Tim Kaine, in his interrupting attack dog debate performance drew attention to an embarrassing moment for Donald Trump and the “Pro-Life” movement. Kaine reminded people of that time when Donald Trump, the non-polished politician, said that women who have abortions should be punished. Of course, Trump walked that back several hours later when he was informed that “Pro-Life” politicians never say that- even though it is actually logically consistent with their rhetoric.
The “Prof-Life” movement argues that life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder. Thus, doctors who perform abortions should be tried for murder and go to prison. But here’s where the logic breaks down. It is women who ask doctors to perform abortions. If conservatives were consistent, then doctors are merely the contract killers, while women are the ones who take out the hit. By law, the individual who pays to have someone killed is equally as guilty as the one who commits the crime.
But the “Pro-Life” movement never asks for this (well- except in Indiana- we’ll get to that in a moment). In their rhetoric, women are the poor helpless victims of predatory doctors and a cruel society that does not honor a culture of life. But that’s disingenuous.
There are really only three reasons not to hold women criminally responsible for having an abortion if abortion is indeed murder.
- “Pro-Lifers” do not believe that abortion is really murder. Despite their rhetoric to the contrary, they actually do distinguish between killing a 6 year old child and a 6 month old fetus. They think abortion is wrong, but it’s not quite the same thing as murder.
- “Pro-Lifers” do not believe that women are actually adults capable of making decisions and being held accountable for them. In essence, the argument is that women should be treated as mentally incompetent, unable to understand right from wrong. At the very least, they consider women to be like children- minors who do not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. Thus, abortion is murder, but women are children or mentally deficient and can’t be held responsible for their crime.
- “Pro-Lifers” do believe abortion is murder and that women should be punished. However, they know that Americans do not agree with them on this. They know that to call for legal consequences for women would expose their agenda as the radical religious crusade that it is.
Mike Pence wanted to look like a nice guy at the debate. But make no mistake. He is a religious zealot who wants to impose his radical interpretation of Born Again Evangelical Catholicism on the rest of the country. Indiana has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the United States. Until struck down by a federal judge, Indiana HB 1337, signed into law by Gov. Pence, among other restrictions, prohibited abortion for reasons of genetic disease or deformity, allowed doctors who perform abortions for those reasons to be sued for wrongful death and required the cremation or burial of all aborted or miscarried fetuses. This led to the wonderful #PeriodsforPence movement in which women informed the governor of the progress of their menstrual cycle as he seemed so concerned that they might be miscarrying. (It should be noted that between 10-20% of pregnancies actually end in miscarriage- often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant)
And let’s not forget that Indiana is the state that prosecuted and convicted Purvi Patel for feticide for what prosecutors alleged was a self-induced late term abortion and for child neglect for abandoning the miscarried fetus in a dumpster. Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison and had served a year and four months of that sentence when a judged reduced the child neglect charge and dismissed the feticide charge.
So, let’s be clear- Mike Pence actually falls into category 3. He believes abortion is murder and that women who have abortions are killers. It is only now that he is on the national stage that he feels compelled to pretend that women should not be prosecuted for having abortions.
Donald Trump didn’t understand the politics of the question that Chris Matthews asked him. He didn’t know that Republicans want to have it both ways. Republicans want to pretend that they respect us at the same time that they disrespect our choices and our ability to know what is best for our bodies, our lives and our families.
So Republicans and the “Pro-Life” movement need to get honest about this. They must either call for the imprisonment of the 1 in 3 women who have had abortions, or they must admit that this issue is a little more complex than their rhetoric pretends.