Donald Trump’s reply to Chris Matthews’ hypothetical question about abortion set off a firestorm on both sides of that contentious issue. In essence, Matthews asked that, should abortion become illegal again in the United States, should women who procure an abortion be punished. Trump answered that they should be, along with the abortionist. Later, Trump would walk back his statement and declare that only the abortionist should be punished.
Undoubtedly, Trump was shocked by the response of many pro-life organizations. They reiterated their position that a woman who has an abortion is the second victim, the first being the unborn child. Punishing the woman is neither morally nor legally justified. The reasons for this quick response was to assure women that pro-lifers do not want to see aborted women in jail and to disprove the myth that, prior to Roe V. Wade, women were often incarcerated for having abortions.
Writing in 2010, Clarke D. Forsythe, Senior Counsel for Americans United for Life, points out that, prior to Roe, state laws focused on the abortionists only. He adds, “In fact, states expressly treated women as the second ‘victim’ of abortion; state courts expressly called the woman a second ‘victim.’ Abortionists were the exclusive target of the law.”
Forsythe also debunks the idea that overturning Roe will result in the immediate re-criminalization of abortion across America:
If Roe was overturned today, abortion would be legal in at least 42-43 states tomorrow, and likely all 50 states, for the simple reason that nearly all of the state abortion prohibitions have been either repealed or are blocked by state versions of Roe adopted by state courts . . . There will be no prosecutions of abortionists unless the states pass new laws after Roe is overturned.
Just how rare was the prosecution of a woman for procuring an abortion? Forsythe notes, “There is no documented case since 1922 in which a woman has been charged in an abortion in the United States.” Prior to 1922, only two women had been prosecuted.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the idea of post-abortion women being victims. Forsythe notes that up until the 19th century, abortions were not only dangerous but often fatal. That’s one reason why post-abortion women were seen as victims. Also, most courts regarded abortion as a disgusting act. For example, in 1894, a Minnesota court ruled that a post-abortion woman was “the victim of a cruel act.” In addition, regarding the woman as a victim instead of an accomplice allowed her to testify against the abortionist, the principal actor in the procedure.
However, now that abortion is seen by many people as a legal right and a “safe” procedure, can we honestly say that all women who procure abortions are victims? Certainly the teenager who has been threatened by her parents to either get an abortion or get kicked out of the house can be regarded as a victim. Or the woman who is bullied by a boyfriend or a husband to get an abortion or risk physical abuse or abandonment can be considered a victim. And, of course, a pregnant woman who is mentally challenged and forced to get an abortion would fall into the victim class. More than likely there are other scenarios that would apply.
But what about the stone-cold killers? I am referring to women who see abortion as just another form of birth control. They know that their unborn child is not a blob of tissue. They are fully aware of the gestational development of their child, and they can even look at an ultrasound and not care a wit about destroying the child’s life. Many of them have had multiple abortions and are proud to say so.
Such women have not been seduced by some scurrilous womanizer who promised marriage. They do not use contraceptives nor ever consider the possibility of abstinence. They believe they have an unbridled right to sex with anybody at anytime. And should pregnancy occur, well, no child is going to interfere with their lives.
Julia Black, director of the pro-abortion movie My Fetus, said in an interview on ABC, “[The idea of] dismembering a baby and pulling it out in pieces . . . is obviously horrific. But at the same time, it is easy to get caught up in that emotion.” Apparently, the key is to avoid “that emotion,” and if a woman can do that, it is easy to become a stone-cold killer. A killer, not a victim.
Getting back to Mr. Trump, I understand why some pro-life groups immediately described all post-abortion women as victims. But anyone who has worked in a crisis pregnancy center for any period of time knows that the word victim does not apply to all. This is a fact that should not be glossed over.
~Mr. Pavel Tarnowski is a Guest Contributor to Catholic Journal~