conception gives undue weight to one side of the argument, and while technically accurate is less precise than it could be. Toastysoul 21:34, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I just don't see the need for a change here. The lede is not inaccurate, and it is not slanted. Those of you who would like to insert a euphemism like "termination" should also keep in mind that induced labor can cause a termination of pregnancy, resulting in the premature exit of the products of conception. For example, if your birth was induced, then you are the products of conception. So, that kind of language is overbroad, and covers much more than abortion.Ferrylodge 21:32, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
We are all products of conception. It is a broad statement, and I don't support using it in place of a fetus. Isn't PBA essentially induced labor (another form of abortion)? I don't see the difference, and so don't understand your rejection of using termination based on that claim. We already know you prefer the definition the way it is. Your view that it is not slanted is, frankly, your view. It is not shared by everyone involved in this discussion, and I don't feel that you alone should be convinced before progress on altering the article can continue.Toastysoul 21:42, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Toastysoul, I never remotely suggested that I alone must be convinced before progress can be made. If I am a small minority, then of course my view cannot control the outcome, and the same goes for your view. However, numerous editors already discussed this issue at length, and reached consensus. There don't seem to be many in favor today of overturning that consensus (e.g. see remarks above by ElinorD, Karada, Brisvegas, and Stanselmdoc that have not argued for overturning the consensus).
Additionally, you have not addressed the objections to your proposal to use the Oxford University Press definition. I already said that it excludes both embryonic abortions and post-viability abortions, contrary to the sources already footnoted in the lede. Moreover, if you want to say that abortion is an induced termination of a pregnancy then please address the concern that such a definition is overbroad (e.g. it includes inducing labor to yield a live birth). You also have not explained why the dozens of sources I've cited use the word "death" improperly, or why you think that referring to a fetus as "it" (see the current lede) humanizes rather than dehumanizes the fetus.[19]Ferrylodge 22:17, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
The indents are getting silly, wiki needs threaded discussion. You are taking the oxford definition out of context. The part of the definition you are saying is over broad is an example given in the context of the preceding sentience. Your assertion that it's over broad only applies if (as you have) quote only the latter portion of the definition. When the specific part of the definition is taken in context of the entire definition it makes sense as an example, and is not broad by any means. Toastysoul 22:43, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't understand your claim about "it" and humanization. Can you please quote the section of my posts you are referring to? I don't believe "it" humanizes a developing human, if anything it dehumanizes it. Regardless, I never suggested that fetus should be replaced. My SOLE issue with the leading paragraph, is the use of the word death. It completely removes the neutrality of the part that should be most neutral. Toastysoul 22:46, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Toastysoul, I'll make this as straightforward as possible: do you agree that the Oxford University Press definition (that you prefer) excludes both embryonic abortions and post-viability abortions, contrary to the sources already footnoted in the present article's lede? If you agree, then how would you modify the Oxford University Press definition? And, do you agree that these sources use the word "death" correctly? Thanks.Ferrylodge 22:49, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Comments to Toastysoul et al.
I too oppose the substitution of "death" with termination. Notice that even if speaking of the “death” of a cancerous tumor is relatively rare, speaking of the "termination" of a tumor is unheard of. The fact of the matter is that the vast, vast, vast majority of induced abortions are carried out on live fetuses. And as a result of the procedure, the fetus dies. A mass of cells also dies. It is never “terminated.”
And in the case of a fetus, it is at least an “it” that does the dying. “It” simply means a thing that has extension in time and space. Would you deny that a fetus has extension in time and space? And above and beyond the simple definition of “it”, in this case the “it” usually looks very human. At ten weeks, “it” has little hands and little feet and it sucks its little thumb. Yes, “it” has a “thumb”--this not POV; it is anatomy 101. And if a thing that sucks its thumb isn't alive, then "alive" has no meaning. Albeit you are unarguably sentient, you yourself are no more alive than such “thing.” And before you go off and suggest that what I am saying is merely POV, I’d ask you to go and look at a picture of a fetus aborted at 10 weeks. Then, if you want, you can tell me that “it” was not alive, that it does not have fingers and toes, that it is not a thing with extension in time and space … but that would defy science and common sense. It would be absolutely ridiculous regardless of whether you are pro-choice or pro-life.LCP 23:27, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Neutral definitions[edit]

There is no neutral definition of the word "abortion". The problem, as I understand it, is that people viewing the issue from the pro-life side see abortion as primarily a moral issue, about life and death. The pro-choice side sees abortion as primarily a medical and legal issue, about a medical procedure. If we first present a medical definition, then we say that the moral issues surrounding abortion are somehow secondary to its being a medical procedure. On the other hand, if we first present a definition in terms of life and death (as we now do), we're implying that medical considerations are somehow secondary to moral ones. Either way, we've implicitly taken a side right off the bat.

The solution I propose is to begin the article by addressing the controversy head-on. "An abortion is a type of termination of a pregnancy. Its definition is controversial, with most medical sources defining an abortion as . . ., while others characterize it as . . .".

In case there's any doubt that the medical definition is prejudicial, it's worth checking in the archives for when we looked up the proceeding of the Second International Conference on Interuterine Contraception, where some doctors got together and agreed to define pregnancy as beginning at implantation (instead of conception), for explicitly social reasons, i.e., because the moral leaders would be likely to follow their lead, and use of an IUD would then be classed as contraception, not as abortion.

This example makes it clear that the medical definitions are not necessarily as neutral as we might like them to be, and in some cases were actually crafted to distance people from their moral qualms. -GTBacchus(talk) 23:52, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

FYI, the history of how the words "pregnancy" and "conception" have been redefined is described in this Wikipedia article. It doesn't mention the Second International Conference on Interuterine Contraception, but maybe it should.
Anyway, I think that some people want the present article to be devoid of the word "death," just as it is already devoid of the words "mother" and "child." I'm not sure how the suggestion of GTBacchus would solve that problem.Ferrylodge 00:52, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I guess I'm still at a loss for understanding why the current definition is SO BAD. "An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death." I mean, I understand that we're all supposed to be open to discussion and such...but come on. There's only so much we can pick at. Rather than worry about the subtle nuances and implications of the word "death" which may or may not actually exist, why not try to divert our attention to other important aspects of the abortion article or Wikipedia in general? Stanselmdoc 03:29, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Ferrylodge, I guess my suggestion doesn't address an entirely mindless desire to eliminate the word "death", if there really is such a thing. Nevertheless, I believe it obviates some of the current problem by saying from the start that while some people define abortion in a way that death is an important defining characteristic, other people define it in a way that the timing of it is the only defining characteristic. Wikipedia doesn't have to present either of those as our definition; we just note that they both exist, and then get on with the article.

Stanselmdoc, the simple fact that the subject is brought up again and again and again is indication that some problem exists, and simply calling it a non-issue won't actually make it go away, because people on either side feel very strongly about it. One might read the persistent re-asking of the question as an indication that we haven't yet found the best NPOV definition. Ideally, we could come up with something that everyone would agree is neutral.

My suggestion is to present two definitions from the very beginning, and to attribute them both immediately. Both can be sourced, and nobody can really deny that both are in common use, referring to the same procedure, but with entirely different assumptions and agendas. Any definition of abortion that doesn't reflect this fractured nature of the term is going to be biased, by choosing one side's notions of what's important. -GTBacchus(talk) 03:54, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

GTBacchus, it's a little difficult to criticize your proposal before it's been completely spelled out, but I will anyway.  :-) I disagree with your suggestion that the word "death" emphasizes morality over medicine. In fact, leading medical dictionaries define abortion in terms of "death." See here. I do not want to see the language of this article become any more sanitized for political correctness than it already is. The word mother is a perfectly legitimate medical term for the residence of a fetus, but that term is shot down whenever it is inserted into a multitude of Wikipedia articles related to abortion.
If we are going to eliminate the word "death" from our medical definition, then will you at least agree to eliminate the word death from the following Wikipedia articles as well: "If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 1-2 days", "When the B cell fails in any step of the maturation process, it will die by a mechanism called apoptosis", "If the egg is not fertilized within about a day of ovulation, it will die and be absorbed by the woman's body"?
The reason why we keep having to address this issue in the lede over and over again is not because the lead has a POV or is inaccurate. It is because this is a controversial topic. Moreover, I would not like to see a "squeeky wheel gets the grease" approach here. The majority of commenters in this discussion over the past two days have not supported any change to the lede.Ferrylodge 04:32, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
You seem to mistake my meaning. I have no desire to "sanitize" the article, or to do anything for the sake of "political correctness". The only thing I care about here is neutral point of view. If you disagree with me about how to achieve that, super, let's discuss, but I don't see the need to speculate about my motives. If it's move neutral to use the word "death" in blood red letters to define abortion, then I will support that. I have no dog in this fight.

Now, I'm well aware that there are medical sources that use the word "death" when defining abortion. My recollection from many old discussions here is that more medical sources speak in terms of termination, or simply define the term based on timing (twentieth week, for example). If I'm wrong about that, please let me know.

We can talk about wording, but I maintain my point that there is more than one definition of "abortion" in common use, that the different definitions reflect different priorities about what's important, and that the most neutral approach is not to adopt one definition or the other, but to present the controversy as well as we can document it. -GTBacchus(talk) 05:25, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

GTBacchus, I did not mean to imply that you are trying to sanitize the article. You recently said: "One might read the persistent re-asking of the question as an indication that we haven't yet found the best NPOV definition." My position is that you are jumping to conclusions. In my opinion, the re-asking is not because the lede has any POV problem or slant, but rather is because this is simply a very controversial topic, and there are those who would like an article that they would feel more comfortable with.
Let's focus for a moment on the three medical dictionaries that are cited in footnote 1 of the present article. The Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary says:
1 the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus: a : spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation -- compare MISCARRIAGE b : induced expulsion of a human fetus c : expulsion of a fetus of a domestic animal often due to infection at any time before completion of pregnancy -- see CONTAGIOUS ABORTION,medical?book=Medical&va= TRICHOMONIASIS b, VIBRIONIC ABORTION
2 arrest of development of an organ so that it remains imperfect or is absorbed
3 the arrest of a disease in its earliest stage <abortion of a cold>
Dorland’s Medical Dictionary says:
1. expulsion from the uterus of the products of conception before the fetus is viable.
2. premature stoppage of a natural or a pathological process.
And, the American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary says:
1. Induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the fetus or embryo;
therapeutic abortion.
2. Any of various procedures that result in such a termination of pregnancy.
3. Spontaneous abortion.
4. Cessation of a normal or abnormal process before completion.
Merriam-Webster’s uses “death.” Dorland’s takes the minority position that there is no such thing as abortion after viability, and so it is implied that the non-viable fetus will not survive. And the American Heritage Stedman’s dictionary uses the word “destruction”. Unless we use the minority approach (i.e. that there is no such thing as a late term abortion), then we must use some word like “death” or “destruction.” I see no reason to switch now from death to destruction. “Fetal death” is a very common term, whereas “fetal destruction” is a very uncommon term.Ferrylodge 05:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I would maintain that the best, most neutral lead would meet the approval of all parties. I realize this is an idealistic position, but it is by holding such positions that great things get done.

I would like it if you would address my point that there are different, incompatible definitions in common use. Do you disagree? I'm not really focused on the word "death", so I feel some of your point is talking past what I'm trying to suggest. I certainly don't advocate using such an uncommon term as "fetal destruction". I simply advocate acknowledging that more than one definition is at work, and standing outside of that conflict by talking about it. Do you disagree with that approach?

Do you think that the opposing sides of the abortion debate aren't working from different assumptions, or that those assumptions don't influence their definitions of terms, or... help me out here. How is presenting a single definition the most neutral thing we can do? One more thing: is there a convenient list of sources you can point to supporting your claim that defining abortion in a way that excludes late-term procedures is the minority position? I recall it being rather common, the last time I looked at an extended list. -GTBacchus(talk) 06:03, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I agree that there are different, incompatible medical definitions in common use. The present lede recognizes this fact: "'Abortion' can refer to an induced procedure at any point during human pregnancy; it is sometimes medically defined as either miscarriage or induced termination before the point of viability."
This schism is reflected in the footnote [1] of the article. You ask me, "How is presenting a single definition the most neutral thing we can do?" I never said it was the most neutral thing we can do. The lede currently bends over backwards to present two incompatible definitions, and footnote [1] links to conflicting medical definitions. I support that approach.
If you would like to revive the discussion about which of the incompatible definitions is the most prevalent one, then I suppose we could start with the 21 various definitions that were in the archived discussion. Many of those 21 definitions make no distinction at all about "abortion" only occuring before viability. #1 makes no distinction. #2 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("late abortion is any abortion beyond twenty-one weeks"). #3 makes no distinction. #4 and #5 are not available online. #6 makes no distinction. #7 is ambiguous, and the contradictory part has not been quoted ("expulsion of the human fetus prematurely, or before it is capable of sustaining life"). #8 makes no distinction. #9 is is a Medline Plus discussion of "miscarriage", and their definition of abortion (which yet again is not quoted) makes no distinction. #10 is the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #11 makes no distinction. #12 makes no distinction. #13 makes no distinction. #14 is again the exact same source as #9 which defines abortion without making this distinction. #15 makes no distinction. #16 makes no distinction. #17 and #18 do make the distinction. #19 is a definition of "therapeutic abortion" that only applies before viability, but there is also a definition of "partial birth abortion" which is defined as a "method of late-term abortion" so again there is no distinction. #20 makes no distinction. And, #21 is not online. So, the vast majority of these sources do not rule out "abortion" after viability. If you want to go beyond this list of 21 sources, I'd be glad to provide a more detailed analysis.Ferrylodge 06:31, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
"I agree that there are different, incompatible medical definitions in common use." That's funny, you restated my point in a way that changes its meaning, but which is also true. I didn't say "incompatible medical definitions".

Thank you for the analysis of the list from the archives, but please don't think I'm trying to play some kind of numbers game either. I'm kind of thinking aloud, and I don't mind remembering something wrong and being corrected. It doesn't mean I'm trying to resurrect any dead horses, or use numbers to be pushy.

Now, I realize that the incompatible medical definitions are presented in the third sentence. I'm actually trying to address some deeper differences, the kind that reflect different fundamental beliefs about what's important... and I'm allowing for non-medical definitions, because I think some people really don't consider the primary definition of abortion to be a medical one, while other people realy do. I think we should identify that conflict, before speaking with the language of either side of it.

I hope I'm making sense; am I? It's kind of late here... I'll make this my last edit of the evening. -GTBacchus(talk) 06:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't mind discussing this. I just hope that doing so might lead to some greater consensus.
It is much more common for the medical definitions to rule out abortion after viability than for non-medical definitions to do so. The non-medical sources (e.g. general dictionaries) very rarely rule out abortion after viability, and even among the medical sources it seems to be a minority view. In any event, the current lede presents both views, without saying which is the majority view and which is the minority view.
If you still want to search for a new lede that will meet the approval of Sophia and Toastysoul, then I think the best thing would be for you to focus on their objections, and determine if those objections have merit. Toastysoul has proposed that we exclusively use an Oxford University Press definition that rules out both embryonic abortions and post-viability abortions, so that an abortion would only be possible during the third, fourth, and fifth months of pregnancy --- I don't know any other source that has such a limited scope for the word "abortion." And, Sophia has argued that we wouldn't say a tumor dies so we shouldn't say that an embryo dies, but actually there are more Google hits for "death of the tumor" than for "termination of the tumor". So, I just don't think these objections to the lede are compelling, although I certainly respect the concern and effort that Toastysoul and Sophia have put into this discussion.Ferrylodge 07:15, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
The distinction I'm interested in is one that I guess I haven't clearly identified. I'll try to do that now.

On one hand, some sources define abortion purely in terms of some aspect of the pregnancy - whether it be timing, or the fact that the procedure is induced. On the other hand, some sources define abortion also in terms of its consequences for the embryo or fetus. Defintions specifying that an abortion is "before viability" somewhat straddle the fence.

It seems to me that medical sources - and sources preferred by the pro-choice camp - are more likely to talk about a pregnancy being terminated without really addressing the fate of the fetus. Of the three that we cite, one uses "death" and one uses "destruction", but are those representative of medical definitions in that way? They seem to be the only two medical definitions in the famous list of 21 to do so. Medical definitions are more likely to focus on the pregnancy, and possibly on "viability"; common definitions are more likely to mention the expected death or destruction of the fetus as a defining characteristic.

I don't think we can be neutral without addressing that difference. The current version makes it seem as if it's the norm in medical sources to talk about the fetus' death, which isn't really true, is it?

As to Toastysoul's and Sophia's suggestions, I haven't looked at Toastysoul's source, but I note that he claims below that he's not, in fact, arguing to use that source exclusively. Sophia's objection sounds closer to the mainstream pro-choice position - that the word "death" casts the issue in a moral light in keeping with the priorities of the pro-life side.

I wouldn't say that the fetus doesn't die, nor that a tumor or a fingernail doesn't die... however, I would maintain that using the word "death" in a definition demonstrates a set of priorities different from that of most medical sources. Most of them talk about the pregnancy without saying much about the fetus. I don't think that the sources we cite are representative in this respect. -GTBacchus(talk) 03:15, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

GTBacchus, you posed two questions: (1) "Of the three that we cite, one uses 'death' and one uses 'destruction', but are those representative of medical definitions in that way?" I'd say yes. (2)"The current version makes it seem as if it's the norm in medical sources to talk about the fetus' death, which isn't really true, is it?" I'd say yes it is true.
For starters, the term "fetal death" is a quite common medical term. I'm unclear why you think the three online medical dictionaries cited in our footnote 1 are not representative, or why you think they might have a POV. I'm glad to talk about the 21 sources that other people compiled last year (without my involvement). That's a very incomplete assortment of other medical and non-medical sources that are available both online and offline, in addition to the 3 medical dictionary definitions that are cited in footnote 1 of the present article.
The first of the 21 entries is from an encyclopedia (MedlinePlus), rather than from a dictionary. It says: "An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the mother's womb." The medical dictionaries in our footnote 1 wisely chose to avoid such an overbroad definition. After all, it includes induced labor to produce a healthy, live child. Right? Note that this same source (MedlinePlus) does use the word "death" in connection with a viable fetus: "A stillbirth is when a fetus that was expected to survive dies during birth or during the late stages of pregnancy." Also, this same source (MedlinePlus) says this about miscarriage: "It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die...."
The second of the 21 entries is from a WebMd "sourcebook" rather than an encyclopedia or a dictionary. This sourcebook doesn't use the word "death" but it does say this in connection with a late term abortion (D&E): "a woman would birth the fetus after it was injected with a solution that killed it". This use of the word "kill" is not very unusual, since many medical sources refer to killing tumors and so forth. Note that this same source (WebMD) says the following about a viable fetus: "Stillbirth is the delivery of a dead baby after the 20th week of pregnancy and birth." And it says this about miscarriage: "A miscarriage is the loss (death) of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy."
The third of the 21 entries is not a dictionary, and is written by the same people who wrote the second entry (i.e. WebMD). This third entry suffers from the same overbroadness problem as the first entry: "Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy." That would cover any premature birth. Right? Note that this same source (WebMD) says the following about a viable fetus: "Stillbirth is the delivery of a dead baby after the 20th week of pregnancy and birth." And it says this about miscarriage: "A miscarriage is the loss (death) of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy."
The fourth and fifth of the 21 entries are not online, so I don't have access to them.
The sixth source is an old general-use encyclopedia (i.e. not a medical source), and it says an abortion is from a Latin word meaning to "perish," which may be caused by "death of the foetus."
The seventh source is an old general-use dictionary (i.e. not a medical source), which refers to "The act of giving premature birth." Again, this is an overbroad, non-medical definition that would include a live birth of a healthy child. It also defines feticide this way: "The act of killing the fetus in the womb; the offense of procuring an abortion."
The eighth source is again an overbroad, non-medical definition from a general-use dictionary (Random House): "the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy". This would include an induced premature birth of a healthy child. Random House also defines stillbirth this way: "a fetus dead at birth."
The ninth source mentions that "It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die...."
The tenth source mentions that "It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die...."
The eleventh source is an article by a veterinarian. It refers to "Death of embryos."
The twelfth source is a non-medical encylclopedia: "Abortion, termination of a pregnancy before birth, resulting in the death of the fetus."
The thirteenth source is the Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary in our footnote 1: "the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus".
The fourteenth source mentions that "It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die...."
The fifteenth source is an article from the Center for Disease Control, and it mentions that "statistics regarding the number of pregnancies ending in abortion are used in conjunction with birth data and fetal death computations to estimate pregnancy rates."
The sixteenth source is a non-medical dictionary that says an abortion is an "operation to end pregnancy: an operation or other intervention to end a pregnancy by removing an embryo or fetus from the womb." This is overbroad, and would include a Caesarian section that produces a healthy, live baby. Note that this source defines stillbirth as "the birth of a dead fetus after the 28th week of pregnancy." So, the word "dead" is plainly okay in connection with at least some fetuses. This source also defines death like so: "1. end of being alive: the ending of all vital functions or processes in an organism or cell."
The seventeenth source is the outdated 1996 edition (not online) of one of the medical dictionaries cited in our footnote 1 (i.e. Stedman's). We cite the 2004 edition. The 1996 edition says that there is no such thing as abortion after viability, and so it is implied that the embryo or fetus will die. The notion that there is no such thing as a late term abortion is a minority view among both medical and non-medical sources. The 2004 edition of Stedman's (which is in our footnote 1) instead says that abortion is "Induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the fetus or embryo; therapeutic abortion." In other words, the 2004 edition fixed the overbroadness problem. The 2004 edition also defines stillbirth this way: "The birth of a dead child or fetus" so there is no problem about referring to a fetus as "dead."
The eighteenth source is Dorland's Medical Dictionary cited in our footnote 1. It says that there is no such thing as abortion after viability, which is the minority view. Because it takes this minority view, it is implied that the embryo or fetus will die. This source defines stillbirth as "delivery of a dead child" so there is no problem baout referring to at least some fetuses as "dead."
The nineteenth source is a medical encyclopedia (not a dictionary). This encyclopedia says "Partial birth abortion is a method of late-term abortion that terminates a pregnancy and results in the death and intact removal of a fetus."
The twentieth source is a medical dictionary that says: "In medicine, an abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception (the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta) from the uterus. It is the loss of a pregnancy and does not refer to why that pregnancy was lost." This same source also includes this definiton of stillbirth: "Stillbirth: The tragic birth of a dead baby, the delivery of a fetus that has died before birth."
The twenty-first source is not available online, and so I don't have access to it.
So, of all these sources that are online, it appears that the word "death" or "kill" is very acceptable with reference to a fetus or embryo that is destroyed (e.g. by abortion). I didn't compile this list of sources, but it verifies the validity of our lede and of the sources in footnote 1 of our article.Ferrylodge 06:35, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I'd like to note that someone already analyzed the definitions here and they came to a much different conclusion. 3 explicitly used death in their first sentence definition (another 4 mentioned death elsewhere in the link) and the remaining 14 did not use death. I don't understand why you say The notion that there is no such thing as a late term abortion is a minority view among both medical and non-medical sources. This is like saying "There is no such thing as a California Champagne." By some technical definitions, that is true. While the procedure may be the same, grow a certain grape, ferment it in a certain way, and end up with a sparkling white whine, it still isn't technically a "champagne" under some definitions of the word "champagne". Same thing for LTA. I know the last time I posted about this, I wrote over 10,000 characters about the topic. And maybe not everyone read that. But the use of the term "late term abortion" is very sparse in the medical literature, and the many of the uses contrast the term with stillbirth which in turn is contrasted with neonatal death. And there is confusion over this because "abortion" can be shorthand for "an induced abortion procedure". And in LTAs, the procedure is exactly the same regardless of viability. Anyway, I'd be glad to talk more about how the term LTA is or isn't used in the medical literature, but I don't think hat will get us anywhere regarding the topic at hand. Next, I'm fine with compiling a new list of definitions. We could make a subpage and just add as many as we can find, if you think that is a good idea. I agree that the list of 21 definitions isn't as extensive as it could be. Finally, how many of the cited definitions mention that a pregnancy is ended? How many don't mention anything with the about the pregnancy? Why do we not mention pregnancy in our definition?-Andrew c [talk] 14:30, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I really don't think we should analyze this thing to death. As to Andrew c's last questions, the word "pregnancy" is on our lede (third sentence); that word is not used too much or too little in our lede.Ferrylodge 16:56, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

<unindent>I think GTBacchus may have something when he suggests we acknowledge the vast spectrum of definitions that are out there. I don't feel the one we currently use is balanced as it does have a pro-life POV with the use of "its death" since I contend that most people would not associate the emotional baggage that goes with a "death" with a potentially cancerous tumour such as a molar pregnancy (89 ghits really isn't a lot for a term and I would vote delete if it were a proposed page due to it being a neologism). If this was balanced with other definitions we can highlight the contradictory situations that are in place around the world, such as in the UK where 23 week birth can be either an abortion or a premature birth. Both can be artificially induced as a 23 week "baby" will be delivered by cesarean if it is having problems. Our current lede does not give any hint of just how subjective these definitions are - someone made the very good point above about a normal birth being an abortion by some definitions. If we have just one in the lede it needs to be as neutral as possibe and for that I prefer Andrew's suggestion as "products of conception" as he rightly points out that a lot more stuff than just a fetus or embryo are removed. We can also cover the fact that medically an abortion is defined as an "event" (ie something happens) wheras in common use most people associate it with a "procedure" (ie something is done). Sophia 08:27, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Sophia, the phrase "kill the tumor" gets 34,800 ghits. And the phrase "fetal death" gets 848,000 ghits. Do you view those as neologisms?
I respectfully feel that you are seeing a pro-life POV in the present lede when there isn't one. If anything, this abortion article has a pro-choice POV, given that the technically accurate words "mother" and "child" have been eliminated, for example.
Do you think that there is a pro-life POV that motivated the following three senetences from three separate Wikipedia articles: "If the louse falls off a person, it dies within 1-2 days", "When the B cell fails in any step of the maturation process, it will die by a mechanism called apoptosis", "If the egg is not fertilized within about a day of ovulation, it will die and be absorbed by the woman's body"?Ferrylodge 08:53, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
A louse is a separate living entity so you would speak of "its death" - as for the others I would say they were poor examples of the use of the word "die" and note with disappointment that they are wikipedia articles. It would have been nice if you had responded to the main thrust of my previous post that we are trying to square a circle as all definitions are subjective - some massively so. As to the "technically correct" terms "mother" and "child" - does this mean every woman who had a very early miscarriage is a "mother" without realising it, and that a "child" died? These also are culturally subjective words which is why the use of them is inadvisable if we are trying to stay NPOV. The current leading paragraph is poor and glosses over the medical and social complexities of this issue - how are we going to fix this? Sophia 10:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Sophia, the words "mother" and "child" and "baby" have been purposely and repeatedly and completely deleted from multiple abortion-related articles no matter whether such terms are used late in pregnancy for a viable fetus, or early in pregnancy when a miscarriage occurs. Even if you are correct that these terms should not be used before an embryo becomes a fetus, that would still not justify the cleansing of these terms from Wikipedia regarding any fetus at any stage of development. As for all definitions being subjective, I disagree with you; that sounds very much like saying all truth is subjective. The fact is, the three medical definitions in footnote 1 of the article collectively and objectively describe what the word "abortion" means in the English langiage, and so does the present lede, IMHO. Words do not become objective just because some people feel more comfortable with them.Ferrylodge 16:06, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Ferrylodge, you amuse me. You use statements people make and ever so subtly alter them such that they mean a different idea than what was trying to be communicated. I will try to spell this out for you again, in clear and certain terms:

  1. My request is not for the word death to be sanitized from the article, my desire does not in anyway involve the use, or lack there-of of the words - mother, child, baby, unborn baby, products of conception, murder, et al. You constantly refer to other's desire to remove the words mother and child, as a sort of defense to keeping death in the definition, one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. My request is that the word death simply be replaced in the first part of the lead.
  2. I do not, nor did I ever propose that we plagiarize the oxford definition. I suggested that we might "come up with something like it". You added so much more to what I said than I did. Thank you, but I can speak for myself. Please keep your words out of my mouth.
  3. There is no great conspiracy to sanitize the article of all emotion, there is only you (ferrylodge) feeling your personal POV is not better represented.
  4. The bottom line: You can't have a "moral abortion", you can only have a "medical abortion". When defining what an abortion is, it should be defined as it is medically. Regardless of how each side views it as an "issue", it is firstly a procedure, then a social issue, and should be addressed in that order. You don't have a social issue which leads to the procedure, you have the procedure and that leads to social issues! The rest of the article can be devoted to properly discussing the different views on what abortion is for pages if need be, I don't care about that. I'm not out to remove other POVs, I simply with the term be defined neutrally, then discussed properly.

Further, arguing over the number of google results for a specific set of terms is utterly pointless. Trying to use the number of hits as a justification for anything is a bad idea for so many reasons. Now, the oxford definition is perhaps not perfect. That being said, I quoted it as an example of a definition that both specifies what and abortion is and does not slant one way or the other. Toastysoul 11:59, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Toastysoul, you say "Regardless of how each side views it as an "issue", it is firstly a procedure, then a social issue, and should be addressed in that order." That sounds to me like a statement of your own perspective. There certainly are people who view it as a soical issue (sin; complacency with killing unborn babies) that leads to a procedure. To say that it's a medical procedure that happens to carry moral implications for some is no more neutral than saying that it's a form of infanticide that happens to be a medical procedure.

The neutral approach would be to say from the start that some define abortion primarily as a medical procedure, and others define it primarily as murder. If we don't point that out up front, then we're adopting one of those positions implicitly. The current solution is an interesting compromise - it defines it as a medical procedure, but it uses one of the minority medical definitions that actually mentions the fetus' death. That may be the best solution, but I'd prefer a version that better reflects how people in the world generally think about abortion. -GTBacchus(talk) 03:29, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

GTBacchus, I think you've misunderstood the point Toastysoul was making: without an actuality or a concept, there can be no moral stance on anything. Consider: before Foo was created or invented or at least conceptualized, there could be no moral stance on Foo, because there was nothing to have a moral stance about. If people have not at least imagined something, it does not exist in their thoughts and therefore no thoughts about moralizing occur. Hence, the actuality or the concept precedes moral stances. The procedure must exist, as a theoretical or actual procedure, first. We have a moral stance on theft; in The Dispossesed, characters struggle with the mere concept of "theft", and are confused by moralizing about it, because their society has no posessions and therefore theft is not a concept easy to comprehend, let alone moralize about. In The Gods Must Be Crazy, theft is likewise a non-intuitive concept for the Bushmen, and they have no moral stance on it at all, because in their world, it doesn't exist, so they can not moralize about it - its a non-thing, even a non-concept, so there is nothing to provoke or inspire moral concepts regarding it. One cannot establish or debate morals about a null concept. KillerChihuahua?!? 08:35, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
Okay, I think some of us are getting a little heated here. There's no need to accuse Ferrylodge of pushing "his" POV for more representation, when many of us feel the same way as him. (And maybe some of us actually have a different POV than him) Not to mention that some of us feel like the push to remove the word "death" is actually a push INTO POV. And that's the point Ferrylodge is making. Toastysoul, you call it "removing a pro-life POV," and Ferrylodge is calling it "placing in a pro-choice POV."

And to defend myself and my opinion - I have not said I'm against a change in the definition (in fact, I'm pretty sure I was the very first to respond with new suggestions), I'm saying that NO ONE in my opinion has presented an effective argument to make me believe it NEEDS to be changed. Maybe if someone could do that, I would be in favor of it. And what is this about, the very fact that this gets brought up frequently makes it a huge problem? NO, that's not it. It gets brought up frequently because people with strong beliefs on controversial issues continually look for every single little itty bitty syllable that they can take the wrong way. Stanselmdoc 13:04, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Can I remove the incorrect comma?[edit]

The lead states, "This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means." In short, a comma is not used before a dependant clause. Therefore, the sentence should read, "This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage or be artificially induced by chemical, surgical or other means." Any objections to this change?LCP 19:33, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Sounds good to me.,-Andrew c [talk] 19:38, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Another suggestion for the lead[edit]

My suggestion for the lead:

Most generally, an abortion is the cessation of a process prior to its full completion. As pregnancy is the process of development of a embryo into a viable fetus, a pregnancy abortion is thus the termination of a pregnancy prior to the fetus achieving viability. Abortion is often confused with death of an embryo or fetus; see Birth Control Versus Abortion below. An induced pregnancy abortion is a pregnancy abortion which has been deliberately caused through medical, surgical or other means. A spontaneous pregnancy abortion (often called a miscarriage) is a pregnancy abortion which is not deliberately caused. While in common parlance the term "abortion" is generally used to refer specifically to induced pregnancy abortion, in medical contexts it can refer to either both induced pregnancy abortion and spontaneous pregnancy abortion or just spontaneous pregnancy abortion. For the remainder of this article, "abortion" will be used for both definitions, with its meaning determined by context. Throughout history, abortion has been induced by various methods, and the moral and legal aspects of abortion are subject to intense debate in many parts of the world.

Note that I added a comma to the last sentence. With this lead, the sentence "In common parlance, the term "abortion" is synonymous with induced abortion. However, in medical texts, the word 'abortion' might exclusively refer to, or may also refer to, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)." under "Definitions" probably should be deleted, as it would be redundant. I would also add another section entitled "Birth Control Versus Abortion". It would say this:

Hormonal birth control works by interfering with the menstrual cycle, preventing conception. However, many groups, such as the Catholic Church, charge that even with hormonal birth control, it is possible for fertilization to occur, and that the resulting embryo may then be expelled. This claim is used to justify labelling hormonal birth control an abortificant rather than contraception. As an abortion terminates a pregancy befor viability, it by definition results in the death of the embryo or fetus. Because of this, the term "abortion" is often used interchangeably with such a death. However, it is the pregancy, not the embryo or fetus, that is aborted. As pregnancy is considered to commence when the embryo implants in the uterine wall, not at conception, an embryo can be expelled without fulfilling the definition of "abortion". Therefore, even if hormonal birth control allows fertilization, "abortificant" is not a correct term.

Something that bother me a bit: if we define abortion as the cessation of a pregnancy prior to viability, isn't that problematic in the face of continuing medical progress? It's quite conceivable that a hundred years from now, doctors will be able to remove an just-implanted embryo from a uterus and raise it to term in an artificial womb. Would abortions then cease to exist, as there would no longer be such a thing as a "nonviable fetus"? Also, doesn't this definition make "late-term abortion" an oxymoron?Heqwm (talk) 21:42, 25 December 2007 (UTC)


Fetus/embryo is human individual[edit]

I am surprised that people here think fetus is not alive or not human individual and therefore abortion causes not death of human individual. Like toddler or adolescent, the terms embryo and fetus do not refer to nonhumans, but to humans at particular stages of development.

Medical textbooks and scientific reference works consistently agree that human life begins at conception.

I point this out to make it clear once and all.

Encyclopedia Britannica 1998, v 26, p 611: “Although organisms are often thought of only as adults, and reproduction is considered to be the formation of a new adult resembling the adult of the previous generation, a living organism, in reality, is an organism for its entire life cycle, from fertilized egg to adult, not for just one short part of that cycle.”

Encyclopedia Britannica 1998, v 26, p 664: ”A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.”

The Gale Encyclopedia of Science 1996, v 3, p 1327: ”For the first eight weeks following egg fertilization, the developing human being is called an embryo.”

The Hutchinson Dictionary of Science 1994, p 340: ” – in biology, the sequence of developmental stages through which members of a given species pass. Most vertebrates have a simple life cycle consisting of fertilization of sex cells or gametes, a period of development as an embryo, a period of juvenile growth after hatching or birth, and adulthood including sexual reproduction, and finally death.”

Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia 2002, v 1, p 1290: ”Embryo. The developing individual between the time of the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism. [...] At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.”

Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia 2002, v 1, p 1291: ”The period of pregnancy begins with the union of the sperm and egg. At the moment of fertilization of the egg (conception), a new life begins.”

Collier’s Encyclopedia 1987, v 9, p 121: ”The new individual is established at the time of fertilization, and embryonic development simply prepares this individual for the vicissitudes of adult life, and the development of future embryos.”

Collier’s Encyclopedia 1987, v 9, p 117: ”The fused sperm and egg, called zygote, is a new individual with full capacities for development in a normal environment.”

Human embryologist say:

Keith L. Moore: ”This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being” (1988. Essentials of Human Embryology. p. 2. B.C. Decker Co., Toronto.)

William J. Larsen: ”… gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.” (1993. Human Embryology. p. 1. Churchill-Livingston, New York.)

Bradley M. Patten: ”Fertilized ovum gives rise to new individual“. P. 43: “…. the process of fertilization …. marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.” (1968. Human Embryology, 3rd Ed. p. 13. McGraw-Hill, New York.) Quoting F.R. Lillie: P. 41: “…. in the act of fertilization …. two lives are gathered in one knot …. and are rewoven in a new individual life-history.” (1919. Problems of Fertilization. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.)

Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud.: ”Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (spermatozoan) from a male.” (1993. The Developing Human, 5th Ed. p. 1. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia.)

Ronan R. O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller.: ”is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a genetically is thereby formed.” (1992. Human Embryology and Teratology. p. 5. Wiley-Liss, New York.)

Another quote from Scott Gilbert in his book Developmental Biology:

”Traditional ways of classifying catalog animals according to their adult structure. But, as J. T. Bonner (1965) pointed out, this is a very artificial method, because what we consider an individual is usually just a brief slice of its life cycle. When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death. [...] The life of a new individual is initiated by the fusion of genetic material from the two gametes-the sperm and the egg.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=dbio.chapter.176)

--Earthland (talk) 16:03, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Earthland, this seems simply to be your opinion, and the sources you site are simply opinions that bolster your own. It seems to me that the consensus on this page, as well as the consensus on the edit summaries is that "death" should be removed from the intro. "Death" is controversial at it's core, and does nothing to provide the reader with insight as to what abortion is or is not.--IronAngelAlice (talk) 19:05, 15 October 2009 (UTC)
I realize I'm running a bit afoul of WP:FORUM here, but it's worth pointing out that the "moment" a sperm fertilizes an egg doesn't actually exist. Often several sperm will enter an egg, which will then have to eject the extra chromosomes, etc. This process can take 24-48 hours.
So whatever else you think, this idea of a "moment" of fertilization is baloney. Just sayin'... ---13.13.16.2 (talk) 21:13, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

Removed by Author, wrong discussion group.--L.L. Brown (talk) 14:43, 9 November 2010 (UTC)