There have been a series of blog posts on several sites I read responding to the Donald Trump abortion comments in which he stated that if abortion were illegal, then a woman who has an abortion should face some sort of punishment. Pro-life activists, many of whom are Christians, came out forcefully against Trump on this. The pro-life movement has long held that doctors who perform abortions, but not the women who have them, should be held liable for murder and punished.
So the question has been raised on these blogs as to why, if they really believe that abortion is murder, pro-life Christians would oppose punishing women for having abortions if the procedure were illegal.
As I understand their arguments (and I may be wrong), here is Dalrock’s theory as to why (my interpretation):
Pro-life Christian men are behaving in a cowardly fashion because they are afraid to confront women on their sin due to the fact that they want women to like them more than they want to do what is right.
And Zippy’s theory (again, my interpretation):
Pro-life Christians either don’t really believe abortion is murder or they believe that women lack moral agency and thus should not be held liable for breaking the law.
I think there is more than one reason; different people within the pro-life sphere probably have different reasons. However, I think there are two more reason which probably are much more at play in the wider pro-life movement than what Zippy and Dalrock have posited (not that they are wrong). Before I get into those reasons, we need to establish one thing.
The Western mind has great difficulty holding women culpable for their actions in the realm of sex, relationships, and reproduction, and even when the woman is clearly the perpetrator of a crime in these areas, if possible she will be portrayed as the victim. I do believe this is something inherent to the Western mind, something we all sort of realize at this point but which we have a really hard time not doing because it just feels so natural to us. Other people groups do not seem to have any trouble holding women culpable for their actions in the areas of sex, relationships, and reproduction.
This is a Western civilization thing, NOT a Christian thing. This is part of the entire culture around us and possibly always has been. Let’s look at a different example briefly. I was browsing through our local newspaper and reading the Chelsea crime blotter for the week. There is very little crime here, so there were only two incidents listed in the crime blotter, both of which I have copied below from the Sun Times News:
3/30 – 10 pm., officers responded to the 400 block of East Street for the report of a domestic assault complaint. Upon arrival the officers were waived into the residence by a male subject later identified as the suspect, a 27 year old Chelsea man. The suspect stated that his wife was acting “crazy” and had “assaulted him”. The suspect showed the officer some signs of scratching, some of which were bleeding. The officers made contact with the victim, the suspect’s wife and she stated that there was an argument over him taking her cellphone because the suspect felt that his wife was not paying attention to him. There was an altercation in attempting to retrieve the phone from him; which resulted in injuries to both parties involved, none of which required medical attention. Officers determined that both parties participated in the assault and the situation required one of the parties to be taken to jail for the evening so that the situation could deescalate. Due to the fact that there was an 18 month old child in the residence, it was decided that the male suspect would be transported to the jail for the evening.
4/2 – 12:40 pm, a complainant came to the Chelsea Police Department who stated that he was in his kitchen with his wife and she proceeded to tell him to leave the house, he complied and stated that he needed to get some clothes and his wallet. After he told her that he would leave she punched him in his left arm. The victim stated that he then went into the bathroom area of the house and she forced her way into the bathroom and the fight continued causing the shower curtain to get ripped down and she began to hit him another 6-8 times in the arms and chest area. The victim then decided to leave the house and walk to the Chelsea Police Department for some counsel. Officers made contact with the suspect, a 38 year old Chelsea woman, and took her statement on the incident. It was decided that the suspect would be transported to the Chelsea Hospital where she would be evaluated by medical personnel in lieu of going to jail.
Notice the use of the words “victim” and “suspect” in story 1. Even though the police determined that both parties participated in the assault, the woman was still the victim and the man was still the suspect. And he was taken off to jail.
In story 2, the victim and suspect labels are correctly assigned, but notice that even though the woman was the suspected aggressor, she was taken for medical care instead of taken to jail, even though the story does not indicate that she was ill or injured.
So. In the Western world, people know that women will generally not be held culpable for their actions in the area of sex, relationships, and reproduction. Pro-life people know this, too, and I think they see their primary objective as being saving babies by any means possible, by hook or by crook as the saying goes. Their objective is (probably) to get Roe v Wade overturned so that abortion may be outlawed. Although they may not be able to articulate it, they are probably worried that if they start talking about punishing women, the Western mind will automatically snap shut and not even consider what they are suggesting (outlawing abortion) and so they’ll never get anywhere and more babies will die.
So my theory is that pro-life people say they would oppose punishing women for having abortions in the unlikely event that abortion were outlawed because they are either:
- being purposefully vague or outright lying on this issue because they believe that doing so will lose this battle but ultimately allow them to win the war or
- more comfortable just living with the logical contradiction of saying abortion is murder but then not holding women accountable for it due to some quirk of the Western mind when it come to women’s moral culpability in the area of sex, relationships, and reproduction.
Honestly, I think #2 is the most likely. Most people – men and women – act on feeling more than anything else and don’t sit down and analyze the logical (or illogical, as the case may be) underpinnings of their feelings. All that the average pro-life person knows is that:
- she/he hates abortion because it kills babies and yet
- feels really, really bad feelings about holding women culpable for their actions in the area of sex,relationships, and reproduction.
For extremely analytical people (as perhaps Zippy and Dalrock may be), this is probably bizarre to even contemplate – how can one hold an illogical belief?? But I would assert that it is true that people hold such beliefs nevertheless and that this explains much of the response to Mr. Trump among the pro-life masses.