The coverage of Drumpf’s punish-the-women comment has been fairly extensive. And from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz and John Kasich, condemnation has come from both political parties and from both sides of the debate over abortion.
What I find fascinating, though, is the reaction of those who hold the anti-choice position. Cruz—who would force a woman to have a rapist’s baby—said, “Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.” Kasich, who proudly says he has “exceptions” to his anti-choice stance, said, “Of course women shouldn’t be punished.” Oh, yeah? Why not?
If it came to pass that aborting a zygote became the legal equivalent of murdering a “child,” then why wouldn’t the mother, who presented herself to an abortionist in order to have her zygote-child killed, be guilty of a crime? The standard response from anti-choicers is that such women are “victims.” It is the doctors who are the real criminals. Really? Let’s take a closer look at the issues involved. Keeping in mind that those in the anti-choice movement believe there should be no legal distinction between a zygote and a child, let’s examine this controversy by way of an analogy:
Imagine there is a business across town that, legally and for a fee, would kill unwanted toddlers, kids between one and three years old—but only if their mothers brought them in. And imagine a woman bringing her child to the business, paying the fee, and leaving behind a dead kid. Now, imagine that you object, and object strongly and passionately, to this practice. You don’t believe such a business should be allowed to operate. You believe it is immoral to kill toddlers. What would you do?
Here are some of your options:
1. Fight for a law that forbids such a business, except in cases in which the toddler is a product of rape, incest, or is a danger to the mother. In those cases, you would have no objection to the practice. We’ll call this the Kasich Option.
2. Fight for a law that completely forbids such a business. We’ll call this the Cruz Option.
3. Protest in front of the business and encourage women not to bring their kids there to be killed.
4. Burn down or blow up the business.
5. Kill the business owner, who you think is a murderer.
6. Stop the woman before she can deliver her child to the business, either by kidnapping her or killing her.
Now suppose you reject the options that involve violence. Even though you “know” that just across town there are toddlers being murdered each and every day, for some reason your passions aren’t aroused enough to actually try to physically stop it. And if someone came along who did resort to violence, whose passions couldn’t be tamed and either bombed the business or killed its owner, you would condemn such a person. You would argue that people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. This position happens to be the position of most of those who call themselves “pro-life.”
Let’s stop here to think about what we have learned so far about most anti-choicers in this analogy. They are convinced that killing toddlers is morally wrong. And they know that toddlers are actually being killed across town. Yet, their position is to let it continue and fight to stop it through the law. Doesn’t that sound a little strange? Especially if killing toddlers legally has been going on since 1973? That’s a lot of murdered kids.
In any case, let us now examine those whose approach to stopping toddler-killing involves changing the law. First, there is the Kasich Option. Those who adopt this method will tolerate exceptions. Under their proposed law, a business could kill only a certain class of toddlers, those who were products of rape or incest or who presented a danger to the life of their mothers. Let’s think about what this tells us about anti-choicers who embrace the Kasich Option. They believe that it is wrong to kill a toddler, but it is not always wrong to kill one. Some toddlers don’t deserve the protection of the law and their mothers are free to bring them across town and have them killed. Again, doesn’t that sound a little strange?
That brings us to the Cruz Option. After rejecting violence and thereby tolerating murder across town, suppose these anti-choicers were successful in getting a law passed that made killing toddlers completely illegal. No exceptions. (This is the position of about 20% of Americans, by the way.) We can quickly see this position is at least logically consistent. If it is wrong to kill toddlers, it is wrong to kill all toddlers. Even those who came into existence by way of rape, by way of a violent act against a woman’s will, deserve equal protection under the law.
Now let’s plug Drumpf’s original abortion remarks and his subsequent reversal into this analogy. Drumpf said “we have to ban” toddler-killing. The conversation he then had with Chris Matthews assumed that toddler-killing was illegal. That’s when Drumpf said, “There has to be some form of punishment” for the woman who has her toddler killed outside the law. You could see his mind slowly and painfully grasp the logic of his position: If we criminalize the practice, then the woman involved has to be a criminal. But Drumpf, under intense pressure, retreated and later offered us the standard anti-choice rhetoric:
If Congress were to pass legislation making [toddler-killing] illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban [toddler-killing] under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a [woman’s toddler] would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the [toddler]. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.
Now we can clearly see how ridiculous all this is. If abortion is tantamount to toddler-killing, as the anti-choice movement insists it is, and if Drumpf or Kasich or Cruz had their way and abortions were outlawed, then it is absurd to claim the woman who has an illegal abortion is a victim. She would obviously be a criminal. The only question left is the one that perplexed Drumpf: what should the punishment be for the crime of having your child killed?