Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Challenge from JT

JT at Between Two Worlds has challenged Imago Dei and I to respond to the question of what will happen if abortion is made illegal again. Though it's immensely unfair to ask for my take and then post Beckwith's reply, I'll try my best. I'm guessing Serge's post will be better than mine.

Beckwith frames the pro-choice objection this way:

"If abortion is made illegal, many women will be prosecuted, convicted, and/or sentenced for murder (a capital offense in some states), because the changed law will entail that abortion in almost every circumstance entails the unjustified and premeditated killing of an innocent person (the unborn). Such a situation will unnecessarily cause emotional and familial harm to women who are already in a desperate situation (i.e., seeking an illegal abortion).

Such laws, if instituted, will lack compassion.

If they are not instituted, the pro-lifer will lack consistency."

I've been confronted with this argument before. Most of the time it is framed in a question, something like: "If abortion was illegal would you prosecute women who have abortions or try to obtain an abortion or even try to perform an abortion on themselves?" or "If you'd arrest and prosecute abortionists for killing fetuses wouldn't the woman who sought out the abortionist be at least an accomplice and therefore be guilty of some crime as well?"

What I've realized is that most pro-choice people who ask that question don't really care what your answer is. You can answer that question either way but you'll be attacked regardless of what you say.

If you want to prosecute women who seek abortions or perform abortions on themselves then you're a compassionless woman-hater who doesn't really believe that women are being victimized by abortion. You just want to control women's bodies by keeping them barefoot and pregnant.

If you don't want to prosecute women then you are a chauvinist pig who thinks that women are like little children who shouldn't be held responsible for their decisions.

The basic motive is to discredit prolifers and the prolife position without actually proving 1.) that abortion doesn't kill an innocent human being or 2.) that intentionally killing innocent human beings isn't wrong.

What about the women who know what they are doing?

Beckwith does an excellent job of explaining how prolifers view women as a second victim in the abortion but it is true that many women know what they are doing (they know that they are allowing someone to kill their child) yet go ahead with it anyway.

But how would we know? The woman would basically have to tell the police or admit to friends or family that she knew her actions would kill a child yet she was going ahead with it anyways. It just seems like that would be totally impossible to prove especially if you needed the woman to testify against the abortionist.

I'm personally not in favor of locking up women for long periods of time for seeking illegal abortions or having abortions performed on them. I think these women need help more than they deserve jail time. To a certain extent anyone who knowningly kills their own child needs help.

I would also point out that even if these women know what they are doing - there is most likely a measure of coercion from the people in her life. Assisted suicide could be a similar example. We wouldn't prosecute someone seeking assisted suicide but we'd prosecute the person that performed it. We recognize that these people need love and help not time behind bars.

If women who have abortions aren't punished does that devalue the unborn?

I don't think so. We don't punish people who try to commit suicide. Does that mean their lives have been devalued? We punish people to varying degrees for killing human beings. Penalties can range from capital punishment to less than 10 years in jail for some manslaughter convictions. This doesn't mean that the person killed intentionally in a state with capital punishment is more valuable than the person killed by someone in the heat of passion or other circumstances. It just means that we set up laws to deal with the variety of circumstances involved when a human being is killed.

That's my take for better or worse.

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