As we noted this morning, the hubbub over Donald Trump’s comments about legal punishment for women who have abortions has shone a spotlight on the anti-abortion movement’s uncertainty about how to handle women who seek illegal abortions if the procedure is recriminalized.
While many in the anti-choice movement try to avoid talking about this issue publicly, it is something that activists who are more thoughtful than Donald Trump probably can’t help but consider as they shape their views.
Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, gave an interesting glimpse into the way some anti-choice activists think about the punishment issue this week when he said that if abortion is recriminalized, women who have abortions are unlikely to face murder charges because they could show that they faced “pressure” or “confusion” in their decision. When he was pressed further on the issue, Pavone floated the possibility of legal punishment for “accomplices” — like someone who brings a woman to get an abortion — and seemed to suggest that the law could also punish women who are insufficiently remorseful about having the procedure.
This is not the first time that Priests for Life has tried to address the issue. A few years ago, Bryan Kemper, who heads youth outreach for Priests for Life through his group Stand True Ministries, grappled with this question on his blog and concluded that if abortion is to become illegal nationwide, as is the goal of the anti-abortion movement, then women who obtain abortions would indeed have to be treated as murderers.
Kemper wrote in 2012 that the question of what to do about women who have abortions if the procedure is recriminalized is “one of the toughest questions to answer as a pro-lifer” but that the obvious answer is unavoidable if you “truly believe that a child in the womb is a full human person.” He continued:
I admit there is an emotional element to this that can blur the issue. I know that no one wants to go throwing thousands of women in prison. It is sincerely a tough question.
Lets change the direction we look at this however. Just like in my debates against pro-abortion advocates, I would steer away from the distractions and focus on the core issue. What is abortion? Abortion is the killing of a human person. Just like stabbing a three old on a playground is killing a human person, stabbing a baby in the womb is also killing a human person.
If we establish a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution declaring that children are full human persons from the moment of fertilization, then we must treat them as such.
When the woman in Texas drowned her five children several years ago, what was your thought on her punishment? Did you believe because she had some rough times at home she should be excused from what she did? The fact is, she killed her five children and had to answer to the law. While we might feel sorry for her emotional state, we must also want justice for the five children who were killed.
In the same way, we must look at the children in the womb as equal in value as the children who were drowned and demand justice for them also. We can certainly feel empathy for what a woman might be going through, however, that cannot change the fact that she has broken the law and ended the life of her child. We know there is forgiveness is Christ, but justice must also be served. If we make a separate law and separate punishment for someone who has an abortion then we are saying that the child in the womb is somehow not as valuable then any other human person killed. If we say that intentionally killing one child is less of a crime then intentionally killing another child, then our whole argument for life is destroyed.