Reproductive Rights Glossary for the Unwoke

I provide the following glossary as a service to those unwoke, unhip noctambulants who, like me, find themselves obliviously sleepwalking through the dreamscape of contemporary American culture. I provide for your edification, fellow somnambulists, the following terms taken from the argot of those who place themselves at the vanguard of the current reproductive rights/reproductive justice kerfuffle.

Abortion: “…a form of killing that we need to be able to defend.” The murder of children in the womb is an “acceptable violence,” justified by the “unacceptable violence” that an unborn baby “metes out” to its mother, the “gestator.”

Etymology: Although woke abortion advocates (e.g., uterine geographers and certain radical feminists) might generally agree with similarly unnuanced definitions, this particular articulation is attributable to Sophie Lewis, an Irish feminist teaching at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

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Embryonic pulsing: the beating in the womb of a baby’s heart. Syn. “heartbeat”; in articles appearing in popular media, the term “heartbeat,” esp. when appearing in quotation marks, is a synonym for embryonic pulsing (i.e., not really the heartbeat of a living human infant, but rather ersatz palpitations created by a quivering blob of tissue).

Etymology: The first use of this term is generally traced to an article appearing in The New York Times on May 29, 2019. The Times report stated that a newly passed Louisiana “Heartbeat Bill” would prohibit abortion once embryonic pulsing had been detected.  Since related articles appearing in the Times on April 18 and May 7 used, instead, the phrase “fetal heartbeat,” it appears that the reporter, Alan Blinder, disingenuously coined a sanitized, non-medical term that would be more palatable to the paper’s editors and readership.

Gestational dystopia: a male-dominated, totalitarian society in which subjugated women perform sexual acts and reproductive duties.  Intimidation and force sustain the structure of this patriarchal society. Woke academics bewail this deplorable circumstance as currently practiced in the United States. Dr. Sophie Lewis recently wrote, “Since moving to the U.S. … I have been acutely aware of living in a gestational dystopia.”

Etymology: Although the author has been unable to ascertain with certainty the origin of this phrase, it is most likely attributable to either the 1985 publication of the paperback The Handmaid’s Tale, and the cultish hysteria that has developed in its wake, or a vision appearing to Margaret Sanger following the consumption, shortly before bedtime around the turn of the twentieth century, of an anchovy-laced, Chicago-style pizza.

Gestator: one sexually impregnated or capable of becoming pregnant. Gestators have traditionally been women, but, more recently, this term evolved to become applicable to those self-identifying with several of the fifty-plus gender options (e.g., androgyne, bigender, non-binary, aka, genderqueer, trans-man, and so on). For example, the May 16, 2019 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine carried an account of a transgender man (i.e., a women who thinks she is a man) whose labor pains were tragically misdiagnosed as symptomatic of a medical condition associated with “his” high blood pressure rather than the actual circumstance of being with child. Because “his” physical appearance and obesity concealed the pregnancy and, consequently, delayed identification of the man’s condition, “his” baby was delivered stillborn. The lead author of the article, Dr. Daphna Stroumsa, states that the patient, upon admittance to the hospital, “…was rightly classified as a man.” (Rightly classified? Apparently, the word “rightly” is as fluid and evolving as gender itself.)

A Parenthetical Note on Related Terminology
Another term used by certain feminists and abortion rights activists is gestational work (also, gestational labor), a condition previously known as being pregnant. In the U.S. and other Western countries, governments have bestowed upon gestators, through guaranteed access to abortion on demand, the unnatural “right” to refuse gestational work. In this context, feminists have referred to the termination of the pregnancy (i.e., abortion) with the disingenuously innocuous phrase “work stoppage.” A related, though not synonymous, term is gestational strike which was once known as, in an apparently much benighted time, abstinence.

Etymology: Who knows? That anyone, especially someone who is presumably well educated, could shamelessly invent such befogged blather masquerading as erudition is unfathomable.

Relationships of care (also, xeno-fam relationships): those interpersonal relationships that will organically form once the traditional family has been extirpated from the cultural landscape to create a brave, new social order. On-demand abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, surrogacy, and assisted suicide provide the tools of familial destruction, the predicate for the formation of relationships of care and, ultimately, the creation of the utopia long-promised by progressive ideologues. Is it just me? Or does some amount of irony attach to the reliance on the culture of death as a precursor to the establishment of relationships of care?

Etymology: The phrase “relationships of care” appears to have precipitated recently in radical feminist and abortion rights literature at the intersection of the banal mantra “it takes a village to raise a child” and the yearning for the purportedly liberating destruction of the traditional, nuclear family. Nonetheless, the concept is not new, being patently inherent in the writings of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. In chapter two of their 1848 Communist Manifesto, they wrote that “the bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course … with the vanishing of capital [and the] … intervention of society in education … to rescue [it] from the influence of the ruling class.” As Dr. Lewis puts it, this is “… the comradely politics of gestational work.”

Permit an editorial observation in conclusion of this brief compendium. If the abstruse and purposefully obfuscating vocabulary found above is necessary to communicate in the vernacular of wokeness, remaining unwoke would be merciful. Unfortunately, continuing to exist in a state of blissful ignorance is no longer possible in the contemporary milieu. My hope is that those just now awakening from the comfort of traditional values will find this abbreviated compendium useful in acclimating to the coming New Order. May God have mercy on us all.


  • Mike Most

    Mike Most, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus who taught environmental policy for nearly 30 years at Kansas State and Southern Illinois University. He currently resides on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest near the town of Alto Pass, Illinois.

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