Donald Trump caught a bunch of flack for his comments on abortion Wednesday. The flack didn’t come from just the pro-abortionists, but from conservative anti-abortionists as well.
What did Trump say that caused the media and conservative firestorm?
“When continually pressed for what the answer is regarding punishing women who would break any theoretical ban [on abortion], Trump said the "answer is that there has to be some form of punishment, yeah."
For the first time that I can recall in the campaign, Trump backtracked and said, in essence, that the doctors performing the abortion are the ones who should be punished.
The anti-abortion folks jumped on Trump’s comments. Here is Ted Cruz’ criticism representing the popular (but oddly inconsistent) position of anti-abortionists (from “The Right Scoop”):
“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who opposes abortion rights.
“Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world,” Cruz said.
No wonder the anti-abortionists have essentially lost their fight. They are plagued by a severe case of hypocrisy.
Here is the clarifying statement later made by the Trump campaign, which if logic were to prevail, is very unfortunate…
"If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman," the statement said. "The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions."
And here is the hypocrisy of many of those “conservatives” who are allegedly against abortion (excerpted from the quoted article, below):
“If abortion is murder, then why aren’t those who oppose it pushing to put people who perform abortions — the doctors and nurses — and those who instigate them — the mothers — and who facilitate them — the fathers — in prison?
“That’s what we do with actual murderers. If I shoot Mr. Pink, then I go to jail, and my pal who loaned me the gun goes to jail, and my cousin who drove the car goes to jail.
Isn’t the pregnant woman at least an accessory in the abortion? If abortion is 'murder,' why do abortion foes not advocate prosecuting accessories to the crime?
To suggest that the woman who willingly got herself pregnant (not talking about rape or incest here) is the totally innocent victim is irrational and inconsistent with every other aspect of our criminal justice system.
Mr. Trump’s problem in expressing his initial opinion on the punishment of women for abortion is he was being too rational. His comment revealed a gross hypocrisy among abortion foes. If the anti-abortion crowd truly believed “abortion is murder” then they would not have such a difficult time with Trump’s comment. The woman who aborts is at least an accessory to the murder and deserves some sort of punishment.
We had “back ally abortionists” back in the day because not all parties were subject to the penalties of the law. Apparently only the doctors were. The primary accessories to the abortion, the woman and the impregnator, where excused as if they had nothing to do with the crime.
The “crime” was the perverted belief that the woman was the victim. That nonsense continues today and is just one more manifestation of our culture of victimhood – everyone is a victim – no one bears any responsibility for anything.
“No Pro-Life American Advocates Punishment for Abortion”
And therein lies the fatal flaw in the entire pro-life movement. Beyond that, the statement is not true.
If a crime deserves no punshment, how can it be called a “crime.” If pro-life folks insist that abortion is “murder” and argue against punishment, they are the bggest hypocrits. How can you have it both ways?
Here is an article written back in 2011 that poses these questions and attempts to impose some logic onto the twisted view so many abortion opponents have concerning the “crime/victim” obfuscation:
Sunday, April 10, 2011
If abortion is 'murder,' why do abortion foes not advocate prosecuting and imprisoning accessories?
Neil Steinberg's column today poses a tough question in the abortion debate:
If abortion is murder, then why aren’t those who oppose it pushing to put people who perform abortions — the doctors and nurses — and those who instigate them — the mothers — and who facilitate them — the fathers — in prison?
That’s what we do with actual murderers. If I shoot Mr. Pink, then I go to jail, and my pal who loaned me the gun goes to jail, and my cousin who drove the car goes to jail...
The hunch that I’ve had...is that “abortion is murder” is not a sincere conviction, but mere rhetoric.
Well, it's either that or a concession to present political reality. Foes of abortion rights aren't calling for the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of women, their friends who drive them to the clinic and the entire clinic staff on charges of premeditated murder (what else could it be)yet.
I addressed this question in 2002 during a Rhubarb Patch debate with Nora O'Callaghan, then the director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago's Respect Life Office. Here are the excerpts dealing with prosecution:
ZORN: The laws protecting infants make it a felony--first-degree murder, punishable by death or life without parole--for someone of sound mind to participate in the killing of that infant, regardless of the circumstances of its conception.
It’s not an absurd or insincere question to ask of pro-lifers, then, if they would support a severe prison sentence for, say, a 21-year-old woman who had an abortion after discovering herself one month pregnant with the child of a man who had raped her.
The vast majority of people would say no; probably even the vast majority of people in your movement would say no. They would have an almost instinctive sense that such an act would not be equivalent to taking a baby to an executioner one month after birth. Not even close.
I do not raise this just to play gotcha, but to point out that both sides in this debate really are on the continuum and do see some ambiguities.
O'CALLAGHAN: When the states had laws against abortion, women who had them were treated as “secondary victims” of the offense. It was the doctors who were prosecuted, with evidence provided by the women. When a society is far out of whack, corrective laws must take into account the “background” social conditions that led to the injustice. I would think it will take a long time to rid ourselves of the cultural degradation caused by Roe, and I don’t think that locking up women who have abortions would be helpful in healing our culture, nor that it would be supported by a majority of people. Coercion is normally the last (and often least effective) means for creating a just society. No one even thinks of buying or selling a human being today -- not because they fear jail, but because our culture has internalized the morality of the 13th amendment.
ZORN: Your own logic locks you into prosecuting women who seek abortions for murder. You write of such women as “secondary victims” and hem and haw about transition periods and the ineffectiveness of coercion because you know how utterly unpalatable such prosecutions would be for the vast majority of Americans who do, in the end, see, feel and sense a real distinction between an embryo and, say, a one day old baby.
O'CALLAGHAN: You can say you don’t accept my answer on jailing women for abortion if you wish, it doesn’t change my views. As an empirical matter, women were not prosecuted under U.S. abortion laws when they were in effect, and compared to the situation today, abortion was very rare.
ZORN: I've been pushing you on the question of whether a woman who seeks and obtains a first trimester abortion, for example, should be charged with first-degree murder in order to probe how profound your belief is that such an abortion is morally equivalent to murder and to invite readers of this debate to consider the implications of that absolute position. I know you don't want to answer--you fall back on historical empiricism rather than tell me what you would do if you were in charge--because the inescapable answer, like the answer that you did provide to my "hard case" hypothetical of the 13 year old made pregnant by her dad, reveals the morally absolute stance as unpopular at best, unworkably extreme at worst.
Not to say that the absolute pro-choice position is any less extreme or more workable; just to point out, again, that most people on both sides of this debate do not enjoy the refuge of perfect moral clarity or consistency.
I unearthed parts of this debate in April, 2006, in two posts:
I'm guessing that, five years later, abortion-rights foes have no better answers than they did then.
UPDATE: On Neil Steinberg's Facebook page he's posted this video in which anti-abortion protesters have a very hard time answering this question. Many, it seems, haven't even thought about it.