Donald Trump is making waves as usual; this time by stating, in a show of rare consistency, that women who procure abortions should be punished.
Well duh, you would think. But then, even as the “duh” is forming in your mind, you notice ordinarily straightforward people, who normally have few compunctions about taking unpopular positions, turn around and say, “Nuh uh, that’s not the pro-life view.”
Say what, Douglas Wilson?
We are dealing with millions of cases. It is the view of politically active pro-lifers that the penalties should fall on those who know what they are doing. Medically trained doctors know exactly what they are doing. The ghouls at Planned Parenthood know exactly what they have been selling.
And the view about the mothers, taken as a class, is that they have been fraudulently manipulated into a form of negligent manslaughter. That kind of problem is best answered with information — ultrasounds and more. This is why pro-lifers for decades have offered support, information, care, and medical services to mothers. The laws have been aimed at doctors who were after the blood money. And in the main, this has been a very effective and reasonable distinction. [ Douglas Wilson, Trump as Corduroy Pillow (March 2016).]
The problem with such infinitely reasonable-sounding rhetoric is simply that it trips over the facts on the ground. Let me give a couple of representative examples:
1. Experience of ministry at abortion mills
This is not my own experience, I’m afraid; a while back I was somewhat involved in the now-cultic Abolish Human Abortion (AHA), who regularly posted videos from their Go-Pros while ministering at abortion mills. Now, acknowledging that selection bias could be in play here—though AHA members told me this was quite representative—most of their videos showed interactions in which someone involved in the abortion knew damned well that they were killing a child.
Usually it was the mother. Often it was the father. Sometimes it was a family member or friend.
But there was typically at least one person involved who did not deny what they were doing, but rather, when told that abortion is murder, would say, “I know. Now shut up because this is what we’ve decided to do, it’s our right, and it’s none of your business.”
Given these kinds of videos, which were quite common, I am highly skeptical of the idea that women are really unaware of what is going on, to the extent that the pro-abortion rhetoric can really be thought of as “fraud”—or at least, as undetected fraud. I have no doubt that manipulation is going on here, but it seems to me that typically it is the kind of manipulation one engages in to ease someone’s conscience into doing what they know damned well they should not do. In other words, this is not an Eve situation, but an Adam one (1 Timothy 2:14).
2. Discussions with children
I once had to explain abortion to my daughter, who was about six at the time. I told her that sometimes, when women get pregnant, they don’t want the baby, so they go to a doctor to remove it. She was puzzled at first, wondering what happened to it. I explained that they had to cut it in pieces.
She was then shocked. “People kill their babies? But why?”
I responded with the kind of line that Doug is suggesting here: “Well, lots of mummies are told by doctors that it isn’t really a baby yet.”
With much scorn, she responded quite ably, “Well what do they think it is then?”
If the pro-life view involves treating women as less critically able than a six year old, then so much the worse for the pro-life view. And indeed, does not the standard pro-choice rhetoric of, “it’s a very difficult decision,” put the lie to this? There is nothing difficult about deciding to remove a clump of cells or parasitic tissue. What is difficult is deciding to kill an unborn human being.
So again, I am highly skeptical that most women are simply oblivious to what is going on. The lies perpetuated by the abortion industry do not, on the whole, deceive them into holding a view contrary to the plain facts; rather, the lies soothe their consciences into ignoring the plain facts.
Now, I am not at all denying the effectiveness of ultrasound ministries and the like; but it seems to me these are effective not because they reveal something that most mothers don’t know, but rather because they make what they do know seem real.
All this to say, I find Doug’s view bizarrely naïve—and at the same time oddly patronizing to women. What is even more puzzling, though, is that even if most abortive women are guilty only of negligent manslaughter, does negligent manslaughter not come with severe penalties? Uh, yes it does. It comes with prison time. So either way, this idea that abortive mothers should not be punished is simply inconsistent and nonsensical.