Women who have Abortions should be Punished


IF abortion is murder, then women who choose abortions are murderers.
IF abortion is murder, it surely should be against the law.
People who break the law should be punished.
If I ask a third party to kill my wife, and pay them to do so, surely I have broken the law and should be punished.
If I take my wife to a place where she is sure to be killed, I have broken the law and should be punished.
Even if what I have done is not against the law, it should be. And I should be punished.
If, that is, there really is no difference between my wife and a fetus. If morally they are exactly the same. If the fetus is morally just like all the people who, unlike the fetus, do not live in someone else’s body. No moral difference. The unborn the same as the born.
Then abortion is murder.
I do not understand why the pro-life folks can’t follow this simple argument; why they seek to avoid this compelling logic.
Unless, of course, they think that women who get abortions do not know what they are doing. That they go in for a little Botox or to have a knee replacement and to their shock and horror they end up having an abortion.
Unless the pro-life folks think that women are being forced to have abortions: that roving gangs of Planned Parenthood employees and abortion doctors are kidnapping unsuspecting pregnant women and aborting their fetuses against their will.
If either of these last two scenarios hold, well of course women are not to blame.
But perhaps the pro-life resistance to punishing the women reflects a political calculation that advocating such punishment would doom their movement. I thought, however, they were more principled than that.
Or perhaps it reflects a hidden realization that a fetus is not just like a person who has been born; that abortion is not just like murder; and that women who choose abortions are not criminals but individuals who have made a difficult, complicated, emotionally laden choice and should be left alone.
Sorry, but the pro-life movement can’t have it both ways. If abortions are murder, change the law and charge the women who get them with murder.
If it’s not, then leave the women alone. And take at least some of the money, energy and self-righteousness currently expended in the pro-life cause and turn it elsewhere.
For example: on a campaign to get men to take sexual responsibility as seriously as sexual pleasure.
Roger S. Gottlieb is professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His newest book is Political and Spiritual: Essays on Religion, Environment, Disability, and Justice.
He has previously published the Nautilus Book Award winners Spirituality: What it is and Why it Matters and the short story collection Engaging Voices: Tales of Morality and Meaning in an Age of Global Warming.

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