“Preborn”: a language barrier?

How do you refer to children existing but not yet born? Does it depend on your audience? Do you find that some terms alienate the people around you? What works?

I just answered an email from a reader about my use of the word “preborn.” As I typed my answer, I thought that this is the perfect crowd-sourcing question. So please, share your answer in the comments section below. I have things to learn here.

I’m keeping my correspondent’s name anonymous except to say that she’s from New Hampshire’s North Country. Her inquiry:

Hello Ellen,

I just read your piece at your blog on Griffin’s Law.  I noticed that you and many anti-abortion rights advocates call unborn children “preborn.”  Why is that?

The Oxford English dictionary entry for “preborn” said

orig. and chiefly U.S. (esp. in the language of anti-abortion campaigners). A.adj.  Of or designating a fetus.

My answer:

Dear Ms. xxx, I use “preborn” because it’s inclusive, referring to all stages of prenatal human development. I’ve used the term for more than thirty years, and I gently dispute the OED’s editors who limit the definition. As you know, “fetus” is the clinically accurate term for a not-yet-born human being more than 56 days post-fertilization.

And now, for your own answers. Go.