Time to Stop Using “It” to Refer to Unborn Children

Opinion   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jun 25, 2012   |   6:34PM   |   Washington, DC

Do you remember Saturday Night Live’s Pat, the androgynous character played by Julia Sweeney?  Sketch after sketch, the cast of SNL ask a barrage of questions trying to figure out of Pat is a boy or a girl.  The assumption is that Pat is either male or female and hilarity ensues when anyone tries catch a clue as to which Pat is.  The segments were called “It’s Pat!”

It is Pat.  “It” is the pronoun used because, even though Pat is either a man or woman, we don’t have any clue to which is correct.

It seems that, in the English language, this is the conventional pronoun usage for any human being that we know has a gender, we just don’t know what that gender is…yet.

I am envisioning the endless “It’s a girl!” balloons and “It’s a boy!” napkins at my local party supply store.  Lately, I am asking myself why not “She’s a girl!” and “He’s a boy!”?

This conventional language usage is as unfortunate as it is inaccurate, because “it” is a pronoun more commonly used used for things that are not human.

Which is why I think “it” is a pronoun that should not be applied to the unborn, either fetuses in their mother’s womb or embryos in the IVF clinic.  Even the earliest embryos are either male, having a Y chromosome, or female, lacking a Y chromosome.  So why do we use “it” and “its” when we refer to them and their qualities?  Why not use “he or she” and “his or hers”?



I have referred to an embryo as an “it” before, as have many other pro-lifers.  I vow to strive to never do so again.

After all, embryos and fetuses are not “it”s.  They are either a he or a she.  Just because we don’t know which does not mean they are any less human.