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How Not To Be Against Abortion

December 14, 2011

Sharp-witted nemesis of pro-lifers Amanda Marcotte directed my attention to this article about Jennie McCormack who, according to the story, received some despicable treatment from people after her self-induced abortion gained unexpected public notoriety. Idaho, where McCormack lives, has a 1972 law, apparently never before enforced, that makes a self-induced abortion a crime punishable by five years in prison. She was arrested after news of her taking RU-486 reached police. A section in the story reads:

After her picture appeared in the paper, McCormack got a part-time job at a dry cleaner, using another name, but people figured out who she was and stopped letting her bag up their clothes, so she quit. On a recent trip to a local state office to apply for aid, she was ignored for hours. “They made it clear what was happening,” she says. “For a while I just sat there, sort of amazed that they were just letting me sit there.” Eventually, she picked up her son and went home.

Marcotte seems to view this treatment as typical behavior for those opposed to abortion, and, I’m presuming in response to this story, tweeted, “I’m genuinely surprised some times that anti-choicers aren’t trying to require scarlet As sewn onto your clothes if you have an abortion.” If Marcotte means this in reference to us “anti-choicers” generally, and that’s how I took her statement, then she’s missing the mark. Yes, you can with a little time and effort find cruel, misogynistic anti-abortion crusaders more keen on punishing and controlling women than protecting the unborn, and Marcotte knows how to find and expose them. However, I’ve yet knowingly to meet one, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time among pro-lifers. Most pro-lifers really do think nascent human life is worth defending. That, I dare say, is what motivates me.

Having said this, however, I can see where Marcotte gets the impression that we “anti-choicers” are sinisterly motivated. The alleged reactions of people to McCormack’s abortion may not unveil the modus operandi of the typical pro-lifer, but, if true, they do suggest a disposition that extends to more than a couple heartless souls. And laws that punish women in Jennie McCormack’s situation with jail time give the impression that “anti-choicers” are also anti-women. We “anti-choicers” have a responsibility to consider how our objectives, if and when realized, will affect women like Jennie McCormack. Saying we’re pro-women isn’t sufficient.  And we sure as hell should be kind, welcoming, and respectful to any woman who has, for whatever reason, chosen abortion.

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152 Comments
  1. Pentimento permalink
    December 15, 2011 6:24 am

    It’s easy to be anti-abortion, essentially a no-brainer; on the contrary, those who are pro-abortion are required to produce complex casuistic arguments to support their position, and never really do it with the full force of logic behind them.

    On the other hand, it’s difficult to love the women who participate in abortion (on another topic, it’s clearly also difficult to love the poor single mothers who choose life, as witnessed by public policy toward them and conservative anathematizing of them).

    The whole thing is about love, and lack of love. The women who commit abortion have been rejected in the most primal way by those from whom they sought love. The rejection overrules their natural love for the unborn child. And then, as you note, they are further rejected by the community.

    I’ve learned from experience that there is not a little horror at post-abortive women abroad in the pro-life community. Until we truly submit to Christ’s command to love one another — including those who horrify us the most — the tax collectors and prostitutes (and the post-abortive?) will enter heaven before us.

    I’ll say it again: it’s easy to be pro-life, but it is very, very hard to love.

    • December 15, 2011 9:22 am

      Pentimento,

      What you’ve learned from experience saddens me to hear. Your conclusion is worth remembering, taking to heart, and repeating.

    • hazemyth permalink
      December 15, 2011 12:27 pm

      It’s easy to be anti-abortion, essentially a no-brainer; on the contrary, those who are pro-abortion are required to produce complex casuistic arguments to support their position, and never really do it with the full force of logic behind them.

      This strikes me as unwittingly ironic, given the thrust of Kyle’s post. If it were really true then there wouldn’t be a debate. Might it also be possible that pro-choice proponents have complex, sincerely held views on the subject? Being pro-life may seem like an obvious no-brainer, given particular premises but not others.

  2. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    December 15, 2011 9:12 am

    Kyle,

    I have met the vindictive pro-lifers you seem to have missed. The ones I have met cloak it well and spout required pieties about respecting the woman, but underneath there is a moral self-righteousness that spills over. One place I saw it was in observing some of the side-walk “counselors” at a local abortion clinic. Their body language, their tone of voice, all belied their concern for the woman as well as the child. The were not yelling “baby killer” but they may as well have been. And why has no one in the pro-life community reached out to Ms. McCormack? (They may have, but the article strongly suggests that they have not.) A load of groceries and a simple affirmation of unconditional love would go along way. To echo Pentimento: as Dorothy Day said, love is the measure, and by this measure I think that some (a lot) in pro-life movement fall short.

    • December 15, 2011 9:31 am

      I’ve of course heard the regrettable phrase “baby-killer” used by pro-lifers, though in my (limited) experience it’s been applied mostly to abortionists.

      I do not doubt or deny that there’s vindictiveness among pro-life people or that one can find a lot of it, but, unlike Marcotte, I don’t find that this attitude defines pro-lifers as a group. A failure to love is a big problem, and it needs to be addressed, but I wouldn’t say that the pro-life movement is really, at its core, about promoting a society disposed to misogyny.

      • Rodak permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:06 am

        “I’ve of course heard the regrettable phrase “baby-killer” used by pro-lifers, though in my (limited) experience it’s been applied mostly to abortionists.”

        To my way of thinking this is one of the major flaws of the anti-abortion movment. They instill in the minds of people the notion of “abortion mills,” where Dr. Frankenstein-type evil men perform abortions on helpless women, whom they have apparently lured into their clutches through some clandestine advertising campaign, invisible to all but pregnant, impressionable women.
        In fact, however, legal abortions are performed by medical doctors, licensed as OB/GYNs, as part of their job. Clinics set up only to perform abortions and offering no other obstetric and gynecological services are rare, if they exist at all.
        In any event, putting the blame on the physician and treating the woman as a victim is dishonest in the extreme. She has to seek out the services of the “abortionist”–whether it’s legally performed, or not–and pay for them. The “mother” is the instigator of a “crime” that would not take place if she did not seek it out. She is, if anything, much more guilty than the physician/midwife/veterinarian/pharmacy school major, or whoever else provides her with that which she decided upon a the solution to her distress.
        What Christian people should be about is not placing blame, but finding workable solutions to the problems that give rise to the perceived need for abortion in the first place.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:38 am

        Rodak,

        Google Kermit Gosnell. Unfortunately, it happens sometimes; fortunately, it’s rare. So I don’t disagree with your basic point.

        I found the last part of comment curious. You spend several sentences saying that it is dishonest not to place the blame on the women. But then you say that Christians should not be about placing blame. Curious and a little contradictory. At any rate, I think one of the workable solutions to the abortion problem is to not blame women, but to show them much love and support, both before and after a pregnancy (whether the baby is born or not). Fortunately, in my experience, the pregnancy help centers in my area have this woman-centered approach.

    • December 15, 2011 10:15 am

      A load of groceries and a simple affirmation of unconditional love would go along way.

      I struggle in vain to make sense of the “pro-life” attitude. If abortion is “murder by the mother herself” (as Mother Teresa said), morally equivalent to the murder of a “post-born” child or an adult, why should a woman who murders her own child and puts the fetus in a box on the back porch to freeze get a delivery of groceries? The only way I can understand this is if all murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and others who commit reprehensible acts likewise get groceries and affirmations of unconditional love. Actually, I don’t think that is a looney idea at all, and would arguably be an effect of truly carrying out the teachings of Jesus.

      According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, women who procure abortions are baby killers. Of course, the pro-life movement is not the Catholic Church, which excommunicates women who procure abortions rather than considering them victims who deserve groceries and unconditional love. Aside from abortion, what other excommunicable offenses would be occasions for groceries and affirmations of unconditional love—desecration of the sacred species? Granting absolution to an accomplice?

      • Pentimento permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:28 am

        Actually, John Paul II made it clear in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that he, at least, did in fact regard women who procure abortion as victims:

        “[W]e are witnessing true human tragedies. Often the woman is the victim of male selfishness, in the sense that the man, who has contributed to the conception of the new life, does not want to be burdened with it and leaves the responsibility to the woman, as if it were ‘her fault’ alone. So, precisely when the woman most needs the man’s support, he proves to be a cynical egotist, capable of exploiting her affection or weakness, yet stubbornly resistant to any sense of responsibility for his own action . . .” [p. 206-7].

        As for the sentence of excommunication:

        “NOTE WELL: To actually incur the excommunication one must know that it is an excommunicable offense at the time of the abortion. Canon 1323 provides that the following do not incur a sanction, those who are not yet 16, are unaware of a law, do not advert to it or are in error about its scope, were forced or had an unforeseeable accident, acted out of grave fear, or who lacked the use of reason (except culpably, as by drunkenness). Thus a woman forced by an abusive husband to have an abortion would not incur an excommunication, for instance, whereas someone culpably under the influence of drugs or alcohol would (canon 1325).”

        Finally, women who have participated in abortion — no less than men — need repentance and forgiveness more than they need groceries (though they may also be in need of the latter). And they deserve Christ’s mercy more than they deserve the scorn of pro-lifers. In fact, it is well-known that Christ told St. Faustina that the most egregious of sinners had more right to His mercy than the righteous.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:29 am

        The only way I can understand this is if all murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and others who commit reprehensible acts likewise get groceries and affirmations of unconditional love.

        Yes, all of these people should get affirmations of unconditional love.

        Aside from abortion, what other excommunicable offenses would be occasions for groceries and affirmations of unconditional love.

        Again, all of these people should get affirmations of unconditional love. And I think the Church recognizes this. This hearkens back to David’s post of a week ago, about the doctrine of human dignity. Every person, especially those outside the Church through their rejection of the Church or embrace of serious sin, should be affirmed with unconditional love because of their human dignity.

      • December 15, 2011 10:56 am

        Actually, John Paul II made it clear in Crossing the Threshold of Hope that he, at least, did in fact regard women who procure abortion as victims

        Pentimento,

        No doubt many women who procure abortions are in a tight spot, or may even be victims in some way. But all of them? Or the majority of them? Is there any data at all to base such a position on? In the surveys I have seen about reasons women give for having an abortion, one of the least cited reasons is that the father of the child wants the abortion. For example:

        Not ready for a(nother) child/timing is wrong. . . . . . . 25
        Can’t afford a baby now. . . . . . . 23
        Have completed my childbearing/have other people depending on me/
        children are grown. . . . . . . 19
        Don’t want to be a single mother/am having relationship problems. . . . . . . 8
        Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child/feel too young. . . . . . . 7
        Would interfere with education or career plans. . . . . . . 4
        Physical problem with my health. . . . . . . 4
        Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus. . . . . . . 3
        Was a victim of rape. . . . . . . <0.5
        Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion. . . . . . . <0.5

        • Pentimento permalink
          December 15, 2011 12:01 pm

          David, I find it interesting that your data is from the Guttmacher Foundation, Planned Parenthood’s think tank. It certainly stands to reason that Guttmacher’s data would be sifted in such a way to normalize abortion, and make it seem like an empowering choice, rather than one made out of desperation. It makes sense to keep in mind Guttmacher’s underlying agenda when considering such studies.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 12:07 pm

        I dunno. Even taking David’s stats, the first 6 reasons could all be influenced by the fact that the father is either non-existent or not supportive to the woman in the way he needs to be.

      • December 15, 2011 12:31 pm

        Pentimento,

        It’s not enough to say you are suspicious of Guttmacher’s statistics (which are quoted on the NRLC web site). If you are going to maintain that women who procure abortions are really victims, you will have to present some evidence of your own.

      • Pentimento permalink
        December 15, 2011 3:10 pm

        David, I can only give you my own experience as a post-abortive women, and the anecdotal experience of dozens of women I’ve encountered. If you stray a bit from the world of statistics and into the trenches — if you investigated the post-abortive apostolate of the Sisters of Life, say, or of Rachel’s Vineyard, or if you even happened to read a few blogs written by post-abortive women — you would be confronted with realities that give a different story from Guttmacher’s statistics.

        Curious that NRLC uses a Guttmacher study as a source. It implies that NRLC is not overly sympathetic to the desperate plight of most women who choose abortion, which is a pity.

  3. December 15, 2011 9:57 am

    To clarify: I think Marcotte’s criticism has real application, and to the extent that it does, absolutely demands attention. I also acknowledge that there’s an unloving attitude found among pro-lifers that extends beyond a few bad apples. What I deny is that the pro-life movement is fundamentally about the oppression of women–granting that our society has a long history of oppressing women that affects, at times subconsciously, pretty much everyone.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      December 15, 2011 11:14 am

      Thanks for the clarification: it clears up some things.

    • December 16, 2011 12:42 am

      My own testimony is that I have prayed in vigil in front of abortion facilities for several years in the 40 Days for Life Campaign in my home town. Since I live close by I have spent many hours in this prayer vigil mode. I have never witnessed an unkind or condescending remark from a sidewalk participant. Everyone reads and signs a pledge to abide in peace. No one is every confronted, stared at or intimidated in any manner.

      There are occasional interactions. Generally, someone will approach asking for support in prayers or want to talk. At times people who are neutral or nominally pro-choice venture by to ask what we think and why we commit the time, in which case a brief discussion may follow. On occassion someone who’s had an abortion or considering one will stop to explain that this is not really a choice, but a decision forced upon them from parents or boyfriend, or the circumstances are out of control in their lives and they can’t handle new life. Sometimes they want to pray, which is what we do. If they need or are open to helpful resources, we give referrals. I have never seen a heated exchange, but on rare occassion a staunch abortion advocated might go into rant mode.

      Several passers-bys in cars will honk and give an occassionaly sign of support. A few angry drivers shout profanities, flash the finger, curse or spit. That’s fine, we smile…we go to pray…and I have never felt anything but a sense of deep peace. Some vigil participants come as families with baby strollers and pray.

      At some point near the end of the 40 days the pro-choice supporters try to rally a show of strength, but they are usually, short lived, loud and very underwhelming. That’s what I’ve seen in my four or five years of participating in the campaign.

  4. M.Z. permalink
    December 15, 2011 9:59 am

    Not to be grossly inflammatory, but would a child molester be treated any better? Probably not. Should he? Probably.

    I really don’t believe the solution to all of this is to treat women as moral idiots. She knew what she was doing. Society allegedly believes she took a human life, or at least that is our hope. For this she has been socially ostracized. The current pro-life movement would want her doctor thrown in jail (although in this case I guess she was her own doctor for this procedure.) Personally jail sounds a lot worse than being socially ostracized. In the end, the pro-life movement isn’t morally serious. And yes, if one ultimately believes abortion shouldn’t be punishable they are pro-choice, reduced to arguing over the method.

    • December 15, 2011 10:20 am

      And yes, if one ultimately believes abortion shouldn’t be punishable they are pro-choice, reduced to arguing over the method.

      M.Z. has written a much nicer comment than the one I just wrote before seeing this, and which hasn’t appeared yet. I didn’t mean for mine to sound quite so nasty, but I have limited time for self-editing this morning.

      • Pentimento permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:39 am

        It’s good that you wrote it as you did, David, because it can serve as a teachable moment. I can only reaffirm that loving those who — or so we believe — are unlike ourselves (because we ourselves would never commit such heinous acts, etc.) is hard even for those not typically inclined — or so they believe — to judgment and condemnation.

    • Thales permalink
      December 15, 2011 10:44 am

      I’ve read M.Z.’s comment 5 times, and I still don’t understand it. I can’t figure out what he’s proposing as the proper pro-life approach. That jail is the appropriate moral solution for women? That it’s impossible to actually be pro-life, because everyone is pro-choice, deep down? I’m confused.

      • M.Z. permalink
        December 15, 2011 1:19 pm

        I don’t have near as strong as an opinion on this as I once did.

        Quite simply, if abortion is going to be treated as a social harm, the women who procure them should be treated as the ones causing the most social harm. There is room for understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Women are either culpable for their acts or they should be institutionalized for their own protection and the protection of society. That men overwhelmingly would make the same choices as women if they were faced with these situations doesn’t really change the equation.

        As for whether abortion is a social harm, I come down on the side that it is, but I don’t think it is a slam dunk. I’m afraid continuing on this part will be a waste of time though, because no one cares about social interest in this country. The thing folks do care about in this country is self interest. I think it incontrovertible that it is in the rational self interest of women to have abortions. All these appeals to the sadness and remorse about abortion are attempts to tip the scales against self interest. Being the age we are in, you can find all sorts of stories on the Internet about women who protested in front of abortion clinics but chose to have an abortion when the time came. They did this because it was in their rational self interest, and appealing to compassion and regret is ultimately tilting at windmills if one wants to end abortion.

        As for the what a pro-lifer is to do, I don’t know and I frankly don’t care. Pro-lifers are for the most part people who fight to elect people that harm people like me and other poor families. I shouldn’t have a need for an abortion, so my life goes on. I’m not grossly concerned with the choice of some daughter of some rich white family. Let them deal with it. As for the poor, I don’t really care to hold myself out as morally superior because they chose not to further their poverty.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 1:43 pm

        So… your position is just give up trying to help people? Ugh.

  5. Bruce in Kansas permalink
    December 15, 2011 10:48 am

    Jesus calls all of us to repentance. Some will disagree, but the position of all Catholics is the act of abortion is a grave evil and those involved in it should repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Many staunchly do not repent nor seek forgiveness.Then (and this is where a lot of Catholics disagree with one another) the next problem is one of how to treat those who are unrepentant. We have a duty to try and prevent them from harming others (including unborn others) in the future. Since abortion is legal, that’s quite difficult and frustrating. God bless those who try. Condemning them often makes them less likely to repent. More importantly Jesus commands us to love them; and He says we’ll be measured by our own yardstick. Yikes!

  6. Rodak permalink
    December 15, 2011 10:48 am

    @ Thales–
    I should have been more clear that I don’t want to see blame placed on anybody. I want to see understanding and forgiveness, all around. What I want is for there to be significantly fewer women and girls who find themselves in a place where abortion seem to be the best answer for them.
    My point about blaming women as opposed to blaming physicians was that anti-abortion propaganda often portrays women as victims, in order to take advantage of the emotional effect that produces. That is dishonest and should be condemned.

    • Thales permalink
      December 15, 2011 11:05 am

      Well, even if we set aside the issue of who is more or less culpable in the act of abortion or who is more morally responsible, there is some reason to think that a woman is more of a victim in abortion than the doctor: the woman suffers a loss that the doctor doesn’t. And it seems to me that it’s a good thing to induce emotional feelings for the women, as opposed to the doctor, since the woman needs and benefits from understanding, forgiveness, and unconditional love. So I guess I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you say that there is some propaganda that is dishonest and should be condemned.

      • M.Z. permalink
        December 15, 2011 12:02 pm

        The Menendez brothers’ defense.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 12:31 pm

        M.Z., I don’t understand; I’m still more confused!

      • December 15, 2011 12:38 pm

        the woman suffers a loss that the doctor doesn’t

        Thales,

        Then perhaps instead of bringing groceries to comfort a woman who has an abortion, you should give her a baby to make up for her loss. It makes as much sense to try to evoke sympathy for a woman who has an abortion by depicting her as a grieving mother as it does for the man who kills his parents to expect sympathy for being an orphan. The vast majority of women who procure abortions don’t want a baby. In fact, as some harshly say, they want a dead baby. What proportion of women who have an abortion would be thrilled if the baby miraculously survived?

      • M.Z. permalink
        December 15, 2011 12:50 pm

        The Menendez brothers killed their parents as adults. One of the jurors took pity upon them because they were now orphans.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 1:11 pm

        What a strange and confusing conversation! The point of Kyle’s post is that we need to show love and respect and care to a woman who chose abortion. It’s almost as if David and M.Z. are saying that we shouldn’t show that to women — but I know that can’t be right (at least I don’t think so), so I’m not entirely sure where they’re coming from.

        David,
        I didn’t say that we need to treat a woman who chose abortion as a grieving mother — obviously, most women choose abortion willingly. But we still need to show love and care and understanding to her. It’s pretty clear that abortion is an entirely regrettable situation — the vast majority of women who procure abortion don’t want to have the abortion if they didn’t need to. But it’s the choice that seems to them to be the least worst option out of a group of terrible ones. And I think it’s clear, to echo Pentimento’s point above, that most women who have abortions feel that the circumstances are pressuring them too (perhaps because of not enough support, because they don’t any other legitimate possibility, etc.). A thought experiment: take a pregnant woman who doesn’t want her child and so wants an abortion. Let’s say that we magically give this woman all the love and support and counseling and money she needs — her family supports her, her financial needs are taking care of, counselors put her in touch with a wonderful adoptive couple who will take care of the child, etc. Don’t you think a significant percentage of women in that situation would willingly choose against abortion? I do.

      • Thales permalink
        December 15, 2011 1:20 pm

        Oh, I suppose that I should answer your question: What proportion of women who have an abortion would be thrilled if the baby miraculously survived?

        If that woman was in a society that fully supported her such that all of her financial and emotional worries had been taken care and the baby was in a good situation (like with an nice adoptive couple), I’d say well over 90%.

      • Pentimento permalink
        December 15, 2011 3:13 pm

        David, I see now that you know regrettably little about abortion and the circumstances that lead women to choose it. You should familiarize yourself with the Sisters of Life, an order started by Cardinal O’Connor. http://www.sistersoflife.org

  7. Rodak permalink
    December 15, 2011 12:18 pm

    @ Thales–
    That kind of emotionally-charged propaganda should be condemned because it is an element of the kind of propaganda that sometimes incites zealots to commit murders and other terrorist acts “in defense of life.”

    • Thales permalink
      December 15, 2011 12:45 pm

      Rodak,
      I think we’re talking past each other. I’m thinking of “propaganda” that induces greater understanding, forgiveness, and unconditional love for the woman — any material that makes a person realize that women who are inclined to (or who have had) abortions need love and support. To me, that’s a good thing. In fact, that’s the whole point of Kyle’s post! I’m with you that any propaganda that incites people to anger (and then to murder) should be condemned.

      • Rodak permalink
        December 15, 2011 1:04 pm

        @ Thales–
        Good. We’re on the same page, then!

  8. December 15, 2011 2:38 pm

    If that woman was in a society that fully supported her such that all of her financial and emotional worries had been taken care and the baby was in a good situation (like with an nice adoptive couple), I’d say well over 90%.

    Thales,

    I am sure that the majority of people who commit crimes, including murder, would be thrilled if society gave them a happy, lawful alternative.

    I would have to do some research on this to say it with full confidence, but I believe there is no shortage of couples seeking to adopt newborn babies. I am reasonably sure if any woman wants to arrange for a private adoption, there are couples who would be willing to pay all her medical expenses for the pregnancy and delivery.

    It is not the pro-choice movement but the pro-life movement (and the Catholic Church) that says abortion is murder, and then turns around and says we must pity the poor murderer and not hold her responsible. Convicted murderers released from prison have quite a low rate of recidivism. On the other hand, in any given time period, about half the women procuring abortions have had at least one previously (and sometimes two, three, or more). If you want to deter women from having abortions, I would suggest that providing them with groceries after they have their first abortion is not likely to deter them from having the second.

    To put it another way, if a woman has one abortion, there’s a 50-50 chance that she will have at least one more, and possibly several. To paraphrase an old saying, “If you victimize me once, shame on you. If you victimize me twice, shame on me.”

    Now, I am all for treating women who have abortions with compassion and not punishing them in any way. But I do not say that abortion is murder. I am quite happy that pro-lifers in general don’t want to deal harshly with women who have abortions, but I do see it as a glaring inconsistency in the pro-life position.

    I liked what M.Z. said: “In the end, the pro-life movement isn’t morally serious. And yes, if one ultimately believes abortion shouldn’t be punishable they are pro-choice, reduced to arguing over the method.”

    • Thales permalink
      December 15, 2011 4:28 pm

      David,

      I am sure that the majority of people who commit crimes, including murder, would be thrilled if society gave them a happy, lawful alternative.

      Yes, the majority of people who commit crimes, including murder, are wounded people who are suffering from some problem, and if society truly took care of them and their problem, they would not commit the crime and be thrilled by the alternative to the crime. And your point is?

      I would have to do some research on this to say it with full confidence, but I believe there is no shortage of couples seeking to adopt newborn babies. I am reasonably sure if any woman wants to arrange for a private adoption, there are couples who would be willing to pay all her medical expenses for the pregnancy and delivery.

      Sure, there might be no shortage of couples willing to adopt, but let me assure you: there is most definitely a shortage of pregnant women who have the requisite knowledge and the necessary support system that would give them the confidence to make the choice for adoption, instead of abortion. As I said above, I believe that the majority of pregnant women would choose an alternative to abortion if every emotional and financial concern they had associated with the pregnancy was taken care of.

      It is not the pro-choice movement but the pro-life movement (and the Catholic Church) that says abortion is murder, and then turns around and says we must pity the poor murderer and not hold her responsible. Convicted murderers released from prison have quite a low rate of recidivism. On the other hand, in any given time period, about half the women procuring abortions have had at least one previously (and sometimes two, three, or more). If you want to deter women from having abortions, I would suggest that providing them with groceries after they have their first abortion is not likely to deter them from having the second.

      There’s so many issues raised in this paragraph, I’ll have to do some bullet points:

      1. From the Church’s perspective, She does say that serial killing is murder, and then turn around and pity the serial killer. In particular, She shows unconditional love to the serial killer, invites him into the confessional, promises him that what he says will remain a secret with Her, forgives his sins, and then calls him a full member of the family. That type of love, forgiveness, and mercy are essential to what the Church is. It seems to me that the pro-life movement would benefit from taking a similar role.

      2. Now the Church also thinks that it’s a good idea for society to hold the serial killer responsible, but regulating that and enforcing that is not the Church’s role. And this question about how society should handle actors that harm others is a complex one, involving many different facts and considerations. It’s important to remember that not every evil (even grave evil) should be prohibited by law. And it’s important to remember that what is punished and how it should be punished differs greatly depending on the circumstances of society: what should be punished in one society might be something that should not be punished in another society. So just as I think that there are good societal reasons for the grave moral evil of adultery to not be punished by imprisonment, there are good societal reasons for abortion to not be punished by imprisonment.

      3. I suspect that convicted murderers released from prison have quite a low rate of recidivism because they’ve been in prison for a long time and so aren’t back in the real world for as long, and because the penalty for murder is so high. But so what? You know what crime has a high level of recidivism? Shoplifting. You know what the best way to cut down the recidivism of shoplifting would be? Life imprisonment. But it’s silly to think that society should require life sentences for shoplifters. There are good societal reasons to think that that is not an appropriate punishment. Likewise with abortion. Furthermore, preventing recidivism is not the sole and final goal of the pro-life movement. The primary goal is to change the hearts and minds of women, and of the rest of society. Obviously, that is better done not through imprisonment, but through showing women love and care.

      4. I’ve made this point to you before: there is nothing inconsistent with society treating a person who kills another human being — and thus who commits murder under its ordinary definition, and not legal definition — differently depending on the circumstances of the situation. The law recognizes a wide variety of situations and levels of culpability for an actor who kills another human being. So it’s not inconsistent to say “abortion is the killing of a human being, and therefore, fits the ordinary definition of murder”, and to say “but in our society, it is not appropriate to punish the woman who seeks an abortion with imprisonment.”

      5. You fault the pro-life movement for saying that abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, and you say that it is not morally serious because if abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, then the pro-life movement would have to advocate for civil punishment equivalent to that of murder. In points 2, 3, and 4, I’ve given reasons why it’s not a violation of “moral seriousness” to think that an act is morally evil, but to oppose societal prohibition or punishment of the act at some level. But let me turn the question on you: what do you think is the moral status of a 36-week, late-3rd-trimester fetus, and what is the moral status of terminating this entity’s life? Is that an entirely morally neutral act? From your comments, it seems that you would be forced to say that it is a morally neutral act.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
        December 15, 2011 8:45 pm

        Well said, Thales.

      • December 16, 2011 12:39 am

        Thales,

        Actually, what really bewilders me is not that pro-lifers don’t call for punishment of women who procure abortions. It is the apparent belief that they are morally blameless. The standard talk I get is that society has duped them into thinking a fetus is just a clump of cells, or that they are so desperate that they are minimally culpable. It’s all the fault of the “abortion industry.” As I recall it, in the early days of the anti-abortion movement, the talk was of women who had abortions for trivial reasons, like the pregnancy would interfere with a skiing vacation planned a few months ahead. But that tack didn’t work, so the new one became the victimhood of women who had abortions, and the terrible trauma of living with yourself after having had an abortion. As I said elsewhere, I think the pro-life movement romanticizes women who have abortions.

        what do you think is the moral status of a 36-week, late-3rd-trimester fetus, and what is the moral status of terminating this entity’s life? Is that an entirely morally neutral act? From your comments, it seems that you would be forced to say that it is a morally neutral act.

        If the mother is in good health, the killing of a healthy fetus shortly before birth would be morally equivalent to killing it shortly after birth. It would also be illegal.

      • Thales permalink
        December 16, 2011 9:59 am

        David,

        I don’t know how familiar you are with women seeking abortions. My wife works in a crisis pregnancy center, and many women coming in do mental games to themselves and say to themselves “a fetus is just a clump of cells,” and many of them are so desperate that their culpability is undoubtedly minimized. I’ll repeat myself again: I believe that the majority of pregnant women would choose an alternative to abortion if every emotional and financial concern they had associated with the pregnancy was taken care of. I suspect that it’s a minority of women who purposefully, intentionally, and with full knowledge and will, with no mitigating circumstances that are pressuring them to abortion, who choose abortion. But it happens. So you’re right to say that some women are not morally blameless when it comes to abortion (and perhaps a majority have some level of moral blame, even if it is slight).

        But even having said that, I don’t think the pro-life community thinks that all women are completely morally blameless. Remember, the pro-life community continually says that the act is a moral evil, and the Church says that if done with full intention and knowledge, it’s a excommunicable offense. So let’s grant that women are in part morally to blame for abortions… but so what? Again, as I said above, the best way to deal with such a person is with love and care, and the pro-life community generally recognizes that — that’s the best way to change the person’s heart and to help the person who has just done a terribly damaging act (even if the person doesn’t think so). It’s similar to what I think should be done with a person who attempts suicide, even though they’re not completely morally blameless, and just as the Church treats any person who commits sin, even though they are not morally blameless.

        If the mother is in good health, the killing of a healthy fetus shortly before birth would be morally equivalent to killing it shortly after birth. It would also be illegal.

        Ah, but remember the law of Doe v. Bolton. If her doctor said that having the baby wouldn’t be good for the mother’s emotional health, the abortion would be legal. So it looks like you’re forced to say that based on a women’s emotional health in relation to her fetus, an abortion is either morally neutral or equivalent to killing after birth. That’s a strange position to take, as it makes the moral status of the act dependent entirely on the mother’s attitude to her fetus, and ignores the moral status of the fetus itself, don’t you think?

  9. Anne permalink
    December 15, 2011 2:51 pm

    The treatment Marcotte received is unbecoming a Christian, really, unbecoming anyone who cares enough about someone else’s babies to protest abortion. I know from experience that pro-lifers can get pretty self-righteous and act badly as a result. The irony is the very same people who criticize such behavior so often turn around and use the fact that most pro-lifers go out of their way to be fair to women burdened by troubled pregnancies to argue that EVERYBODY KNOWS instinctively that an unborn baby doesn’t deserve the same civil rights afforded the rest of us since even pro-lifers don’t demand legal sanctions, much less the death penalty, be given mothers in these situations. IOW, pro-lifers get damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Sigh.

  10. Anne permalink
    December 15, 2011 4:01 pm

    Note: I want to make sure it’s understood that I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on Kyle’s posting, or demean in any way Marcotte’s very valid complaints. I just find it frustrating when pro-choicers make the argument, as they so often do, that the very fact that pro-lifers don’t demand that the mothers of aborted fetuses be prosecuted for murder or even manslaughter is PROOF that even they realize the unborn aren’t REALLY human beings with inalienable rights, etc., etc. This is, in fact, one of the main arguments, if not THE main argument, I’ve heard for why abortion should not be a crime…i.e., the fact that even those opposed to abortion admit by their actions if not their words that the fetus is and always has been understood by all to be essentially “different” and less worthy of legal protections than a child that’s been born. Unfortunately, the argument practically dares pro-lifers to act as Marcotte complains many already do.

  11. December 15, 2011 4:54 pm

    The Newsweek article is a propaganda piece against anti-choicers (AKA pro-lifers), and it makes every possible effort to depict Jennie McCormack as the hapless victim of an unjust law and a heartless community. Evidently the piece is being promoted in exactly that way by readers who see abortion-on-demand as essential to the progressive agenda. Following the lead of one of those readers, Kyle’s post excoriates “cruel, misogynistic anti-abortion crusaders more keen on punishing and controlling women than protecting the unborn.” He would include among them, evidently, the community members who shunned Jennie McCormack after they had seen her mugshot in the newspaper.

    Amanda Marcotte cites The Scarlet Letter as an example of what she considers a small-town community’s narrow-mindedness in branding and shunning those who depart from its mores. For her, I think, tolerance (for all except social conservatives anyway) is probably the cardinal virtue and perhaps the only absolute moral standard. It strikes me that the rise in this sort of PC broadmindedness has been, at best, a mixed blessing, and at worst, a key component in the social trend Daniel Patrick Moynihan accurately described as “defining deviancy down.”

    I’m curious whether Kyle thinks Jennie McCormack’s community should in any way whatsoever express its disapproval of a woman who has chosen to make herself a central figure in a renewed effort to expand so-called abortion rights, as the title of the article itself illustrates. Or would it be better for those who doubt the wisdom of her course to pretend otherwise and hope that she will someday see the error of her ways?

  12. Rodak permalink
    December 15, 2011 6:38 pm

    I wonder if anybody is going to answer Anne’s completely accurate assessment of the situation? She has shown the flipside of the point I was trying to make above. She is exactly correct: if the women are not as guilty as the practitioners (if not moreso), then abortion is not really a crime. If a wife hires a gunman to kill her husband, is she not guilty of murder? Yes, she is. So, if a woman hires a doctor to murder her unborn child, is she not guilty of murder? Apparently not. Deal with it.

    • December 15, 2011 8:01 pm

      It’s a double-standard that even many pro-lifers hold in order to be politically acceptable.

      Yes, mothers who hand their children over for slaughter are (all subjective mitigating factors of the internal forum aside) bloody murderers. There’s no way around it.

      • Pentimento permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:15 pm

        Perhaps. But what is the appropriate Christian response to them? I would say shunning and condemning is not it, especially where they are repentant. Cardinal O’Connor asserted that post-abortive women would be the future of the pro-life movement, which, if true, means that the pro-lifers who believe that they themselves would never commit such heinous acts will have to find a way to integrate them into their community and give them positions of leadership.

        It’s worth mentioning, too, that those who would never commit such heinous acts should not attribute it to their own merits, but to the grace of God It’s hard to tell what we wouldn’t do when pushed to the wall.

    • Thales permalink
      December 15, 2011 8:15 pm

      Rodak,
      I answered something similar in my response to David. In short, not every moral evil should be prohibited by law; in law, it’s not unusual to have similar moral evils prohibited (or not prohibited) in different ways with different penalties, depending on the circumstances; and sometimes some moral evils should actually be permitted (or not prohibited) by law, with society seeking to curb this moral evil by other means. Finally, the morality of an action is not dependent on the legality of the action.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      December 15, 2011 8:54 pm

      Rodak, I think the problem is that you are using the word murder so broadly as to result in category error. Abortion is, to use a technical term, a homicide. But not all homicides should be described as murder. Both morally and legally, there are different categories of homicide: capital murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, self-defense. And abortion, which is sui generis. For lots of reasons, abortion can and should be distinguished from the other types of homicide. So, in your example, hiring a hitman to kill her husband and hiring a doctor to perform an abortion are both homicides (“murder” in your loose language) but that in no way forces them into the same category to be dealt with in the same way.

      • Rodak permalink
        December 15, 2011 9:34 pm

        With all due respect, David, I don’t understand your reasoning here. If a fetus is a human person, with the right to life; and if, in a premeditated, deliberate act, that life is destroyed–how is that not murder? By what definition?
        Now, granted, right now it is not even a crime, so long as it is performed by a licensed physician. But, if the the right-to-life movement achieved its ends, why would it not be murder in the first degree? I think that you are again making Anne’s point, which is that a fetus is not REALLY considered to be a human person in the full sense of the term, even by most pro-lifers.

      • December 16, 2011 12:47 am

        David Cruz-Uribe,

        Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and a great many pro-lifers have called abortion murder. Those of us who criticize the pro-life movement for being inconsistent in absolving of blame women who procure abortions have not made the charge that abortion is murder. We are reacting to the charge that the Catholic Church and the pro-life movement has made.

      • Thales permalink
        December 16, 2011 8:57 am

        Rodak,

        Legally, it’s not murder. But it’s the killing of a human being. As I said above, it’s not unusual for society to craft laws and corresponding legal punishments for different situations, depending on the circumstances. For example, I think suicide is the intentional killing of a human being, and thus a grave moral evil, but I don’t think people who attempt suicide should be penalized in any way (though in the past, often they were — I’m glad to see such laws changed). Instead, they should be shown love, mercy and care. Likewise with abortive women.

        that a fetus is not REALLY considered to be a human person in the full sense of the term, even by most pro-lifers.

        Let me assure you, Rodak, as a “pro-lifer” myself, that I consider a 36-week, late-3rd-trimester fetus to be a human person in the full sense of the term — just as much as the 35-week born-alive infant lying in his mother’s arms — but that a women who has an abortion of the 36-week fetus should not be penalized with life imprisonment. You don’t think the 36-week fetus is as much a human as the 35-week infant?

  13. December 16, 2011 12:06 am

    David, I see now that you know regrettably little about abortion and the circumstances that lead women to choose it. You should familiarize yourself with the Sisters of Life, an order started by Cardinal O’Connor.

    Pentimento,

    You, the Sisters of Life, and others involved in the pro-life movement are very likely to have a distorted idea of the typical woman who procures an abortion. You are likely to have experience either with women who have unplanned pregnancies and do not want to have abortions, or women who have had abortions and regret it.

    It implies that NRLC is not overly sympathetic to the desperate plight of most women who choose abortion, which is a pity.

    I think you are inventing your own reality. I don’t think the typical woman who chooses abortion has a “desperate plight.” Abortion is not really expensive (especially compared to pregnancy plus hospital delivery), many women are covered by insurance, and 15 states (including New York and California) provide abortions to poor women through Medicaid. As I keep repeating, approximately half of women having abortions are having their second (or third, or fourth). Abortion has been legal for four decades, and I think a great many women simply take abortion for granted.

    I think the pro-life movement in some ways romanticizes women who have abortions. I don’t doubt that there are many heartbreaking stories about women who have unplanned pregnancies and don’t want to have abortions, or women who have had abortions and regret it. But I have never seen any data suggesting that is typical, and all the anecdotal information from people involved in the pro-life movement doesn’t add up to reliable information.

    • Pentimento permalink
      December 16, 2011 9:59 am

      David, you seem not to understand what I mean by desperation. You are talking about finances; I am talking about emotional desperation. Moreover, you seem have based your opinion of women seeking abortions and the reasons for it solely upon Guttmacher statistics, and to have a dismissive attitude to actual experience.

      You suggest that I am “inventing my own reality.” I’m a post-abortive woman, and have volunteered with other such women, and with women in crisis pregnancies, one of whom was persuaded not to abort a second time and is the mother of my goddaughter. She’s an illegal immigrant and my family supports her.

      What is your own experience with women and abortion? And, moreover, what is your point? Is it to expose pro-lifers as willful innocents who choose perversely think well of those who commit evil?

      What reality are you inventing?

      • December 16, 2011 10:43 am

        Pentimento,

        I have no wish to take away from the good work you are doing, and in fact I donate to a local crisis pregnancy center here in New York. I also do not in any way deny your personal experiences. But your personal experiences do not put you into contact with women who find themselves unintentionally pregnant, schedule an abortion without agonizing over it, and feel no regrets after having it. Here are my two closest experiences with abortion.

        First, years ago, when I and my friends were starting our careers, a married woman who was one of my closest friends at the time accidentally became pregnant. She was very close with her parents, who were quite well off and frequently visited, bearing armloads of groceries. There was no question that she would have an abortion. The arrangements were made by her family. I don’t remember anyone in our entire group raising any moral concerns, and she seemed to be mildly upset that there was a baby inside her that was going to be taken away, but I detected no moral qualms at all. She had the abortion and was fine. She never once mentioned or gave any signs of having regrets. She and her husband later got a dog to have the experience of having something to be responsible for caring for, in preparation for eventual parenthood. Some years later, when she was professionally well situated, she had a baby.

        The other experience was indirect, and it was in the same group of friends. Someone told us in passing that his niece, who lived in what might be called an inner city or even ghetto, was having (if I remember correctly) her fifth abortion, “and she didn’t care.”

        I have no doubt all of your experience are real, but I also have no doubt that a great many women—almost certainly the vast majority—have abortions without significant trauma or regrets. The fact that over half a million women a year who have abortions have had at least one abortion previously is a strong indication that women who have abortions don’t have regrets—or at least they don’t regret the first abortion enough not to have a second. Just think of it! If every woman who had one abortion vowed never to have a second, the abortion rate in the United States would be instantly cut in half.

        Here’s another telling statistic. While we don’t know how many women with unwanted pregnancies simply keep the baby and raise it, we do know that 1.3 million abort and only about 14 thousand a year carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption.

        Perhaps I should not say you are inventing a reality, but merely that you are taking your own personal experiences to be the norm. They simply don’t appear to be.

        • Pentimento permalink
          December 16, 2011 11:08 am

          David, you write: “I have no doubt all of your experience are real, but I also have no doubt that a great many women—almost certainly the vast majority—have abortions without significant trauma or regrets.”

          What makes you conclude that the vast majority have abortions without “significant trauma or regrets”? In order to convincingly make this argument, you would need to define trauma and regret, and control for them in varying degrees. You would also need to control for cultural differences and family differences among a diverse population in expressing, dealing with, or admitting to such trauma or regret.

          Further, you would need to provide numbers more concrete than “a great many” or “the vast majority.”

          In addition, the fact that women have repeat abortions is not evidence of lack of regret. You really need to familiarize yourself more with either the literature or with actual post-abortive women besides the one you use as an example.

          As far as 1.3 million women aborting and 14,000 women placing for adoption, you are leaving out of the equation the women who end up carrying to term and parenting. Placing for adoption is usually the last possible choice for women with unplanned pregnancies, because the social stigma no longer adheres to unwed motherhood.

      • December 16, 2011 11:27 am

        Pentimento,

        Any studies I cite about whether or not women regret abortions will be discounted by you as coming from those who want to promote abortion. But here’s one:

        Study Says Most Women Don’t Regret Abortion

        WebMD Health News
        Aug. 22, 2000 — The impact of an abortion on a woman’s mental health has been questioned for years. Some studies have suggested that many women suffer depression, regret and even a form of post-traumatic stress disorder called ‘post-abortion syndrome.’

        But a study out this month finds that 80% of women were not depressed after having an abortion. In fact, the rate of depression in the postabortion group was equal to the rate of depression in the general population. As for post-traumatic stress symptoms, the rate was 1% in the postabortion group compared with an estimated 11% in women of the same age in the general population.

        The study’s authors say the results agree with previous studies — including one by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD — showing that severe mental distress following an abortion is rare.

        “Most women were satisfied with their decision, believed they had benefited more than had been harmed by their abortion, and would have the abortion again,” writes study author Brenda Major, PhD. “These findings refute claims that women typically regret an abortion.” Major is a professor of psychology at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

        For the study, published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, Major and colleagues interviewed 882 women undergoing abortion. The interviews were conducted prior to abortion, immediately after the procedure, and, for 442 women, again two years later.

        Nearly 70% of women reported being satisfied with the decision, and 72% reported more benefit than harm. Of those who reported depression or regret after the abortion, most were depressed or had emotional problems prior to becoming pregnant. . . .

        You’ll also find a number of studies cited in this Wikipedia entry.

        Do you have any data to suggest that these studies are inaccurate?

        • Pentimento permalink
          December 16, 2011 11:48 am

          Yes, of course I will. : ) I’ve read these studies. There are others that provide a very different picture.

    • Thales permalink
      December 16, 2011 10:04 am

      You, the Sisters of Life, and others involved in the pro-life movement are very likely to have a distorted idea of the typical woman who procures an abortion. You are likely to have experience either with women who have unplanned pregnancies and do not want to have abortions, or women who have had abortions and regret it.

      Sorry, David, that betrays a real ignorance of who the Sisters of Life and many others in the pro-life movement actually interact with on a regular basis. I guess you don’t have to believe me, but I can tell you that they’re interacting with women who are inclined to have abortions because they’re scared, have no financial support, no family support, in abusive or non-existent relationships with the fathers, etc….

      • December 16, 2011 11:34 am

        Thales,

        You seem to misunderstand me. I am saying that those who do things like run crisis pregnancy centers or do post-abortion counseling don’t tend to come in contact with women who have no qualms about having an abortion and no regrets after they do so.

        If psychiatrists generalize from their own clinical experience, they will say the world is full of people with psychiatric problems.

      • Thales permalink
        December 16, 2011 1:49 pm

        And I’m saying that those who do run things like crisis pregnancy centers come in contact with women who are seeking abortions all the time.

      • December 16, 2011 2:09 pm

        And I’m saying that women who simply choose to have abortions, arrange for them, have them, and are not troubled by the results don’t go to crisis pregnancy centers. For a great many women—the majority, I am confident—an unwanted pregnancy isn’t a crisis. It’s a medical issue to be taken care of by a trip or two to a clinic. Women seeking abortions don’t go to crisis pregnancy centers unless they are tricked into it, because the kind of crisis pregnancy centers you are talking about don’t perform abortions and don’t refer women for abortions.

      • Thales permalink
        December 16, 2011 3:08 pm

        For a great many women—the majority, I am confident—an unwanted pregnancy isn’t a crisis.

        I’m surprised by your confidence. First, from your anecdotes, it didn’t sound like you have actually encountered that many women seeking abortions or dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Second, no one hopes to have an abortion; it’s a necessary evil in order to take care of an unplanned pregnancy, which is generally viewed as an emergency situation that is messing up one’s life in a significant way and has to be taken care of quickly before it gets worse — which would fit many people’s definition of “crisis.”

        I don’t doubt that there are women who are not troubled by their unwanted pregnancy and about their choice to have an abortion. I was just responding to your initial assertion that those who work in the pro-life movement and are involved with crisis pregnancies only work with “women who have unplanned pregnancies and do not want to have abortions,” as that’s simply not true.

  14. December 16, 2011 1:58 am

    It’s seems that much of this comment thread was prone to suggest or advocate that the pro-life movement is (or should be) (or is hypocritical for not being) desirous to prosecute women for procuring abortions. I think the actual article cited in the post shows that line of reasoning to be false:

    It’s a bad case for both sides. The fact that McCormack kept a 4-month-old fetus frozen in the winter chill on her back porch is the sort of ghoulish image pro-choice activists try to avoid. For pro-life advocates, supporting her arrest would contradict a longstanding policy of targeting providers while holding women blameless. “It would require a massive change in direction if the anti-abortion movement now supported the criminal prosecution of women directly, which is why McCormack is troubling,” says Cynthia Gorney, a former Washington Post reporter and the author of Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars. “It would violate everything they built the movement on.” [empnasis added]</blockquote

    • Rodak permalink
      December 16, 2011 10:03 am

      @ Tausign —

      “is” and “should be” and “is hypocritical for not being” are not one, but three distinct lines of reasoning. That is the issue.
      For my part, I hold with the latter of the three lines of reasoning: if abortion should be deemed to be murder (or manslaughter, or aggravated assualt, etc.)–i.e. a crime–then the woman who has sought it out and paid to have it done to the fetus in her body is at least as guilty as the provider. I have yet to see a good reason presented why this would not be the case.

      If, on the other hand, the woman would not guilty of a crime, then no crime could have been committed and any law making abortion a crime would be invalid and unconstitutional.

      (I think that an exception to this could, under any circumstances, reasonably be made for late-term pregnancies in which the fetus would be viable outside of the womb. A good case could be made that this constitutes infanticide, which is already illegal.)

      • December 16, 2011 2:09 pm

        Rodak,

        I’m being ‘inclusive’ in order to cover the various strains of argument that’s trying to tag the acceptance and practice of abortion with one gender only. And then further to punish through criminalization those who accept ‘the general solution of abortion’ which our society has sanctioned and embraced.

        Those who make these backwards arguments are akin to the village elders who dragged the woman caught in adultery before Jesus with stones clutched in their hands. After all, that woman was guilty of sin…

  15. December 16, 2011 10:58 am

    Let me assure you, Rodak, as a “pro-lifer” myself, that I consider a 36-week, late-3rd-trimester fetus to be a human person in the full sense of the term — just as much as the 35-week born-alive infant lying in his mother’s arms — but that a women who has an abortion of the 36-week fetus should not be penalized with life imprisonment. You don’t think the 36-week fetus is as much a human as the 35-week infant?

    Thales,

    First, I doubt that there are any abortions at all performed at 35 weeks, so I don’t know what your point is. No one would condone an abortion so late in pregnancy if there were not some urgent medical reason for it, and I can’t imagine any.

    Second, it seems to me you are again shooting yourself in the foot by implying there is no difference (except “geography,” as some say) between an infant in the womb and an infant that has been born. If there is no moral difference, why no moral condemnation for a woman who has an abortion but shock and horror (and prison time) for a woman who strangles her newborn infant?

    If the moral worth of a human life at the moment of conception is equal to that of an adult, why make a distinction in the gravity of killing one versus the other.

    The law recognizes a wide variety of situations and levels of culpability for an actor who kills another human being.

    This is true, but there are extremely few distinctions made between cases of deliberate and premeditated killing of an innocent human being. The only distinction I can think of is between killing of a law enforcement officer and a civilian. All other distinctions regarding types of killing involve factors such as whether the killing was deliberate, planned in advance, and so on. What you are arguing is that an abortion and the killing of an adult are both the deliberate, premeditated killing of an innocent human being, but there should be no punishment for abortion because the victim was in the womb.

  16. December 16, 2011 11:08 am

    Quite simply, if abortion is going to be treated as a social harm, the women who procure them should be treated as the ones causing the most social harm. There is room for understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Women are either culpable for their acts or they should be institutionalized for their own protection and the protection of society. That men overwhelmingly would make the same choices as women if they were faced with these situations doesn’t really change the equation.

    With due respect to the author above, this attitude is exactly at the heart of the problem. It plays right into the hands of the abortion mentality. Abortion itself is the transformation from blaming women to blaming the child…yet some take exception and thrust the blame back onto women. Abortion has become generally acceptable and almost the perscriptive solution in our culture. Therefore, finding the moral deficiencies in the most confused and vulnerable and projecting the blame on them is scandalous even when they are culpable. It’s time to step back and refocus. As tragic and extreme as Jeannie McCormack’s situation is, it highligths the contradictions involved even in the most routine abortion.

    This woman lacked EVERYTHING including a sense of her own self-worth. Read the article and see for yourself the litany of obstacles to a normal life. She was fearful of communication with her family (rightly or wrongly). She was not well regarded in the community. She had multiple men in her life, the latest of which was in jail. No money or job and seeking aid. No knowledge of her own body or the stage of new life within her. We know little about those around her accept for the inferences of outside commentator’s (who knows what the reality was?).

    So what’s the solution to this mess? Ideally its the hard work of rebuilding a life, reintegration into society and reconciliation with God and oneself. Which, by the way, is where the pro-life community tries to respond. But alas, they’re not perfect, because they’re thrown offstride by rotting fetuses and the enormity of the real enemy, the so called ‘culture of death’.

    So what are the alternative solutions? Apparently the cheapest is only $200 worth of toxicity…administered to oneself…by oneself…in true alienation…that will make all of this go away. Good for society (problem solved)…good for the father (problem solved)…Oh, and as far as the young Jeannie goes…the fun of airing this in public as the next Jane Roe…after her arrest of course.

    • December 16, 2011 1:53 pm

      My last sentence was inappropriately sarcastic and should have read…’Oh, and as far as the young Jeannie goes…the depression associated with airing this in public as the next Jane Roe…after her arrest of course.

  17. Rodak permalink
    December 16, 2011 11:23 am

    “You don’t think the 36-week fetus is as much a human as the 35-week infant?”

    @Thales–
    Understand that I am not arguing either pro- or con- in this discussion, but only trying to help the discussion come up with an intellectually consistent argument on one side, or the other, by pointing out what I see to be inconsistencies.

    As for your question above, I just answered it directly, in my previous comment.

    • Thales permalink
      December 16, 2011 2:30 pm

      Rodak,

      Let me see if I’m getting you right. It seems that you’re saying:
      (1) If abortion is the intentional killing of a human being, then abortion is murder (or manslaughter or aggravated assault, etc.), and that means abortion is a crime (because murder, manslaughter, etc. are crimes), and women who commit this crime should be punished (because women who commit murder, etc. are punished).
      And
      (2) If, on the other hand, the woman is not punished for a crime, then she is not guilty of a crime, and that means no crime could have been committed and any law making abortion a crime would be invalid and unconstitutional.

      Am I describing your statements correctly? From these, you seem to be saying that the pro-life movement is hypocritical, because they don’t accept the logical consequences of (1) and (2) — namely, that if you think abortion is the illegal killing of a human being, then you need to be in favor of punishment for the women.

      The problem, Rodak, is that (1) and (2) aren’t logically necessary thoughts. In (1), for example, there are instances where the intentional killing of a human being is not a crime (e.g., self-defense); and there are instances where the intentional killing of a human being is not punished by imprisonment (e.g., when circumstances obviate a sentence of imprisonment on some aggravate assault charge) there are also instances where the intentional killing of a human being is not a crime that is prosecuted, but still morally evil (suicide is the best example). I think the example of assisted suicide is interesting too: there, the assisting person is prosecuted for murder (and might be punished with imprisonment), while the person who sought the assistance (and who may be as morally culpable as the assisting person) is not prosecuted.

      Your statement (2) is likewise not logically necessary. There are plenty of instances of moral evils — even moral evils that hurt other people and hurt society dramatically — that are not prosecuted and not punished with imprisonment. Pornography, various instances of lying, and adultery are obvious examples.

      The point is, there is nothing hypocritical about thinking that abortion is a moral evil done to another human being and that this moral evil should be discouraged or constrained, but that one of the doers of that evil (the woman) shouldn’t be punished under the law.

      • Rodak permalink
        December 16, 2011 9:54 pm

        Thales —

        If you are saying that abortion is more comparable to self-defense than it is to first-degree murder (etc.), I am sure that you will find many in the pro-choice camp who will agree with you.
        That said, what you don’t seem to realize in your analysis of the position I’ve posed, is that some analogies are better than others. Abortion is more like first-degree murder than it is like self-defense.
        Your best analogy above is the one to assisted suicide. Where that one breaks down, however, is that if the suicide is successful, the second guilty party (the analogy for the mother in abortion) is beyond punishment. Therefore, my analogy is more applicable to the question at hand than are any of your alternatives, and I stand by my conclusions.

      • Thales permalink
        December 17, 2011 9:27 am

        Rodak,
        The analogy of abortion to self-defense is a supremely silly one, but I’m not at the moment trying to start that debate. I am only making the point that there is nothing illogical (or “hypocritical” as you describe it) about thinking that certain immoral acts should not have certain societal punishments attached (like imprisonment), even while similar acts are punished by society.

  18. Liam permalink
    December 16, 2011 12:58 pm

    It might to keep in perspective the reality of abortion law in the US in the century before Roe: it was directed at abortionists, and criminal penalties were primarily directed at abortionists, not the mothers. Mothers were treated as a vague combination of victim and accomplice.

    • Rodak permalink
      December 16, 2011 1:20 pm

      @ Liam–
      Isn’t that generally reflective of the overall attitude towards women in the century before Roe?

    • December 16, 2011 1:45 pm

      Liam,

      There are “trigger laws” in some states, ready to go into effect if Roe v Wade is overturned, and based on them (and on virtually everything that comes from the mouths of pro-life legislators), future anti-abortion legislation in the United States (if Roe is indeed overturned) will resemble past legislation. It is the fact that pro-lifers (and particularly the Catholic Church) insist that abortion is murder. It is one thing not to hold women who procure abortion legally liable. That can be justified on the basis of legal expediency. People just do not like the idea of punishing women who have abortions. It would be difficult or impossible to pass a law that punished women. The question is why pro-lifers seem to exempt women who procure abortions from moral accountability. If abortion is murder, how are women who procure abortion any different from other murderers, or, if you will, people who hire hit men? Why are we automatically supposed to offer our compassion to women who murder their own children by abortion? And why is it that, although the Church excommunicates women who procure abortions, the general public does not want to see women punished for having abortions?

      Several months ago, Arizona passed a law banning abortion for the purpose of sex selection. Some legislators suggested a penalty for mothers who had abortions for the purpose of sex selection, but they could not muster enough support in the legislature even among pro-lifers. Now, in American culture, is the pressure so intense on a woman to have a boy and only a boy (or a girl and only a girl) that she deserves our compassion if she aborts a child because of its gender?

      Since one of the best predictors of having an abortion is having had one before, would it be outrageous to require a woman who has her first abortion to pay a modest fine and go through some kind of program to try to prevent her from having another abortion? Apparently so. Pro-lifers do not want to impose anything on a woman who has an abortion—not even some kind of education that might prevent her from having another one. They have no problem at all in imposing requirements on women seeking abortions (waiting periods, listening to scripts to assure informed consent, etc.), but once a woman has had an abortion, the pro-life movement wants nothing but to show her compassion.

      In a very real sense, I do think it is “pro-choice” not to impose even a token penalty on a woman for having an abortion. The strategy of the pro-life movement is not to deter women from choosing abortion. It is to leave women free to chose abortion but merely to attempt to make abortions more difficult to get.

      • Thales permalink
        December 16, 2011 2:55 pm

        The question is why pro-lifers seem to exempt women who procure abortions from moral accountability. If abortion is murder, how are women who procure abortion any different from other murderers, or, if you will, people who hire hit men? Why are we automatically supposed to offer our compassion to women who murder their own children by abortion?

        First, keep in mind that there are a significant number of women whose culpability is stunted, because they don’t have full knowledge about abortion, full freedom of the will, or are pressured by circumstances. But set that aside, I’ll grant that many (most?) women have some level of moral culpability; and that those who have abortions with full knowledge and full intention are morally equivalent to murderers, with full moral culpability. So what? The best way to change the hearts and minds of these people are to show them care and compassion. That’s the way the Church acts with regard to the most evil of sinners.

        The strategy of the pro-life movement is not to deter women from choosing abortion. It is to leave women free to chose abortion but merely to attempt to make abortions more difficult to get.

        These lines, on their face, are contradictory. “The strategy is not to deter… but it is to make it more difficult.”…. isn’t that the same thing? Regardless, I think I understand your point: the pro-life strategy wants to put “penalties” on the front end, but not on the back end. But here’s what you seem to overlook: there are different ways to change someone’s mind and dissuade someone from making a bad decision. You can do it by imposing a fine and jail time on the back end — obviously, imposing life sentences on any woman who has an abortion would dissuade women from having abortions. Or you can impose regulations on the front end — waiting periods and required literature/ultrasounds that better inform a woman about what an abortion is, tends to dissuade women from abortions. There’s nothing hypocritical about liking the latter instead of the former. Not only is the former legally impossible under the Constitution, but more importantly, it’s abhorrent to the general public AND it doesn’t tend to change people’s hearts and minds (instead it does the opposite.)

        once a woman has had an abortion, the pro-life movement wants nothing but to show her compassion.

        I’ll register again my fascination at the strangeness of this conversation, where the pro-life movement is being criticized for being too compassionate to women.

    • M.Z. permalink
      December 16, 2011 3:33 pm

      This is one of those memes. Someone went searching for prosecutions of women for having abortions, didn’t find any, and made assumptions. The truth is that there were plenty of laws on the book holding women legally culpable. The problem with prosecutions has always been proving abortion over miscarriage. The burden of proof for engaging in witchcraft was softer, and so that is where the prosecutions take place. Abortion as surgical procedure didn’t come about until the mid-1900s. Prior to surgical abortion, chemical cocktails and other methods were used.

      And while we are back in the olden days, it would do well to remember that one of the main arguments against legalized abortion is that women would go behind their husbands’ backs and get one. This is why abortion rights came out of the women’s movement.

      • December 16, 2011 6:43 pm

        Actually, the movement to decriminalize abortion started among “white male doctors” in the AMA during the 1940s. As medical technology grew by leaps and bounds during the twentieth century, there were fewer cases in which it was nessesary for a woman to have an abortion to save her life. Many women, especially those from wealthy backgrounds, were getting elective abortions under the guise of a having another medical problem, such as appendicitis. Consequently, some doctors feared that with the hospital option closed to them that these women would procure back alley abortions and that the procedure should be decriminalized. It should be noted that these doctors weren’t concerned with ideas about a woman’s autonomy, but with untrained individuals doing surgery. They thought that doctors should be the ones to decide if a woman needed an abortion, not the state, not the clergy, and certainly not the woman herself. Feminists at the time were divided on the issue of abortion, much as they were about birth control several decades earlier. Planned Parenthood, for example, was against abortion until Roe v. Wade, claiming that access to reliable birth control would eliminate the need for abortion in the first place. Abortion didn’t really become an “orthodox” feminist viewpoint until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the culture wars really started in earnest.

        What many people don’t understand about Roe v. Wade was that more than half of the states had already decriminalized abortion before the ruling was even handed down and in places that you wouldn’t expect. Lester Maddox, a notorious segregationist and former governor of Georgia, convened a meeting with some clergymen to ask if he could legalize abortion and get away with it (the answer was “yes”). When Roe v. Wade was handed down, the reaction was rather understated. The only religious groups that condemned it were the Mormons, the Union of Orthodox Judaism, and the Catholic Church. Of these, only the Catholic Church had enough clout and interest to mount a public battle against the ruling. Most Protestants in the 1970s, even those belonging to conservative denominations, thought that pro-life activism was a weird “Catholic” thing. They didn’t really get into the pro-life movement until the mid-1980s. In fact, if you do some digging around on the Southern Baptist Convention website, you can find a resolution from the 1970s that states that abortion is a legitimate decision in some cases.

  19. December 16, 2011 5:00 pm

    I’ll register again my fascination at the strangeness of this conversation, where the pro-life movement is being criticized for being too compassionate to women.

    Thales,

    I think it is great that the pro-life movement is compassionate when it comes to women who will have or have had abortions. I am not criticizing anyone for being too compassionate. I am criticizing what seems to be a glaring intellectual inconsistency, especially for Catholics. Abortion is murder, but women who procure abortions are not morally responsible. Or so many of them are not that we must regard all of them as if they were not. We can require counseling for a woman who is seeking an abortion, but God forbid requiring counseling for a woman because she had an abortion. If abortion becomes illegal, we can fine an abortionist $100,000 and put him in prison for up to 10 years, but the woman who pays him to commit this heinous crime can’t be fined $1.

    Can you think of any other case in which a person can go scott free if he or she engages another person to commit a felony and pays that person to do so?

    • Thales permalink
      December 17, 2011 9:42 am

      David,

      Your logical flaw is that you keep on inflating someone doing an immoral act with the necessity of a societal punishment. Sure, societal punishments are often linked to immoral acts (imprisonment for serial killers, for example), but that is not a necessary connection. Oftentimes, it is inappropriate and detrimental to society to impose societal punishments on a certain immoral act. Not all immorality should be proscribed by society, and not all morality should be required by society (see Aquinas on Law).

      Abortion is murder, but women who procure abortions are not morally responsible.

      I grant women are morally responsible for abortion (setting aside the technical discussion of culpability being lessened in cases of duress, etc.) But that doesn’t mean that society needs to impose a sanction. As I said above, not all immoral acts require societal punishment. Noww hat is the response of the Church? The Church recognizes this moral culpability, and invites women to change their hearts and to repent. In a similar way, the most effective way for the pro-life movement to change the culture is to recognize that women are morally responsible for abortion, but not to seek societal sanctions and imprisonment, but to invite women to change their hears and to repent. When the Church treats someone with mercy and forgiveness, She isn’t ignoring the moral responsibility; likewise with the pro-life strategy.

      We can require counseling for a woman who is seeking an abortion, but God forbid requiring counseling for a woman because she had an abortion.

      I don’t understand this comment. There is a plenty of counseling being done for women who have had abortions; the pro-life community recognizes a huge need for counseling post-abortion.

      If abortion becomes illegal, we can fine an abortionist $100,000 and put him in prison for up to 10 years, but the woman who pays him to commit this heinous crime can’t be fined $1.

      There’s nothing illogical or hypocritical about this situation. See the example of assisted suicide.

      Can you think of any other case in which a person can go scott free if he or she engages another person to commit a felony and pays that person to do so?

      Yes, assisted suicide.

  20. December 16, 2011 5:51 pm

    [I admit I'm late to the party, and have not read all the preceding comments, so please forgive me if I'm covering ground that has already been covered.]

    I hope you’ll bear with me for a little thought experiment. Suppose we substitute “rape” for “abortion” in Kyle’s post, and turn Jennie McCormack into James McCormack:

    “Sharp-witted nemesis of anti-rapers Amanda Marcotte directed my attention to this article about James McCormack who, according to the story, received some despicable treatment from people after his rape of a neighbor gained unexpected public notoriety. Idaho, where McCormack lives, has a 1972 law, apparently never before enforced, that makes rape a crime punishable by five years in prison. He was arrested after news of his rape reached police. A section in the story reads:

    “After his picture appeared in the paper, McCormack got a part-time job at a dry cleaner, using another name, but people figured out who he was and stopped letting him bag up their clothes, so he quit. On a recent trip to a local state office to apply for aid, he was ignored for hours. “They made it clear what was happening,” he says. “For a while I just sat there, sort of amazed that they were just letting me sit there.” Eventually, he picked up his son and went home.

    “Marcotte seems to view this treatment as typical behavior for those opposed to rape, and, I’m presuming in response to this story, tweeted, “I’m genuinely surprised some times that anti-rapers aren’t trying to require scarlet Rs sewn onto your clothes if you rape a woman.” If Marcotte means this in reference to us “anti-rapers” generally, and that’s how I took her statement, then she’s missing the mark. Yes, you can with a little time and effort find cruel, man-hating anti-rape crusaders more keen on punishing and controlling men than protecting women, and Marcotte knows how to find and expose them. However, I’ve yet knowingly to meet one, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time among anti-rapers. Most anti-rapers really do think feminine dignity and virtue are worth defending. That, I dare say, is what motivates me.

    “Having said this, however, I can see where Marcotte gets the impression that we “anti-rapers” are sinisterly motivated. The alleged reactions of people to McCormack’s rape may not unveil the modus operandi of the typical anti-raper, but, if true, they do suggest a disposition that extends to more than a couple heartless souls. And laws that punish men in James McCormack’s situation with jail time give the impression that “anti-rapers” are also anti-men. We “anti-rapers” have a responsibility to consider how our objectives, if and when realized, will affect men like James McCormack. Saying we’re pro-men isn’t sufficient. And we sure as hell should be kind, welcoming, and respectful to any man who has, for whatever reason, chosen to rape a woman.”

    Surely most of us here agree that abortion is at least as bad as rape (and most I think would agree that it’s worse). So what makes some of us think that men who rape women, or molest children, or cover up for those who do, deserve unhesitating condemnation; but a woman who has “for whatever reason, chosen abortion”, deserves kindness and welcome?

    Is it just the fact that the woman didn’t think there was anything wrong with it? But, a lot of child molesters also claim they didn’t think there was anything wrong with what they did.

    I would appreciate it if people would not make assumptions about where I’m coming from here. I’m playing devil’s advocate in order to try to understand the thinking exhibited in Kyle’s post. I’m not saying that women who have abortion don’t deserve sympathy; and I’m not saying that child molesters do; but I do have a hard time understanding why we should go so much easier on the one than the other.

  21. Anne permalink
    December 16, 2011 9:17 pm

    “I’m not saying that women who have abortion don’t deserve sympathy; and I’m not saying that child molesters do; but I do have a hard time understanding why we should go so much easier on the one than the other.”

    As I noted earlier, pro-choicers say it’s because we all know in our heart of hearts that abortion isn’t really the same as murder. (Note: I’m not saying that, but that’s the pro-choice movement’s most often-cited argument.)

    Personally, I think it’s because American pro-lifers are predominantly Christian, and American Christians are looking, above all else, for prodigal sons (or daughters) and repentant sinners to *testify* to what’s right and lead others to the truth. Sending people to jail doesn’t satisfy that need, urge, calling, what-have-you.

    • December 17, 2011 10:25 am

      Anne writes, “Personally, I think it’s because American pro-lifers are predominantly Christian, and American Christians are looking, above all else, for prodigal sons (or daughters) and repentant sinners to *testify* to what’s right and lead others to the truth. Sending people to jail doesn’t satisfy that need, urge, calling, what-have-you.”

      I get that. But in that case Christians are being inconsistent when they insist that rapists and child molesters should, without question, go to jail, while women who procure abortions should not.

      • Thales permalink
        December 18, 2011 11:56 pm

        But in that case Christians are being inconsistent when they insist that rapists and child molesters should, without question, go to jail, while women who procure abortions should not.

        Agellius,

        One difference I see: rapist/child molestation is almost universally recognized and condemned as evil in our society. Abortion isn’t. If you want to change the hearts and minds of society against abortion, seeking imprisonment for everyone involved in abortion is a terrible idea, since people in society, as a general rule, would consider that policy to be abhorrent. For an analogous situation, consider the slavery example I give below.

        Again, the morality of an act need not correlate necessarily with its treatment by society: as Aquinas says, not all immoral acts should be proscribed and punished by society, especially if it would bring the law into disrepute.

        • December 19, 2011 1:39 pm

          Thales writes, “If you want to change the hearts and minds of society against abortion, seeking imprisonment for everyone involved in abortion is a terrible idea, since people in society, as a general rule, would consider that policy to be abhorrent. For an analogous situation, consider the slavery example I give below.”

          Then are you saying that at some future time, once abortion has been illegal for a good while, it would be appropriate to impose punitive sentences on women who procure them?

          In other words, I’m not necessarily arguing about what we should do right now, in the current circumstances. But rather, what would be appopriate “in an ideal world”, so to speak. Of course in an ideal world, abortions would not occur. But what I mean is, a world in which pro-lifers get their wish with regard to the legal status of abortion.

          Remember this started out with Kyle contending in the OP that it’s terrible the way some pro-lifers treat women who abort. Basically what he describes is a social stigma which people in Idaho attach to abortion.

          Should there not be a stigma attached to it? Maybe in present circumstances, for tactical reasons, pro-lifers should hold back on the stigmatizing. But ideally, should there not be a good deal of shame attached to abortion? At least as much as is attached to rape, child molestation, sexual harassment, racist comments, etc.?

      • Thales permalink
        December 19, 2011 10:39 pm

        Then are you saying that at some future time, once abortion has been illegal for a good while, it would be appropriate to impose punitive sentences on women who procure them?

        No. That’s another debate for another time. It supposes a world very far removed from our current world, one where society a whole recognizes the immorality of abortion. I find Aquinas’s treatise on law very important here: legal prohibitions and punishments that would bring the law into disrepute are inappropriate, and that’s the world we live in today.

        Of course in an ideal world, abortions would not occur.

        If you’re thinking that an ideal world is one where there is legal prohibition of abortions with no abortions occurring by the force of law, then no, that is not an ideal world. An ideal world is one where society generally considers abortion as abhorrent and considers bringing the baby to term as the norm and easily possible. That’s the goal, similar to the way that today, society generally considers slavery to be abhorrent. I don’t think it’s possible to get to that goal by laws prohibiting abortion with attached punitive imprisonment terms.

        Should there not be a stigma attached to it?

        I’m a little uncertain about what you’re thinking of when you say “stigma”. There are different kinds and different levels of stigma. Of course there should be some “stigma” attached to any grave evil, including abortion. But that’s doesn’t mean the individual should suffer from a stigma. In theology, every sin should have stigma attached; but the sinner should not be shamed or stigmatized, but should be welcomed, cared for, and forgiven. So the stigma that the woman in the article suffered was very inappropriate and wrong; she should be cared for and loved. But the act of abortion should still have a stigma attached (which I think it does in our society — consider the fact that most of the pro-choice side (besides a few militant abortion supporters) believe that abortion should be “rare”).

  22. Anne permalink
    December 16, 2011 9:20 pm

    “As I noted earlier, pro-choicers say it’s because we all know in our heart of hearts that abortion isn’t really the same as murder. ”

    And therefore isn’t really a crime, while molesting children quite obviously is.

  23. Pentimento permalink
    December 17, 2011 1:02 am

    By my reckoning, there are two women in this conversation, which is otherwise (like most conversations here) dominated by men.

    No one but myself has confessed to any personal experience with the tragedy — and crime — of abortion.

    And most of this discussion boils down to differing opinions about where to lay the blame and whether to condemn women who commit abortion.

    I’ve read no mention here of the men involved in abortion, i.e. the fathers, though perhaps I’ve missed something. And surprisingly little mention of our responsibilities as Christians to love, forgive, and bind up the wounds of the sinners. There is certainly a time and place, too, to admonish and correct the sinner, but that’s not what’s going on here.

    The pride and armchair self-righteousness apparent in this conversation is unsettling to me. Why are we so focused on the semantics of murder and culpability? Why is there so much isolating — at least theoretical — of grievous sinners? Admonishing the sinner would be far more effective than the tedious bickering going on here.

    Incidentally, it seems somewhat parochial to insist that “American Christians” are looking for prodigal sons and daughters. Repentance and conversion are the very basis of universal Christianity. Cf. the life and conversion of St. Paul.

    I am unsubscribing from this discussion, which I probably should have done days ago. Merry Christmas to all.

    • December 17, 2011 10:41 am

      Pentimento writes, “I’ve read no mention here of the men involved in abortion, i.e. the fathers, though perhaps I’ve missed something.”

      I think that’s because we’re trying to get at the crux of the issue using the most obvious scenario. Fathers introduce a grey area, since if they are responsible, it may or may not be in a direct way. If all they do is “persuade” a mother to abort, would they deserve the same legal punishment as the mother, who is makes the final the decision and signs the consent form to have it done? They may or may not, but it introduces additional complications to the discussion.

      Once we have decided on the culpability of the principal actor, then we can talk about that of secondary players (i.e. not only the doctor but also his assistants, and for that matter everyone who works at his office; and of course the father). But discussing all of those at once would hopelessly confuse the conversation, if we weren’t even clear on the culpability of the mother. Therefore focusing on the mother in this type of discussion should not be construed as considering her the sole culprit.

    • December 17, 2011 11:51 am

      The pride and armchair self-righteousness apparent in this conversation is unsettling to me.

      Pentimento, I’m with you on this. A very distrubing discussion not unlike the latent male sentiment of ‘blaming women for rapes’. I’ve tried to insert the thought of some of these knuckleheads appearing as ‘village elders with stones in their hands’ but they take no offense even at a direct insult.

      I’m gonna repeat a remark I made above: Abortion itself is the transformation from blaming women to blaming the child…yet some take exception and thrust the blame back onto women. Abortion has become generally acceptable and almost the perscriptive solution in our culture. Therefore, finding the moral deficiencies in the most confused and vulnerable and projecting the blame on them is scandalous even when they are culpable.

      Even though you’ve unsubscribe, I hope and pray you peek back to see some solidarity with your position…a true gospel position of understanding and charity.

  24. December 17, 2011 10:55 am

    Penimento writes, “And surprisingly little mention of our responsibilities as Christians to love, forgive, and bind up the wounds of the sinners.”

    I think that is covered in Kyle’s original post, where he says, “… we sure as hell should be kind, welcoming, and respectful to any woman who has, for whatever reason, chosen abortion.”

    Nevertheless, while I often see people arguing that we need to have compassion for women who have had abortions, I have never seen anyone argue that we should have compassion for molesting priests, or bishops who are alleged to have covered up molestations by priests. For them I hear nothing but unequivocal condemnation.

    What I’m asking is, why the difference? Why not compassion for both, or condemnation for both? Don’t they both have “damage” of one kind or another, whether spiritual or psychological, that caused them to act as they did? Aren’t they both suffering as a result of their choices?

    I hate to suggest it, but I almost wonder if there is not some condescension towards women going on. Letting aborting women off the hook seems to imply that they are less responsible for their actions, which in turn implies that they are weaker or less mature than men. One thing I never see anyone suggesting is that the Pope or any bishop, let alone the molesting priest himself, couldn’t help themselves: Whenever they’re talked about, it’s always assumed that they knew exactly what they were doing and that no possible excuse can be made for their actions. Why are they always presumed to be fully and entirely culpable, while the contrary is often presumed in the case of aborting women?

    Again there may be a good reason for it, but so far I have not heard one that puts it to rest for me.

    • Rodak permalink
      December 17, 2011 12:28 pm

      I would think that more in the way of morally correct behavior should be expected from a priest than from an ordinary member of the laity, be that person male or female. Moreover, women who choose abortion often–nay, usually–do so under duress of one kind or another. I don’t know what kind of duress can be said to mitigate the condemnation of a pedophiliac priest. The “duress” felt by the bishops, et al., who cover up the pedophile’s crimes is understandable–and utterly contemptible. It is contemptible in the base cowardice that characterizes it; contemptible in the disregard for justice that it demonstrates; contemptible in its total disregard for the future crimes these pathetic sickos will almost certainly commit on other children; and also contemptible for the damage it does to those who feel obligated to defend their degradation due to a misplaced respect for the office they have dragged through the sewer.

      • December 17, 2011 2:56 pm

        Rodak,

        Your point seems to be that we should approach with understanding and forgiveness a woman murders a child but not a priest who has sex with one.

        • December 17, 2011 7:15 pm

          David – excuse me for interrupting, but let me just walk knowingly into the trap you’re laying.

          So:

          1.Yes, women who procure abortions ought to subject to the same punishment as murderers-as-conventionally-understood;

          2. No, women should not be punished as murderers for procuring an abortion, because even though abortion ought to be considered as grave an offense as any other offense against life, the typical circumstances of abortion as it occurs in the United States suggest a different approach to women who procure them.

          I suspect the hang-up here is that you seem to be insisting on a perfectly-consistent approach to the law, when the actual practice (i.e., how it is actually enacted) of the law reflects (and this is in balance a good thing, I suspect you would agree…) the murky character of actual human experience and behavior.

          Abortion should be punished differently than murder because how it occurs in the world is different. I’ve lost friends to murder; the experience is devastating not only for the person murdered, but for his grieving relatives, his bereft friends, and not least for the wider community in which the victim was situated.

          Murder devastates lives and psyches and communities. The more personal character of abortion means a correspondingly more personal effect on the lives of the people affected by it. The legal response ought to be sensitive to this. I see that as perfectly consistent.

  25. Rodak permalink
    December 17, 2011 3:50 pm

    @David Nickol–

    My main point was concerning the moral equivalence (or lack thereof) of the acts in question, rather than how we should treat their perpetrators in the aftermath.

    My tangential point was concerning what the way we treat the perpetrators of those acts says about us.

  26. December 17, 2011 5:09 pm

    The is a difficult topic, I know, but I think it is one in which the discussion should continue. From my point of view, the pro-life movement, and particularly the Catholic pro-life movement (forgive the broad generalizations) send a tremendously mixed message. On the one hand, not only is abortion described as murder, but often as a particularly heinous murder—a mother killing even her own children, the killing of the most vulnerable among us, a failure to protect a whole class of persons, the murder of the most innocent.

    For Catholics, procuring a successful abortion incurs excommunication for the mother, and the abortionist is excommunicated because he or she is an accomplice. For the Catholic pro-lifers, however, the abortionist—the accomplice—is the principal malefactor, and the procurer of the abortion—the pregnant woman—is the victim.

    We are told that “women who choose abortion often–nay, usually–do so under duress of one kind or another.” Now, I am willing to grant that most women who choose abortion have a serious reason, but serious reasons do not necessarily add up to “duress.” Let’s take the particularly disturbing phenomenon of “pregnancy reduction,” where a woman who has undergone fertility treatments becomes pregnant with twins and wants only one child, so the pregnancy is “reduced.” Is wanting only one child instead of two “duress”?

    Let me repeat what I gave above as the results of one study looking at the reasons women give for choosing abortion:

    Not ready for a(nother) child/timing is wrong. . . . . . . 25
    Can’t afford a baby now. . . . . . . 23
    Have completed my childbearing/have other people depending on me/
    children are grown. . . . . . . 19
    Don’t want to be a single mother/am having relationship problems. . . . . . . 8
    Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child/feel too young. . . . . . . 7
    Would interfere with education or career plans. . . . . . . 4
    Physical problem with my health. . . . . . . 4
    Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus. . . . . . . 3
    Was a victim of rape. . . . . . . <0.5
    Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion. . . . . . . <0.5

    I am sure we can imagine scenarios involving each one of those that might involve tremendous stress, but how many would, say, a jury accept as a mitigating factor for killing another person?

    How many people who would look on a woman with compassion and forgiveness for having an abortion because she already has all the children she wants or can afford would look with compassion and forgiveness if she instead killed one of her existing children to make room for the new arrival? In Catholic thought the life of the unborn child is morally equal to the life of an existing child. What, for a Catholic, would be the moral difference to kill an already born child to make way for one waiting to be born? It could even be argued that killing the existing child is the preferable of the two choices, since it will not result in excommunication. I am sure people will find this suggestion perverse and grotesque, and I would agree. But it actually makes reasonable sense when the killing of the unborn is a greater crime than the killing of the already born.

    The fact of the matter is that any person who does something one group considers seriously wrong may very well be doing it in good conscience, under “duress,” or out of insufficient knowledge. (And this is leaving out the situations in which the group that considers the action seriously wrong is in error!) Who is to say that a pregnant woman procuring an abortion has less culpability than woman or man who, say, kills an unfaithful spouse? Who can say that the spouse who was unfaithful was being willfully evil? Who can understand what internal pressure moves a pedophile to perform a sexual act with a child?

    Finally, who can say that any given abortionists is not sincerely convinced that he or she is helping women in desperate situations? Why should abortionists be any more culpable for solving a woman’s problems caused by an unwanted pregnancy than the woman is herself culpable for seeking abortion as a solution? Those who want to criminalize abortion by eliminating the supply of abortionists instead of the demand for abortion are saying, “Yes, women who seek abortions often are under duress and feel they have no other solution . . . and what we want to do is take away the only solution she feels she has.”

    • Rodak permalink
      December 18, 2011 8:24 am

      “It could even be argued that killing the existing child is the preferable of the two choices, since it will not result in excommunication.”

      If that is correct, it is disgusting.

      You point out the same illogic that I have been pointing out, although you seem to be attempting to defend it, rather than trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance that these logical inconsistencies generate.

      There is no analogy between a pedophiliac priest and a woman who procures an abortion. Only the (I think) unhealthy way that anything having to do with sexuality is linked to guilt and sin and the fear of hell in the minds of many Catholics would make an attempt to analogize the two things (buggery and pregnancy) understandable. Although the attempted anology is understandable only as an absurdity, at least its roots are made visible by considering it in the light of this fear and loathing of sexuality.

      Back to the central point: Either the abortionist and the women who hires him are equally guilty; or they are equally innocent. It’s that simple. Anything else is tunnel-visioned casuistry.

      • December 18, 2011 12:24 pm

        There is no analogy between a pedophiliac priest and a woman who procures an abortion.

        Rodak,

        I wasn’t making an analogy. I was pointing out that for just about anything people consider serious wrongdoing, there may be any number of reasons why the alleged wrongdoer is not fully culpable.

    • December 19, 2011 12:30 pm

      David:

      Very well expressed.

  27. Anne permalink
    December 17, 2011 10:14 pm

    <<Murder devastates lives and psyches and communities. The more personal character of abortion means a correspondingly more personal effect on the lives of the people affected by it. The legal response ought to be sensitive to this. I see that as perfectly consistent.<<

    Yes, I think that mitigating factor is the very best explanation for why "everybody" agrees to the difference in legal penalties for abortion and murder.

    In response to Pentimento who noted "it seems somewhat parochial to insist that “American Christians” are looking for prodigal sons and daughters. Repentance and conversion are the very basis of universal Christianity," I certainly agree that American Christians are well within the mainstream of Christianity in this regard, but Americans have long demonstrated an especially high degree of enthusiasm for conversion and conversion stories, whether in the form of tent revival testimonials or the secular kind exchanged in support groups and addiction centers. Although this may not explain the difference in how the law treats abortive mothers vs. pedophiles (the mitigating factor mentioned above seems ), I think it is at work in the commitment of pro-life groups to reach out to women who've had abortions, as well as to those contemplating the procedure. Some say so quite openly. Obviously, the testimony of such women is prized.
    (For the record: I never meant to say there's anything wrong with that.)

  28. Thales permalink
    December 17, 2011 10:32 pm

    To David and Rodak,

    Consider an analogy of slavery. I suspect that we all believe that slavery is a grave moral evil and a violation of human dignity. Suppose that we learned that a man in our neighborhood today was actually holding a person in slavery, keeping this person imprisoned against his or her will. We would be appalled at this man’s actions, wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t we think that it would be appropriate for society to prosecute this man and seek a punishment, such as imprisonment? Do you agree?

    Now think back to the time when slavery was legal in this country and accepted by many people as acceptable. Consider the abolitionists who were actively seeking to change the law on slavery (and seeking to change the hearts and minds of pro-slavery people). Though these abolitionists were seeking to make slavery illegal, as a general rule, they weren’t seeking to impose punitive prison sentences on slaveholders (sentences that today, we would find appropriate if we learned that our neighbor was holding slaves in his house). Was that hypocritical of the abolitionists?

    • December 18, 2011 12:11 pm

      Thales,

      Although I keep wandering into the question of legal penalties for procuring (as opposed to performing) abortions, that is not what really interests me. What does is the notion that women really aren’t responsible enough for procuring an abortion that they should be held fully accountable in any way.

      It is interesting, for example, that whenever the matter of late sentential excommunication for abortion is mentioned, one (or both) of two points will be made in response by pro-lifers. One, excommunication is not really automatic, since a number of conditions must be met. (See one of Pentimento’s messages above.) And two, excommunication is an act of love to encourage a person to come back into communion with the Church. Now, if the discussion were about Catholics desecrating the sacred species, which also incurs late sentential excommunication, would anybody make those two points?

      • Thales permalink
        December 19, 2011 12:09 am

        David,

        Sorry, I don’t follow the first part of your comment — I’m not getting what interests you. As for the second part, I think that if we are talking about Catholics desecrating the Eucharist, yes, I think an honest person would make the same two points. (If you’re making an observation that sometimes, emotionally, someone gets more angry at the desecration than the abortion…okay, I see that. But I don’t know why that’s relevant since it’s not unusual to get more angry at one crime, instead of another… for example, at a child rapist, than at an adult rapist. But despite one’s emotional reaction, an honest person would recognize that both sinful people who committed each act should be accorded the same love and respect, and welcomed into the Church equally if they repent.)

  29. Anne permalink
    December 18, 2011 12:45 am

    “Americans have long demonstrated an especially high degree of enthusiasm for conversion and conversion stories, whether in the form of tent revival testimonials or the secular kind exchanged in support groups and addiction centers. Although this may not explain the difference in how the law treats abortive mothers vs. pedophiles (the mitigating factor mentioned above seems ), I think it is at work in the commitment of pro-life groups to reach out to women who’ve had abortions, as well as to those contemplating the procedure.”

    That “hanging sentence” within parentheses there should read “the mitigating factor mentioned above seems the better explanation.” Again, that’s with regard to why the law treats abortion and the crime called murder differently.

    Of course, pro-lifers treat women who’ve had abortions with more sympathy than they do ordinary criminals for the very same reasons the law does (esp. the mitigating factors — whether real or perceived — of being in a vulnerable mental state and having insufficient understanding of what they’ve done), but I think women who’ve had abortions are also sought out and prized by pro-life groups precisely because they’re believed to be both emotionally and morally conflicted and therefore more open than, say, the usual murderer or pedophile, to conversion.

    Also, fwiw, as one of the few women involved in this discussion, I can attest to being personally acquainted — in fact, related — to several women who’ve had abortions. As for their states of mind, most have claimed not to have been affected all that much by the experience. That may be true of at least two. (None were Catholic or all that religious.) The actions of two others spoke louder than their words. One, for example, has attempted suicide twice, each time within weeks of the abortion. I would hope I haven’t given the impression I value “armchair” discussions of the subject over Christian responsibility and binding up wounds. Still, there’s a place for discussion and a place for binding up. I value both.

  30. Rodak permalink
    December 18, 2011 11:11 am

    @Thales–

    I don’t know what point you’re making with the slavery issue. When slavery was legal, slave owners obviously were not punished. Once slavery was made illegal, anybody keeping slaves would be prosecuted. This does happen today, often in conjunction to illegal immigration and/or prostitution (“white slavery”). The proper analogy with abortion is “murder-for-hire” if abortion is to be defined as murder. We don’t need any other analogy, when we already have a perfectly good one.

    • Thales permalink
      December 19, 2011 12:21 am

      Rodak,

      Sure, nowadays, slaveholders are prosecuted: that’s because it’s an immoral act that our society today thinks is worthy of prosecution. But that certainly wasn’t the case back when slavery was legal.

      My point is that when slavery was legal, the abolitionists who were seeking to impose greater restrictions on slavery (or to make slavery entirely illegal), as a general rule weren’t advocating the imposition of punitive prison terms on current slaveholders. Consider the fact that as the 13th Amendment was passed, all the current slaveholders who had to give up their slaves weren’t prosecuted and imprisoned. But under the logic you and David are presenting, you would have to call the abolitionists hypocritical and “morally unserious” because they weren’t calling for the imprisonment of slaveholders.

  31. December 18, 2011 12:34 pm

    Murder devastates lives and psyches and communities. The more personal character of abortion means a correspondingly more personal effect on the lives of the people affected by it. The legal response ought to be sensitive to this. I see that as perfectly consistent.

    Matt Talbot,

    So the killing of a drunk living on the streets who has no friends or relations is not as serious as killing a pillar of the community? Harry Bosch, the homicide detective in Michael Connelly’s novels, says, “Everyone counts or no one counts.”

    In any case, what the legal penalty out to be for procuring an abortion is a distraction from what really interests me. I don’t agree with your point, but it is different from the one I am arguing against, namely, that women who procure abortions are victims and are not morally guilty of murder, even though pro-lifers (Mother Teresa, John Paul II) say abortion is murder.

    • December 18, 2011 3:46 pm

      So the killing of a drunk living on the streets who has no friends or relations is not as serious as killing a pillar of the community? Harry Bosch, the homicide detective in Michael Connelly’s novels, says, “Everyone counts or no one counts.”

      David, you're such a lawyer (and I type that with a smile…).

      How the law treats, say, a psychopath who kills toddlers as a form of recreation, and a husband who comes home to find his wife in bed with another man and kills her, is – and most people would agree ought to be – different. So even in the world of murder-as-conventionally-understood, different circumstances mean different treatment. This is perfectly reasonable, it seems to me.

      • December 18, 2011 5:19 pm

        So even in the world of murder-as-conventionally-understood, different circumstances mean different treatment. This is perfectly reasonable, it seems to me.

        Matt,

        You will get no argument from me against treating first-degree murder differently from second-degree murder, and voluntarily manslaughter differently from either. You will also get no argument from me that some first-degree murders are more heinous than others and are reasonably treated more harshly. But in the case of abortion considered as murder, it is not that the crime itself is treated more leniently than other kinds of murder. It is that one of the perpetrators (the abortionist) is treated harshly, and the other (the woman who procures the abortion) is not held responsible at all. So there is a reasonable case to be made by those who consider abortion to be murder that it not be treated exactly like the first- or second-degree murder of a “post-born” human being, but the disparity between how the abortionist and the woman who procures the abortion is still difficult to justify in my opinion. I could see some reason in making the procuring of abortion a lesser offense than performing one. But I see no justice in making it no offense at all.

        But as I keep saying, it is not really legal penalties for procuring abortion that concern me. If I were in favor of criminalizing abortion, I would not call for any penalties against women who procure abortion simply as a matter of political expediency. It is unpopular. There is a much better chance of passing laws against abortion if you leave the pregnant mothers out of the picture and go for the abortionists. Suppose a pro-lifer said, “Look, my goal is to stop abortion. The degree of guilt of a woman who procures an abortion is simply not my concern. Some women who procure abortions may be cold-blooded murderers, and others may be helpless victims. My goal is to stop abortions, and if it makes it politically more feasible to do that by punishing abortionists and not concerning myself with the women who procure abortions, that’s what I’ll do.” That would be one thing. But arguing that women who procure abortions, as a class, are not responsible enough for their actions to be held accountable, either morally or legally, is quite another matter.

        I thought the purpose of the pro-life movement was to spread the word about the gravity of abortion. I don’t see how that can be done by saying to women who procure abortions, “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. You are the second victim of abortion.”

        Also, I find it a little bewildering that the pro-life movement puts so much emphasis on things like “post-abortion syndrome” and the need for healing after abortion. I thought the pro-life movement was to defend the unborn from being murdered. A lot of the message aimed at women by the pro-life movement seems to be, “Don’t kill your unborn baby, because afterward you will feel bad.” If you believe that abortion is murder, shouldn’t the message be, “Don’t kill your unborn baby, because it’s a human being, and you have no right to take its life.” It’s like it’s not enough to tell women they will be murderers if the procure an abortion. They have to be persuaded that they will suffer for it.

      • Thales permalink
        December 19, 2011 10:43 am

        If you believe that abortion is murder, shouldn’t the message be, “Don’t kill your unborn baby, because it’s a human being, and you have no right to take its life.”

        Um, that’s a message also — that’s the whole reason for ultrasound laws, and propagating pictures of fetuses in the womb, and those little silver baby feet pins. And “post-abortion syndrome” counseling is not an attempt to persuade people who don’t think they need healing after abortion that they actually are suffering and need help; it’s a response to women who are already hurting in some way post-abortion and are seeking help.

        It seems to me that your comments are sometimes tunnel-visioned. Sure, there are women who don’t feel they need counseling post-abortion… so? There are also plenty of women do feel the need. Sure, there are women who have full knowledge and full will in procuring an abortion (and so are morally culpable for it)…. so? There are also plenty of women who don’t have full knowledge and full will and thus aren’t as morally culpable. Sure, there are women who choose abortion freely… so? There are also women who choose abortion because they are scared or pressured. Sure, there are women who don’t regret their choice… so? There are also women who do regret their choice. The pro-life movement focuses on all these women: caring for the woman who is scared and pressured pre-abortion; counseling the woman who is hurt post-abortion; and trying to change the hearts and minds of the woman who is confident and adamant about her choice of abortion, both before and after.

    • Thales permalink
      December 19, 2011 12:30 am

      David,

      I’m not sure I’m understanding your issue, but let me give it a shot. Murder is generally defined as unjustified killing of a human being. But a person who unjustly kills a human being might not be morally culpable of murder, because he might commit this act without full knowledge of the gravity of the act or without a full act of the will.

      Now, some women who get abortions might have full knowledge and full intention in procuring abortion — they are morally culpable of murder. But some women (I suspect many women), don’t have a full knowledge and full intention in procuring abortion — their culpability is lessened to an extent (and their culpability would most obviously be less than the doctor who committed the abortion, who undoubtedly had full knowledge and intention). I say that even though there are women who are morally culpable of murder in procuring abortions, it’s not appropriate (nor hypocritical) for the pro-life community to seek punitive imprisonment terms for abortion.

      • December 19, 2011 12:02 pm

        It does seem to me it’s shooting yourself in the foot to claim that abortion is objectively murder, but that large numbers of women who procure abortions are not fully culpable. That (and having no legal penalty for abortion whatsoever) seems to me to amount to giving women permission to have abortions. To say most women are victims, and no woman will be punished, doesn’t seem to be an effective strategy to persuade women not to have abortions.

      • Thales permalink
        December 19, 2011 10:21 pm

        Are you saying that you think claiming that abortion is objectively murder, and claiming that women are victims of abortion (i.e., they are hurt by abortion) are not effective strategies to persuade women not to have abortions? [Shrug] On their face, they seem like effective strategies to me. But I suppose one could disagree.

  32. December 18, 2011 4:41 pm

    Since there seems to be some interest about the gender of the participants in this discussion, I will disclose that I’m female and that I think this is an important topic. If you don’t like the way things are from a public policy standpoint, you have to have a concrete alternative. I assume that pro-life individuals would like to see a return to the pre-Roe v. Wade status quo, rather than the current situation. However, as I stated earlier, more than half of the states in the union had already decriminalized or legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. If some states were to re-criminalize abortion in a post-Roe v. Wade world, many others would keep it legal. In any case, the only way Roe v. Wade can be overturned would be if someone could go before the Supreme Court with the claim that abortion is in violation of their constitutional rights. Simply stacking the courts and Congress with people who might be against abortion can’t and won’t work.

    The question of whether women who procure abortions should be penalized is also an important question. I agree with the posters who say that the notion that the woman seeking an abortion is too incapacitated to understand that she’s ending a life is condescending. Women can and do commit violent acts, for a variety of reasons. If we’re going to call abortion “murder,” that assumes that there is also a murderer. Otherwise, abortion is manslaughter, self-defense, justifiable homicide or some other lesser charge. I am also confused about the inconsistent way in which pro-life rhetoric portrays post-abortive women. Consider the way in which the public viewed Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. During her trial, it was revealed that Susan Smith was the victim of incest and child molestation. The man whom she was having an affair with treated her badly and said point blank that her children were the reason that he could not pursue a long-term relationship with her. Susan Smith’s past was tragic and she was abused by the men in her life, but she received no mercy from the public or the courts, save for the fact that she wasn’t put on death row. There was even outrage a few years ago when it was revealed that Smith was had a personal ad places on a prison penpal website, as if the very notion that this woman was seeking companionship was an affront to decency. There were also certain details about Andrea Yates that make her somewhat sympathetic. She was suffered from severe mental illness, a member of a cultic brand of Christianity that fed her delusions, isolated from society, and stuck with a husband who was too obsessed with being “peculiar people” to give his wife the help she needed. Yet, the fact remains that Yates killed five children under the age of ten. The extent of Yates’ illness makes her case a bit different from Susan Smith’s but nobody would ever suggest that she should be released from state custody or that she isn’t a murderer. Even women who have been suspected of murdering their children like Casey Anthony or Patsy Ramsey (who was posthumously exonerated) are considered monsters.

    Thus the pro-life movement is in a bind. We can say that abortion is murder and the women who abort their fetuses are the equivalent of Susan Smith, which is unpopular but logical, or you we say that abortion is murder, but the woman seeking the death of her fetus is confused and needs help, which is more compassionate but illogical. The most workable thing to do might be to take a page from Old Testament law, in which causing a miscarriage is a crime, but not on the same level as murder. This would still be too extreme for pro-choicers, but it’s an honest realization of the fact that most people, regardless of their position on abortion, don’t see fetuses as deserving of the same legal and moral considerations as newborn infants (before anyone asks, I am pro-life, but I think that the inconsistencies brought up by David Nichol and others need better explanations than what I’ve seen thus far).

    • LongtimeReader permalink
      December 21, 2011 10:40 am

      Wonderful post that sums up my views better than I could, and points to the WHY behind my inability to let others tut-tut and hand-wave away inconsistencies and other concerns regarding this subject as a policy issue. I find it a shame no one has engaged you or addressed the uncomfortable examples of Susan Smith, Andrea Yates.

  33. Rodak permalink
    December 19, 2011 2:21 pm

    It might be well to remember that the unfortunate young woman upon whose personal tragedy this whole comment thread was originally founded, terminated her own pregnancy, without the aid of an abortionist. If abortion were again made illegal, and no longer available from licensed physicians, in clean, well-equipped facilities, some women will still–as they always did–attempt to end their pregnancies by whatever means are available to them. We’ve been there and done that. Some of us are old enough to remember how things used to be.
    The bottom line is that if every person and institution that is spending so much energy and resources trying to end abortion would put all that effort into trying to end the social conditions which make abortion seem a good alternative, we might actually come up with something new–and better–than we’ve ever had before.

    • December 19, 2011 7:14 pm

      Rodak writes, “If abortion were again made illegal, and no longer available from licensed physicians, in clean, well-equipped facilities, some women will still–as they always did–attempt to end their pregnancies by whatever means are available to them…”

      So you’re saying that if we make abortion illegal then women will harm themselves while trying to kill their babies. Better to let them kill their babies without any risk of harm to themselves. I don’t know about that. In a way it seems better to let bad things be dangerous.

      In any event, if you really think it’s possible to “end the social conditions which make abortion seem a good alternative”, I don’t see why we couldn’t do that in addition to making abortion illegal.

  34. Rodak permalink
    December 20, 2011 5:00 am

    @Agellius–

    We don’t “do that” because doing that would would require some sacrifice on our part–some actual deployment of agape, rather than just setting it on a shelf and bowing to it on certain calendar days.

    Making abortion a crime, however, requires absolutely no sacrifice on our part. We only force others to make a sacrifice they don’t wish to make, while feeling really good about ourselves for exercising that power over them.

    It’s about standing in front of a full-length mirror, dressed as Superman, thinking that we have put on God’s love like a red cape.

    • Bruce in Kansas permalink
      December 20, 2011 10:13 am

      I does seem a bit passive-agressive to hold that we should allow abortion to remain legal unless we change society to end the conditions which folks use to rationalize abortion.

      • December 20, 2011 12:13 pm

        But many in the pro-life movement all but accept the reasons women have abortion. If women have abortion because they are in very difficult situations, are under great stress, see no way out, and so on, isn’t it extraordinarily cruel to leave them with all of their problems by making abortion impossible to procure? How can you have sympathy and compassion for women who seek abortions and then just take it away without seeking to help them solve their problems by some other means?

      • Thales permalink
        December 20, 2011 8:09 pm

        How can you have sympathy and compassion for women who seek abortions and then just take it away without seeking to help them solve their problems by some other means?

        Many in the pro-life movement seek to help them solve their problems by other means. That’s pretty much the whole idea behind crisis pregnancy centers.

  35. Rodak permalink
    December 20, 2011 11:26 am

    @ Bruce in Kansas —

    Passive aggressive? To me, it just seems realistic. I was a teenager before the pill, and long before Roe. I honestly don’t think that abortion was that much less sought-after then than it has been since it has become legal. It was, of course, more difficult to obtain and more dangerous once it was obtained–but that’s where my previous comment comes into play, isn’t it?

    • Bruce in Kansas permalink
      December 20, 2011 3:46 pm

      I guess it’s not unreasonable to think that if we achieved protection for unborn human life in law, then many would feel we’ve done enough and not work for social justice. I just see it as a false choice; we must do both. When we stand before God, will He not judge us on both?

      • Rodak permalink
        December 20, 2011 6:08 pm

        I would like to see the two go hand-in-hand. Poverty and desperation are what combine to generate most kinds of crime, a good percentage of the abortions performed among them. You will never see abortion eliminated, even if it is re-criminalized, so long as there is a permanent under-class.

  36. December 20, 2011 2:21 pm

    Thales:

    Your answer is helpful, thanks. I think I get your point about Aquinas on law. If I seem to be playing “gotcha” hereafter, please understand that I’m not intending to be contentious, but just playing devil’s advocate.

    You write, “An ideal world is one where society generally considers abortion as abhorrent and considers bringing the baby to term as the norm and easily possible. That’s the goal, similar to the way that today, society generally considers slavery to be abhorrent. I don’t think it’s possible to get to that goal by laws prohibiting abortion with attached punitive imprisonment terms.”

    For that matter, it would not be possible to have such laws enacted without first persuading a majority of people how evil it is. Then again in the case of slavery, it also took a war, did it not? I assume you would not consider a war to end abortion to be a good idea (if such a thing were feasible). Would you say that the Civil War should not have been fought for the purpose of ending slavery? In other words, that people should have tried for a couple decades or so, to end it in more peaceful ways before resorting to war?

    You write, “There are different kinds and different levels of stigma. Of course there should be some “stigma” attached to any grave evil, including abortion. But that’s doesn’t mean the individual should suffer from a stigma.”

    Then do you think child molesters and racists should not suffer from social stigma? Such people do suffer from stigma, and I think stigma is an effective way of making people afraid of doing certain things that society disapproves of. What form do you think a stigma should take, if people are not to suffer from it?

    You write, “… the sinner should not be shamed or stigmatized, but should be welcomed, cared for, and forgiven”.

    Even if unrepentant?

    • Thales permalink
      December 20, 2011 5:44 pm

      Agellius,

      Re: Civil War. No, I don’t consider going to war an appropriate way to end abortion. As for the Civil War and whether it should have been fought or not — that is a broad question that I haven’t thought about much and one that it extremely complicated due to the myriad causes behind the War and the myriad motivations of the players in the War. And so, I have no developed opinion on that question. I’ll only note that slavery was abolished in many other places, most notably Britain, without the need of a civil war. That makes me think that I’d look to Britain before that of the U.S. for an example.

      Then do you think child molesters and racists should not suffer from social stigma?

      Depends. Stigma can’t rise to the level of not caring for them, not loving them, and not acknowledging their human dignity. (Of course, this is not to deny the role of the laws and our court system, which might prosecute, punish, and imprison these people.) I admit that stigma should be associated with the acts of child abuse and racism, as it is sometimes an effective way of making people afraid of doing certain things that society disapproves of (like in cases of child abuse and racism). But child abuse and racism are different from abortion: our society vehemently and almost universally disapproves of the former, and not the latter. Stigma is not an effective way of dealing with women who are inclined to abortion, especially the many women (the majority, in my opinion) who are scared, uncertain, or feel as if abortion is their only option out of a group of bad options. To change hearts and minds on abortion, people who are inclined to abortion should be met with love, not condemnation.

      What form do you think a stigma should take, if people are not to suffer from it?

      I guess I would look to the Church’s approach as being the right balance here. Sin, the act itself of doing evil, should have a great stigma attached, in order to create in people the tendency to not do it. But the Church doesn’t stigmatize people — only acts — and so the Church recognizes in every person their human dignity, regardless of what they’ve done, and continually welcomes the sinner and loves the sinner. Similarly, the act of abusing children, for example, should have a strong stigma attached; the abuser’s human dignity must never be forgotten (so while justice might dictate a severe punishment, the abuser should be treated humanely, should be given care and help, should be given proper medical and counseling help, etc.)

      Even if unrepentant?

      Yes. Even up to death, the sinner should be loved and cared for — and after death, he should be prayed for. (Again, I still acknowledge that this person might be subject to the laws and the court system, might be have to pay back society by a fine or sentence, might have to be protected from further harming society by imprisonment, etc.)

  37. December 20, 2011 7:42 pm

    Thales writes, “I’ll only note that slavery was abolished in many other places, most notably Britain, without the need of a civil war. That makes me think that I’d look to Britain before that of the U.S. for an example.”

    I think taking Britain as an example would have meant, in practice, waiting until popular opinion in the South had turned against slavery.

    Thales writes, “But child abuse and racism are different from abortion: our society vehemently and almost universally disapproves of the former, and not the latter. Stigma is not an effective way of dealing with women who are inclined to abortion… To change hearts and minds on abortion, people who are inclined to abortion should be met with love, not condemnation.”

    I agree that child abuse and racism are different in terms of how our society currently views them. But again, I’m not necessarily talking about present circumstances, but asking in the abstract, whether there should not be a social stigma against abortion that is at least as strong as the stigma against racism or child molestation. I can’t help thinking that if the latter deserve, objectively, to be stigmatized (whether effective in present circumstances being a different question), then abortion does too.

    You write, “But the Church doesn’t stigmatize people — only acts — and so the Church recognizes in every person their human dignity, regardless of what they’ve done, and continually welcomes the sinner and loves the sinner.”

    I’m not sure I agree that the Church continually welcomes the sinner, if the sinner is unrepentant. The scriptures themselves say that if someone sins you should reprove them, and if they still don’t repent, then take it to the Church, and if they STILL don’t repent then have nothing to do with them. (Mt. 18:15-17; see also 1 Cor. 5:11.) Isn’t that a form of stigmatizing?

    Where I agree with you is that no matter how bad the sin, we have no choice but to forgive a repentant sinner. Also, reproving unrepentant sinners, of course, is a spiritual work of mercy, so obviously we don’t abandon them to their sin. And of course, if they were starving or ill, we would be obliged to help them. The only point I’m quibbling on is your phrasing that we should “continually welcome” them, which seems too all-inclusive to be in accord with the scriptures cited above.

    By the way, I appreciate your civil and constructive manner of arguing.

  38. Thales permalink
    December 21, 2011 10:23 am

    Agellius,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I think taking Britain as an example would have meant, in practice, waiting until popular opinion in the South had turned against slavery.

    Yes. After more thought, I’m thinking that that would have been better than a war. War is always a failure, never desirable. Consider also the debate during the civil rights era and Jim Crow laws, about whether peaceful protests and nonviolent resistance was the way to go, or whether violence was necessary. I suspect that most of us would think that the approach of MLK was the proper approach, instead of the approach of the many other social activists of the time who thought violence was the only possible way to achieve equality and justice — these latter have been largely proved wrong.

    But again, I’m not necessarily talking about present circumstances, but asking in the abstract, whether there should not be a social stigma against abortion that is at least as strong as the stigma against racism or child molestation.

    Yes, in the abstract, there should be a social stigma attached to the act of abortion (with my earlier caveat that the person must not be stigmatized in a way that marginalizes his or her human dignity). We actually see that stigma still attached to several aspects of abortion: for example, I think society generally recognizes a stigma for sex-selection abortion, or cleft-palate abortion, or twin-reduction abortion — although these stigmas are slowly being lessened. (Google for the NY Times “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” article). Certainly, the stigma associated with abortion-to-eliminate-disability (like Down Syndrome) has disappeared completely, and I think it’s only a matter of time before “disability” is equated with a cleft palate or a baby’s sex. And consider stigmas in other life issues: currently, there is a stigma against human cloning, but that’s being lessened as IVF and human embryo creation/experimentation/destruction becomes the norm. I wouldn’t be surprised if in our lifetimes, the abortion and cloning stigmas I’ve just mentioned disappear altogether, and the phenomenon of “designer babies” becomes socially acceptable, or even socially expected. And no, I don’t think that this is a good thing.

    Re: “continually welcoming” the sinner. We may be talking past each other a little bit. When I mean “continually welcoming,” I’m thinking of the fact that the Church doors must always be open for the sinner, ready to welcome him when he does repent, even if (especially if!) that is at the moment of his death after a lifetime of horrible crimes. How does that square with the passage of having nothing to do with an unrepentant sinner? I’d have to think about it a little more, but off the top of my head, I’m guessing that the Bible passage probably refers to the necessity of excluding an unrepentant sinner from the community when not doing so would imply a condoning of the sinner’s behavior (with corresponding scandal to the community, danger of others falling into that same sin, etc.) It’s the idea behind public excommunications/refusing to give communion. (Obviously, the decision whether to publicly exclude an unrepentant sinner is not one that should be made lightly, but requires much prudence.)

    • December 21, 2011 3:36 pm

      Thales writes, “I’m thinking of the fact that the Church doors must always be open for the sinner, ready to welcome him when he does repent…”

      I have no quarrel with this.

  39. December 21, 2011 10:53 am

    Many in the pro-life movement seek to help them solve their problems by other means. That’s pretty much the whole idea behind crisis pregnancy centers.

    Thales,

    I am not denying that, and it’s a fine thing. But even with all the crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, over a million women still decide to have abortions—women whom you claim are mostly victims. So clearly not enough is being done to keep women from being the victims of abortion. Will legally preventing abortion somehow magically solve all the problems you claim cause women to choose abortion with such diminished culpability that they should not be held legally accountable? If abortion is to be criminalized, would you favor massive assistance programs for women in difficult circumstances with unintended pregnancies? Or would you say, “Sure, there in real trouble, but they should have thought of that before they had sex”?

    • Thales permalink
      December 21, 2011 7:32 pm

      I never said that legally preventing abortions will solve all of women’s problems. Yes, I’m in favor of any and every viable option for assisting women in difficult circumstances with unintended pregnancies if abortion is criminalized — in fact, I’m in favor of assisting women now, even while abortion remains legal. No, I would never say, “Sure, there in real trouble, but they should have thought of that before they had sex” — surely that is obvious from my numerous comments in this thread which have shown that I’m a huge proponent of a caring-for-women approach.

  40. Rodak permalink
    December 22, 2011 4:42 am

    @ Thales —

    Maybe these women don’t want to be put in the position where they need you to care for them? Maybe they want to take control of their destinies and to do something about their situation that will leave them at least not charity cases? Or maybe they look around with open eyes and see that the charity is insufficient, or even perhaps where they happen to be, unavailable? Or maybe they see the charity as coming with strings attached? Maybe they would see your offer to take control of their lives as “throwing good money after bad?”

    • Thales permalink
      December 22, 2011 9:11 am

      Rodak,
      But a woman’s choice to kill an innocent human being in her womb is never acceptable, and we should do all we can to encourage her to choose otherwise.

  41. Rodak permalink
    December 22, 2011 10:50 am

    @Thales–

    It remains a fact, although a fact that some simply can’t compute, that many woman don’t look upon an early pregnancy as “an innocent human being.” They just don’t.
    Therefore, the only way to encourage these women not to abort is to make it the less attractive option to them. I have no idea how that might be accomplished in full. But I would suggest that ensuring that the birth of a child is never stressful in terms of the mother’s ability to provide her child with life’s basic needs for food, housing, clothing,education, health care, day care, etc. would be the place to start.

    • Thales permalink
      December 22, 2011 1:00 pm

      It remains a fact, although a fact that some simply can’t compute, that many woman don’t look upon an early pregnancy as “an innocent human being.” They just don’t.

      I know. So? That doesn’t change the fact that it is the killing of an innocent human being, and that those of us who see it that way should try to change people’s hearts and minds.

      Therefore, the only way to encourage these women not to abort is to make it the less attractive option to them. I have no idea how that might be accomplished in full. But I would suggest that ensuring that the birth of a child is never stressful in terms of the mother’s ability to provide her child with life’s basic needs for food, housing, clothing,education, health care, day care, etc. would be the place to start.

      I know. That’s been one of my points, right from the beginning of this comment thread. Scroll up and see my first comment where I said “I think one of the workable solutions to the abortion problem is to not blame women, but to show them much love and support, both before and after a pregnancy (whether the baby is born or not). Fortunately, in my experience, the pregnancy help centers in my area have this woman-centered approach.”

      • Rodak permalink
        December 22, 2011 1:15 pm

        @ Thales–

        By all means, try to change peoples’ hearts and minds. But what of the meantime?

        Pregnancy help centers are not the solution. That type of thing violates every one of the “maybe’s” that I posted above. What is needed is an entire society set up to provide the basics to all of its citizens as a matter of course. Something like Denmark. Democratic socialism.

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 1:47 pm

        If you don’t think that women-centered pregnancy help center are part of the solution, then either you’ve got terrible centers where you live unlike the ones in my part of the world, or you’re not familiar enough with the positive potentials of good centers.

      • December 22, 2011 1:48 pm

        Thales,

        It seems to me that if the pro-life movement believes abortion is the killing of an innocent human person, and many women believe that, it is the job of the pro-life movement to convince them in any way possible to either believe it or act as if they believe it. That is why a stiff sentence for procuring an abortion would be warranted. It would be saying, “You may not believe you are killing an innocent person, but in the judgment of society you are, and you will be punished if you do.”

        I have never heard a definitive explanation of why the Church excommunicates for abortion but not for infanticide, but I think a plausible explanation is that, because abortion doesn’t seem like murder, you must attach a penalty to it that causes women to regard it very seriously.

        We are, of course, hopelessly far apart on this matter, and I am still bewildered by pro-lifers not wanting to use the law to impress on women the idea that if they procure an abortion, they will be doing something very wrong.

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 1:48 pm

        Oh, and I think plenty of abortions still happen in Denmark.

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 2:23 pm

        David,
        Just so I understand where you’re coming from, are you in favor of imprisonment terms for a woman procuring a late-term, post-viability abortion, an abortion that the abortionist approves on the basis of purely psychological health? If not, why not?

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 2:29 pm

        To refine my question more: I’m curious whether you’re in favor of imprisonment terms for a woman who is not getting a late-term abortion for a physical health reason, but is getting one for the sake of convenience or her personal choice.

  42. Rodak permalink
    December 22, 2011 3:12 pm

    @ Thales —
    I’m not saying that pregnancy help centers are useless to all women. I’m saying that for the kind of woman who has all the objections to being helped, if help entails having the child, that I cited above, they will be no incentive not to have the abortion.
    As for other women, women who don’t want to have an abortion, but have thought about it out of desperation, such centers are wonderful. I don’t know if they continue to help the woman during the course of the next two decades, once the child is born and needs to be supporte though. Do they? Do they send the kid to summer camp when he’s ten and buy his little league uniforms so he can play baseball? Do they buy his school books, through college, and pay for his bus pass? You get my point, I assume.

    • Thales permalink
      December 22, 2011 3:49 pm

      Rodak,

      Obviously, a multi-pronged approach is necessary to create a society where women are not inclined to abortion. If your point is that government has a role in making a society where conditions support women and their children at all times, I agree with you — but obviously, it’s not the only answer, since a democratic socialistic Denmark still has abortions. I see a great benefit in pregnancy help centers. I also see a benefit in churches, civil groups, neighbors, families, … you name it, as well as a supportive societal and governmental structure. A multi-pronged approach.

      No, generally, pregnancy help centers don’t help women during the next two decades — in my area, they help up to the time the children are school-aged. But that’s not a flaw of pregnancy help centers — different institutions have to focus on different aspects of life and target specific problems, in order to have the most positive effect. (It’s silly to fault the American Cancer Society for not targeting diseases other than cancer, or the Red Cross for not running schools and adoption agencies, etc.) There are other institutions out there that help women with their children in school, in college, etc.

      • Rodak permalink
        December 22, 2011 4:12 pm

        I guess what you have to do is look around and ask: are those other institutions adequate? In Denmark, they are. Here, I think not.
        The fact that women in Denmark have abortions is not due to the kinds of worries I cite. If a woman isn’t religious and doesn’t want a child, for whatever reason, she’s likely to abort it. As I’ve said several times, in one way or another, to the extent that one helps to persuade a woman thinking about abortion not to have that abortion, one had best also be prepared to help her cope with that child to whatever extent she needs help. It won’t do to send her home, still indigent, but now with a child to feed, wearing a button that says “I DID THE RIGHT THING.”
        The main things one should be responsible for after persuading such a woman to have that child, is making certain she has help finding adequate employment, and that she has day-care available for the child, so that she can go to work.

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 5:51 pm

        I guess what you have to do is look around and ask: are those other institutions adequate? In Denmark, they are. Here, I think not.

        I don’t know why you say that, since in Denmark, thousands of abortions happen every year. (My limited Google search suggests 18% or 19% of all pregnancies, which is lower, but not that much lower, than the U.S.) I think that is an indication that the institutions in Denmark are not adequate, and that what is needed is greater education and outreach, more abortion options, more help and care from other institutions.

        The fact that women in Denmark have abortions is not due to the kinds of worries I cite.

        I disagree. In response, I just have to repeat what I was arguing with David up above: the vast majority of women who procure abortion don’t want to have the abortion if they didn’t need to. It’s not a desirable thing like having a birthday party – it’s the least worst option out of a group of terrible ones, and one that most women would not want to face to begin with. I submit that if we could magically give a pregnant woman every thing she needed such that every worry was taken care of, 90%-95%+ of women would choose adoption, not abortion; after all, what possible reason wouldn’t she?

      • Thales permalink
        December 22, 2011 5:54 pm

        When I said “more abortion options”, I mean “more abortion alternatives” or “more options in lieu of abortion”.

    • December 22, 2011 4:30 pm

      Rich women have always had access to safe abortions and this would continue if abortion should ever be re-criminalized in the future. Sympathetic doctors would perform the procedure under the pretense of appendicitis or they could go overseas and pretend they were on vacation. Pregnancy crisis centers aren’t going to do anything for women who have the resources to end a pregnancy in a quick, private manner that doesn’t interfere with their lifestyles. Some posters may know that Judy Davis, the daughter of an affair between Loretta Young and Clark Gable died a few weeks ago. Young said that she would have preferred to have an abortion, rather than give birth, but she couldn’t because it was against the law and she was Catholic. Being a wealthy woman and a celebrity, Young certainly could have obtained a safe, if not legal abortion, if she chose; the studios had contacts for doctors who would perform abortions and 20th Century Fox even had an abortionist on staff. However, Young was part of a coterie of well-known Hollywood conservatives and probably didn’t feel comfortable breaking the law, even though she could would have gotten away with it. The authority of the Church was such that she felt compelled to follow its dictates on the matter. Interestingly, one could infer that had Young would have had an abortion had she not been Catholic and/or if the procedure was legal at the time.

  43. December 22, 2011 5:09 pm

    I’m curious whether you’re in favor of imprisonment terms for a woman who is not getting a late-term abortion for a physical health reason, but is getting one for the sake of convenience or her personal choice.

    Thales,

    I think late-term abortion “on demand” should be illegal. I believe it is in most (if not all) states. Roe allows for it to be illegal.

    I think a woman who procures a late-term abortion illegally (for convenience instead of for a solid medical reason) should be held just as accountable as the person who performs the abortion.

    • Thales permalink
      December 22, 2011 5:38 pm

      David,

      Okay, you think that late-term abortion “on demand” should be illegal, and that the woman should be held accountable as the abortionist. But that’s not the question I asked. I asked whether you are in favor of an imprisonment term for that woman (say, an imprisonment term similar to what she would get for infanticide).

      If you are, that’s fine – that’s an understandable and logically-supported position, as you’ve pointed out ably in these comments. But it’s a position I disagree with based on the fact that, as I’ve said many times, not every immorality can or should be proscribed or punished; and the level to which immorality should be proscribed or punished depends on the circumstances of society. In sum, I’m against imprisonment because I think it’s counter-productive and brings the law into disrepute; but as I said, the alternative of imprisonment is understandable and logical.

      If you’re not in favor of an imprisonment term, that’s where I’m curious: what would be your reason that you’re against an imprisonment term? Since this is still a mystery to me, I’m not sure where you’re coming from.

  44. December 22, 2011 5:57 pm

    David writes, “I have never heard a definitive explanation of why the Church excommunicates for abortion but not for infanticide, but I think a plausible explanation is that, because abortion doesn’t seem like murder, you must attach a penalty to it that causes women to regard it very seriously.”

    The Church doesn’t excommunicate for all kinds of sins that are just as mortal as killing an unborn baby. I suspect the reason it excommunicates in the case of abortion, is that it’s trying to counteract the predominant cultural message that there’s nothing wrong with it. People are clear on the fact that infanticide is murder, a lot of people are not so clear on abortion.

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