Commentary| Volume 81, ISSUE 2, P93-96, February 2010

Download started.


Abortion jabberwocky: the need for better terminology

  • David A. Grimes
    Corresponding author. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CB #7570, UNC School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7570, USA. Tel.: +1 919 544 7040x11541; fax: +1 919 544 7261.
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
    Search for articles by this author
  • Gretchen Stuart
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
    Search for articles by this author
      The contentious issue of abortion is riddled with jabberwocky���terminology that is contradictory, obsolete, ambiguous and misleading [
      • Friedman E.A.
      • Pennisi J.A.
      Eschew obfuscation.
      ]. Both the lay and professional literature uses obstetrical terms improperly, including ���abortion.��� Recent press coverage of Dr. George Tiller's murder has added to this confusion, with misleading language such as ���late-term��� abortion [ ].
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Contraception
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Carroll L.
        Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.
        HarperCollins, New York1993
        • Friedman E.A.
        • Pennisi J.A.
        Eschew obfuscation.
        Obstet Gynecol. 1996; 87: 795-796
        • Stein R.
        New attention on late-term abortions.
        ([accessed June 30, 2009])
        • Cameron M.J.
        • Penney G.C.
        Terminology in early pregnancy loss: what women hear and what clinicians write.
        J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2005; 31: 313-314
      1. Stedman's Medical Dictionary. 27th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia2000
      2. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 30th ed. Saunders, Philadelphia2003
        • Thomas C.L.
        Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary.
        18th ed. F. A. Davis Company, Philadelphia1997
        • British Medical Association
        Abortion time limit, May 2008.
        ([accessed July 23, 2009])
        • Dommergues M.
        • Cahen F.
        • Garel M.
        • Mahieu-Caputo D.
        • Dumez Y.
        Feticide during second- and third-trimester termination of pregnancy: opinions of health care professionals.
        Fetal Diagn Ther. 2003; 18: 91-97
        • Ruano R.
        • Dumez Y.
        • Cabrol D.
        • Dommergues M.
        Second- and third-trimester therapeutic terminations of pregnancy in cases with complete placenta previa���does feticide decrease postdelivery maternal hemorrhage?.
        Fetal Diagn Ther. 2004; 19: 475-478
        • Chervenak F.A.
        • McCullough L.B.
        Is third-trimester termination justified?.
        Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2003; 21: 97-98
        • Barel O.
        • Vaknin Z.
        • Smorgick N.
        • et al.
        Fetal abnormalities leading to third trimester abortion: nine-year experience from a single medical center.
        Prenat Diagn. 2009; 29: 223-228
        • Cunningham F.G.
        • MacDonald P.C.
        • Gant N.F.
        • et al.
        Williams Obstetrics.
        20th ed. Appleton & Lange, Stamford, (Conn)1997
        • Annas G.J.
        Partial-birth abortion, Congress, and the Constitution.
        N Engl J Med. 1998; 339: 279-283
        • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
        AMA and ACOG debate legislation restricting intact D&X, issue joint statement.
        ACOG Today. 1997; 41: 2
        • Cates Jr, W.
        • Grimes D.A.
        The trimester threshold for pregnancy termination: myth or truth?.
        in: Keirse M.J.N.C. Bennebroek Gravenhorst J. van Lith D.A.F. Embrey M.P. Second trimester pregnancy termination. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague1982: 41-51
        • Amersi S.
        • Grimes D.A.
        The case against using ordinal numbers for gestational age.
        Obstet Gynecol. 1998; 91: 623-625
        • Ngai S.W.
        • Yeung K.C.
        • Lao T.
        • Ho P.C.
        Oral misoprostol versus vaginal gemeprost for cervical dilatation prior to vacuum aspiration in women in the sixth to twelfth week of gestation.
        Contraception. 1995; 51: 347-350
      3. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Merriam-Webster, Inc., Springfield (Mass)1999
        • Hammond C.
        Recent advances in second-trimester abortion: an evidence-based review.
        Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009; 200: 347-356
        • McCullough L.B.
        • Chervenak F.A.
        A critical analysis of the concept and discourse of 'unborn child'.
        Am J Bioeth. 2008; 8: 34-39
        • American Medical Association
        Current Procedural Terminology.
        ([accessed July 6, 2009])
      4. International Classification of Diseases-9, Clinical Modification.
        ([accessed July 6, 2009])
        • Sedgh G.
        • Henshaw S.K.
        • Singh S.
        • Bankole A.
        • Drescher J.
        Legal abortion worldwide: incidence and recent trends.
        Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2007; 39: 216-225
        • Castro C.M.
        • Wilson C.
        • Wang F.
        • Schillinger D.
        Babel babble: physicians' use of unclarified medical jargon with patients.
        Am J Health Behav. 2007; 31: S85-S95