Crime and Punishment: Did Trump Spill the Beans on the Pro-Life Movement?

Did Trump get the pro-life position wrong? Or just express it too bluntly?

Fact-checkers tell us that Donald Trump makes mistakes all the time. [1] But Wednesday something unusual happened: He made a mistake he had to back away from.

You can hardly blame him, because his interviewer (Chris Matthews) cheated: He asked follow-up questions and kept badgering for an answer. (Who knew journalists could do that?) After two minutes of dancing back and forth on the topic, Trump let Matthews nail him down:

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion? Yes or no, as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman.

TRUMP: Yeah. There has to be some form.

That statement set off not just feminists, but the anti-abortion folks Trump was trying to appeal to. So Trump had to retreat, ultimately settling on the approved pro-life response: After abortion becomes illegal, doctors should be punished, not women. (He also claimed that MSNBC created the confusion about his views by editing his exchange with Matthews. That should raise his pants-on-fire-lie numbers even higher: The interview was pre-recorded, but aired in its entirety.)

But Trump’s about-face just started a new and even more interesting debate: What kind of mistake did Trump make? Did he get the pro-life position wrong? Or did he spill the beans by stating that position bluntly, without the usual flowery misdirection?

After all, most of Trump’s apparent gaffes have been of the second type: He says what his followers are really thinking, without the caveats and nuanced word choices that make those positions defensible in front of the educated elite. Is that what happened here?

The case for spilling the beans. The essence of the pro-life position is that as soon as sperm meets ovum, you have a fully ensouled human being, with all the God-given rights anybody else has. [2] The natural consequence of this belief is that any abortion, at any stage of a pregnancy, is murder.

Pro-lifers use the word murder in its literal sense, intending nothing metaphoric or hyperbolic. That’s why they so often equate the millions of abortions that have happened since Roe v Wade with the Holocaust.

If you follow where that logic naturally goes, then everybody connected with an abortion is conspiring to commit murder. After all, any mother who paid a man to stick a knife through her baby’s heart would be guilty of murder, so if there is no moral distinction between a baby and a fetus (an “unborn child” or “pre-born baby” in pro-life jargon), any woman who pays a doctor to end her pregnancy must also be a murderer. Why should she go unpunished?

And in fact, in states where pro-lifers have managed to put restrictions on abortion, women do get punished:

Multiple U.S. women — with few options to get themselves to one of their state’s dwindling legal clinics — have been arrested for illegal abortions after they bought abortion-inducing medication online. And thanks to the growing number of laws aimed at protecting “fetal rights,” other women have been punished for doing activities that allegedly harmed their pregnancies. Americans have been charged with murder for allegedly seeking to harm their fetuses by attempting suicide, using illicit drugs, or even falling down the stairs.

A woman in Indiana has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for “feticide”. And if pro-life activists are trying to help her or change the law so that no other women get punished, they’re being awfully quiet about it. As far as that goes, Indiana has a pro-life governor who could commute her sentence at will, if he thought that punishing her was unjust.

But no matter how logically it follows from pro-life assumptions, it seems harsh and cruel to punish women who didn’t want to get pregnant and are just trying to get their old lives back. Nobody likes to think of themselves as harsh and cruel, and besides, it’s bad politics. So pro-lifers deny that’s where they’re headed, even though all the evidence says they’re really headed there.

The counter-argument. When stating a position I disagree with, there’s always a danger that I’ll make a straw man out of it, so I’ll let some prominent pro-lifers state it themselves at length. Here’s how Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List put it on NPR’s Morning Edition:

[T]he pro-life movement has never, for a very good reason, promoted the idea that we punish women. In fact, we believe that women are being punished before the abortion ever occurs. In other words, the early feminists believed this was the ultimate exploitation of women.

The real earliest roots of feminism and the women’s movement really embraced the idea that her innermost soul, in Susan B. Anthony’s words, recoil from the dreadful deed, but thrice guilty is the one who drove her to the deed. And who is that? It’s the abortionist. And that who – is who is the one to be punished when there’s a law against abortion.

Steven Ertelt of makes a similar point:

the pro-life movement has historically opposed punishing women who have abortions — instead focusing on holding abortion practitioners criminally accountable for the unborn children they kill in abortions.

That pro-woman mentality is partly due to the understand[ing] that the abortion industry preys on women — selling them abortions by lying to them about the humanity of their unborn children and the destructive effects abortion will have.

Charles Camosy, author of Beyond the Abortion Wars, wrote an op-ed for The New York Daily News:

Isn’t pro-lifers’ refusal to follow the logic of their position a dishonest political game — one played because pro-lifers know that, as Trump just learned, the logically consistent position alienates virtually everyone?

That might be true if women have an uncoerced choice to have an abortion. But as I argue in some detail in my book “Beyond the Abortion Wars,” that’s not how our culture works.

Broadly legal abortion is the product of privileged men.

… Unsurprisingly, the all-male Roe court made women “free” to act like men: to imagine themselves as able to live sexual, reproductive, economic, professional lives as men do. Women’s equality was not about getting equal pay for equal work. Not about getting mandatory family leave and affordable child care. Not about passing strict anti-discrimination laws in hiring practices.

What was essential for social equality, according to those responsible for our abortion laws, was that women are able to end their pregnancies when they are a burden on their economic and social interests. But being pregnant and having a child is often so burdensome precisely because our social structures have been designed by and for people who cannot get pregnant. Notice how, in this context, our abortion laws end up serving the interests of men and coercing the so-called “choice” of women.

Someone who is coerced into having an abortion as a means of having social equality should not be put in jail. Women, like their prenatal children, are victims of our horrific abortion policy. Instead, physicians who profit from the violence of abortion ought to be punished.

Ad hoc. Whenever I listen to anti-abortion rhetoric, I’m always struck by the ad hoc reasoning. Points are made that would seem to have implications for lots of other issues, but somehow those concerns vanish as soon as the topic shifts away from abortion.

The easiest place to start is with the Susan B. Anthony quote. It sounds great, doesn’t it? The head of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony list quoting Anthony herself, as if she were carrying forward the great woman’s legacy. Unfortunately, there’s no historical record of Anthony ever saying it, and precious little to indicate that Anthony had a position on abortion at all. Even if the quote were legitimate, isn’t it obvious that “the one who drove her to the deed” is not the abortionist, but the man who got her pregnant? (Odd that nobody ever talks about punishing him.)

Dannenfelser and Ertelt seem to be imagining a world in which doctors run some sort of boiler-room operation that cold-calls pregnant women and tries to sell them abortions. Or maybe abortionists hang around outside gynecologists’ offices (the way anti-abortion activists sometimes surround abortion clinics) trying to talk women out of their firm intention to give birth.

Reality is quite different: There is a strong demand for abortion services and always has been, back to the days when young women would come to the local potion-maker or hedge-witch looking for a miscarriage-inducing herb or tea. It is a fact of life that not every woman who gets pregnant wants to raise children at this point in her life, or maybe ever. [3] And even a family that is raising children already doesn’t necessary want to have more of them.

I can see the woman as a pure victim in some cases (say when a high school girl gets pregnant by one of her teachers, who then arranges the abortion for her and talks her into it), but in many cases an abortion is the result of a mature woman deciding what she wants to do with her life — a possibility that pro-life activists seem to ignore entirely.

Many, like Ertelt, claim she is likely to regret this decision. (An actual survey says 95% don’t.) But where else in our lives do conservatives argue that the government should stop us from making regrettable choices, or punish the people who help us carry them out? Quite the opposite: a basic tenet of conservative philosophy is that people should be free to make their own mistakes … in every case but this one.

Camosy’s argument is even more ad hoc. If the majority of pro-lifers felt this way, the political party where they have so much influence would be working on the issues he accuses the Roe v Wade court of ignoring: “equal pay for equal work … mandatory family leave and affordable child care … strict anti-discrimination laws in hiring practices.” In fact the exact opposite is true, and the Republican opposition to these proposals is not even controversial within the party. As soon as the topic shifts away from abortion, Republican concern about women making coerced choices vanishes.

Do they even believe it themselves? People who genuinely believe something don’t make ad hoc arguments; the things you really believe don’t wink in and out depending on the topic. So I have to wonder: Do pro-lifers themselves believe what they’re saying?

Fred Clark, a turncoat from the pro-life movement, says no. He quotes Dannenfelser’s response as an example of what he calls “the Standard Answer”, and then recalls his own experience.

I relied on the Standard Answer when I was a good, faithful pro-lifer. It made the question go away, just as it was meant to do. The Standard Answer worked very well for me until one day, suddenly, it didn’t.

It stopped working for me because, alas, I started listening to what I was saying.

That led to an “unsettling” realization.

I did not want my questioners to think that I wanted to see these women punished because I genuinely did not want to see them punished. At some basic level — some level at which I had not yet allowed myself to articulate my own thoughts to myself — I did not think that punishing these women would be good, fair, right, necessary or just. I thought punishing these women would be wrong.

Why would I think that? Well, that was the question that the Standard Answer was designed and employed to prevent me from ever asking of myself. …

I came to realize I was incapable of defending the central dogma of the anti-abortion religion my people had adopted as the central pillar of our faith — that a fertilized egg is morally and legally indistinct from a human child or a human adult. If that claim were defensible, then I would have no reason not to want to see those women punished and no reason not to try to convince others that they also should want to see those women punished.

Please note what I’m not saying here. I’m not saying I became incapable of believing this claim about the full personhood of the zygote, but that I became incapable of defending it. I’m not sure that anyone is ever capable of believing this claim. [4]

Anyone with functioning compassion understands what Clark realized: that it’s just wrong to punish a woman who sees no better path into the future than having an abortion. So if that’s where the logic of your position relentlessly leads, but you want to go on thinking of yourself as a good and decent person, you need to obfuscate that logic somehow — not just for other people, but for yourself.

That’s what the rest of us need to understand: When pro-lifers give the Standard Answer, they aren’t even trying to make sense; they’re trying to comfort themselves. They’re trying to minimize the cognitive dissonance that comes from advocating something harsh and heartless while claiming to be good Christian people.

Trump didn’t misstate the logic of their position, he just failed to include the comforting obfuscation they need. No wonder they got so upset.

[1] Of his statements checked by PolitiFact, only 8% are judged True or Mostly True, compared to 78% Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. By contrast, 51% of Hillary Clinton’s checked statements rate True or Mostly True, with only 28% Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. Bernie Sanders‘ split is similar: 51% to 29%.

[2] A lot of people will tell you that this position is Biblical, but it isn’t. In actual history, anti-abortion politics came first, and the justifying theology came later. None of the Bible passages ensoulment-at-conception people quote supports their position without a lot of interpretation, and many are simple taken out of context.

On the other hand, Genesis 2:7 states pretty clearly that the soul enters the body with the first breath:

And the Lord God made man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

That interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the words for breath and soul in Biblical Hebrew are very similar.

[3] In 2012, I described the role that legal abortion played in the choices my wife and I made in “What Abortion Means to Me“.

[4] I made a similar claim in the fifth of my “Five Take-Aways from the Komen Fiasco“.

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  • Chris1122  On April 4, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Over 20 million pro-lifers are liberals. Many millions more are non-conservatives.

    The only thing that is ad hoc here is the method of people like you and others who will ignore these facts in order to preserve your view that pro-lifers are anti-woman…instead of agreeing with women that abortion needs more restrictions:

    The view that pro-lifers are all or even mostly small-government conservatives is a canard…one which serious people who are interesting not straw-manning their opponents ought not repeat.

    • Anonymous Poster  On April 4, 2016 at 10:05 am

      So here’s the $64k question: what punishment, if any, do you believe a woman deserves for having an abortion—and if you believe a woman deserves no punishment, how do you square that away with both the “abortion is murder” rhetoric of the anti-choice movement and the existing punishment of women for abortion-related issues[1]?

      [1] —

      • Chris1122  On April 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

        There are always exceptions in any movement–especially once as a large and intellectually/politically diverse as the pro-life movement–but in general pro-lifers overwhelmingly reject the laws you cite here.

        As for the basic argument, I support the people cited above. These aren’t ad hoc position. They are well-developed, careful positions…going all the way back to the first feminists…feminists who understood all too well that abortion benefited men, not women.

      • Anonymous Poster  On April 4, 2016 at 10:59 am

        @Chris1122: If they reject such laws, why do they not work to have them at least rewritten to avoid punishing women who seek abortions? Why do they not speak out—loudly—against cases in which women are punished either for seeking/having abortions or for miscarriages?

        What makes a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to have a child—and the control over that choice—an act worth criminalizing, even if unintentionally?

        And the larger question still stands: how do you square away the “we don’t want women punished for abortion” argument with the “all abortion is murder” stance?

      • Chris1122  On April 4, 2016 at 2:19 pm

        No, it doesn’t still stand. Read the pieces cited above. I agree with Camosy and the SBA List, in particular.

        And are you asking what makes the killing of a helpless and vulnerable child by a physician who profits off the killing worth criminalizing?

      • Anonymous Poster  On April 4, 2016 at 8:37 pm

        @Chris1122: Let’s say you truly believe abortion is murder. If a woman goes to a doctor for an abortion and the doctor performs it, why would that act turn the doctor into a murderer but absolve the woman—who compelled the doctor to perform that abortion—of any and all responsibility for said murder? If a woman buys pills to have a medical abortion, why would that act turn the pill-seller into a murderer but absolve the woman—who took the pills that ended her pregnancy—of any and all responsibility for the murder of her unborn child?

        Women decide to have abortions, regardless of how. Women carry the “victims” of their “crimes” in their wombs. How can the idea of criminalizing abortion exist without a punishment for the women who kill their “helpless and vulnerable” children?

      • Chris1122  On April 4, 2016 at 8:57 pm

        for all the very good reasons mentioned in the articles already cited…maybe take 2 seconds and skim them at least?

      • Anonymous Poster  On April 4, 2016 at 10:44 pm

        @Chris1122: According to a good chunk of pro-life rhetoric, abortion is equivalent to murder. So if a woman can be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for hiring someone to kill a full-grown adult, why would she not be liable for the murder of her “helpless and vulnerable” child if she hires a doctor to perform an abortion?

        How do you square away that incongruity if you believe abortion equals murder and should thus be criminalized?

    • Anonymous  On April 5, 2016 at 7:16 am

      take two seconds and skim the articles cited above and you’ll have your answer. it isn’t that difficult a position to understand

  • Andrea Miller  On April 4, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Chris did ask Trump about the men who got the women pregnant. Turns out is is just a women’s issue.

  • SCL  On April 4, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Ugh, the abortion debate is the ultimate expression of racism and narcissism in America.

    Why is abortion wrong? Because it ends a human life. Why is is wrong to end a human life? After all, humans die every day from war, poverty, capital punishment, police shootings, disease, suicide, and murder. But there’s no outcry over these issues, no one worried about the sanctity of those lives. So what’s different?

    Abortion is different because it could apply to white babies. War, disease, poverty, these mostly apply to brown and black people. But abortion, that could happen to your white grandson! It must be stopped! A thousand South Sudanese children dying is nothing, but one white baby being aborted? That’s a tragedy.

    There’s no substance to this debate, only emotional ploys. Think of the children! Wait, no not those children. Think of the WHITE children!

    • Chris1122  On April 4, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      You’re correct to say that abortion is an expression of racism and narcissism, but not the way you think.

      People of color, the poor, and women are actually disproportionately against abortion. They recognized it, quite rightly, as violence against a marginalized, vulnerable population.

      Abortion on demand came about as a result of rich white men wanting to protect their privilege…and those markers are still the classic marker for being pro-choice.

      • Sam Wight  On April 4, 2016 at 8:36 pm

        Chris does a good job of articulating accurately the Democratic pro-life position. I’ve seen the videos where babies are aborted, and they struggle to live while the abortion is performed. I’m not sure the moment the sperm hits the egg is life, but I challenge anyone to watch those and not think there should be more restrictions on abortion. If half of aborted fetuses are women, how come protecting their rights isn’t pro-woman? I think it is very conservative to believe a baby should have the right to make its own choices. I don’t know too many folks who would “choose” to kill themselves.

        Abortion will never truly go away. There’s a market for abortions same as there is one for illegal drugs, guns, alcohol, etc. You can outlaw guns, but the 2nd amendment nuts are right that some will remain. You can have a dry county, but folks will still find ways to get booze. It’s the same with abortion. It happened before 1977. If a woman is raped, she’ll have an abortion, whether it’s legal or not. Best to make it safe. Contraception is, in my view, a good thing (many pro-lifers disagree), but that should be legal to reduce the number of abortions. Sex ed is important; part of why I’m a pro-life democrat is because of that stupid push by Bush for abstinence only education; it led to an increase in abortions.

        I wish the GOP would nominate a pro-life, pro-contraception candidate, and there could be a real debate, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon…

    • Brent Holman  On April 4, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      They are opposed to white women having abortions.

  • coastcontact  On April 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Chris Matthews of Hardball fame has successfully used the question of abortion rights as his card to make most Republicans look like fools. His question to Donald Trump was hypothetical since abortion is legal thanks to Roe versus Wade. If there was a law banning all abortion than of course all participants, the woman seeking the abortion, the doctor, and all others involved should be punished. The pro-life community is in my opinion is just a noisy group of religious zealots who most likely would like to take their bible as the final word on all subjects.

  • Anonymous  On April 4, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    “But being pregnant and having a child is often so burdensome precisely because our social structures have been designed by and for people who cannot get pregnant.”

    I wonder what the pro-life movement would end up looking like if it actually followed the logic of that line through to its conclusions.

    • jh  On April 4, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      The conservative position on abortion is highly inconsistent with any other position.

      If I hired a contract killer to kill somebody, I would be arrested for attempted murder.

      If I shot somebody, the conservative response should be to blame gun manufacturers for the “procedure”. But somehow, they don’t support blaming anyone but the shooter.

      If I killed somebody because I was driving while drunk, they wouldn’t arrest the liquor company CEOs.

      The conservative tactic is just a means of reducing women’s access to legal abortions.

      And it’s highly insulting to women. Where is the woman’s agency? Her intelligence? The conservative mindset is highly patronizing.

      • Tom Amitai (@TomAmitaiUSA)  On April 5, 2016 at 10:03 am

        “And it’s highly insulting to women. Where is the woman’s agency? Her intelligence? The conservative mindset is highly patronizing.”

        Ding, Ding, Ding, we have a winner! The “pro-life” movement is really about maintaining the authority of the bible, a book that makes it clear that women are second class people, subject to the rule of their fathers, husbands, and brothers[1]. Many of the movement’s founders were the same people who opposed the equal rights amendment.

        [1] Sorry liberal believers, but reconciling the bible with liberalism requires that you cherry pick “the good parts” and ignore or rationalize a whole bunch of embarrassing and appalling stuff.

  • Anonymous  On April 4, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for breaking down the sense I had, when looking up the anti-abortion “party line” on this issue, that it was just so much hot air.

  • weisseria  On April 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I’m going to say this knowing that a lot of people will think it sounds bizarre:
    I don’t believe that the anti-abortion movement, at its core, has anything specifically to do with the act of abortion. It has nothing to do with “murdering babies” or “emotional trauma to the woman”. It has no relation to theology whatsoever—like so many things theology has been used for, that’s just a justification.
    I think that the core of the anti-abortion movement is this, instead: punishing women for having sex.
    Maybe individual anti-abortionists don’t believe that at all. In others, it’s probably totally subconscious. But that’s what the movement itself is about. And you can tell by looking at its strongest allies—the anti-contraception and anti-sex ed movements. Because if they really cared about reducing the numbers of abortions at all costs and making sure that every pregnancy was intended and wanted, they’d be supporting measures like easier access to contraception and comprehensive sex education designed do to just that. Instead, they’re pushing the contraception-is-a-form-of-abortion idea and abstinence-only education (which doesn’t work). And what all of these have in common is making it harder for women specifically to have safe, consensual (can’t really consent if you don’t know what’s going on) sex and making it harder to have control over their own bodies and reproductive systems and sexualities.
    So I don’t believe that it has anything at all to do with the sanctity of life. After all, the champion party of anti-abortionists is also the champion party of those who support the death penalty and those who want to destroy the social safety net (including the WIC program) and those who would love to bomb every square millimeter of the Middle East. It’s not about life. It’s about controlling women. But of course that falls under the category of Things You’re Never Supposed to Admit.

    • Anonymous  On April 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      It is this kind of fact-free, quasi-religious belief that makes the abortion issue so toxic. You make up indefensible nonsense that flies in the face–not only of the pro-life community’s reaction to Trump–but of the whole history of the movement.

      Pro-lifers care about women (not least because most of them ARE women), even after they have had an abortion:

      • Anonymous Poster  On April 4, 2016 at 8:45 pm

        If the pro-life movement truly believes in giving women more options to control their lives instead of criminalizing abortion/punishing women for having sex, why does it insist on shutting down one of the country’s top providers of reproductive services and contraception in Planned Parenthood?

      • Anonymous  On April 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm

        because they are the country’s leading provider of abortions…and the pro-life proposal has been to give the money instead to community health centers which do everything PP clinics do (including contraception)…minus abortion…plus mammograms (PP doesn’t do these) and other comprehensive care.

        of course, PP has all the Dems wrapped around their fingers given their lobbying power, so such common sense legislation is not passed.

      • jh  On April 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

        I’m not sure I agree with your position. The conservative position only focuses on denying women access to legal abortions through TRAP laws, forcing medical personal to LIE to their patients, imposing an owners’ religious beliefs on his or her staff, denying them easy access to birth control.

        You claim it’s all about the women. But women are dying under your ideology. That’s why abortion is so desperately needed as a legal option. The medical profession was tired of finding dead women’s bodies on the street. The anti-abortion ideology is toxic to women.

      • weisseria  On April 5, 2016 at 8:37 pm

        “Fact-free”? I stated plenty of facts. Just because you disagree with them or don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re not true. For example, the Republicans, party of wars and the death penalty and taking away health insurance and other policies that result in people dying, are also the party of the “pro-life” movement. Saying that what I said was “fact-free” makes it sound like you only read long enough to figure out my position on abortion and then jumped down and hit reply without bothering to read the rest of what I said.

        “Quasi-religious”? I have no idea where you’re going with that one. If you could explain, that’d be nice. Just know that the presence of the word “believe” does not always mean someone is expressing a religious view, and that I am venerating exactly nothing here. Just stating an opinion.

        “Indefensible”? I spent two paragraphs defending my opinion and I could go on longer. And regarding the history of the movement: abortion was not a big deal for the vast majority of human history. It was just something regrettable that some women needed to do. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that it was explicitly outlawed.

        Some people who are against abortion do indeed care about women. I did say that not everyone in the anti-abortion movement is in it for sexist reasons. People are individuals, and one person’s motivations will be different from anothers. What I said that you seem to have missed is that the movement as a whole—not individuals—is based around punishing women for having sex and removing their bodily autonomy and control over their personal lives and choice of when or if to have children. Some people who are against abortion do care about women’s wellbeing. But the only thing that the movement itself cares about with regards to women is how it can best remove or destabilize their control over their lives.

  • Larry Benjamin  On April 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Trump’s original position (he’s changed it at least five times since last week) exemplifies the complete incoherence of the anti-abortion movement. I often hear pro-lifers say that abortion lets women avoid “responsibility” for the consequences of having sex just for fun. Apparently, there’s nothing like being forced to give birth to a child they don’t want, to teach women the lesson that it’s better to keep their legs crossed. In this paradigm, the child isn’t even a human being – it’s an instrument of divine retribution. This is why pro-lifers are so bent on forcing women to give birth, but lose all interest in the child once it’s born.

    A true pro-life position would address the circumstances that lead women to want abortions in the first place. This goes beyond simply making contraception more widely available. It would include measures to make raising a child less financially devastating than it is now, such as taxpayer-funded health care, day care, paid work leave, and other benefits that would have to be borne by the society at large through higher taxes and higher prices for goods and services.

    This is why the anti-abortion movement is morally bankrupt – it wants to take away women’s control of their own bodies when it comes to giving birth, while putting all the consequences of that on the woman alone.

    • Anonymous  On April 4, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Larry, you “often” hear pro-lifers say this? Could you please provide even one documented example of a mainstream pro-lifer even coming close to saying such a ridiculous thing?

      You haven’t given any evidence that you actually know anything about what mainstream pro-lifers actually believe.

      Instead, what you often here are nothing more than talking points from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, which, of course, are designed to smear…not engage the reality of what real people actually believe.

      • Larry Benjamin  On April 4, 2016 at 9:12 pm

        Every time an anti-abortion person says that “choice” means “the woman should have chosen to keep her legs crossed,” that’s the thinking behind it. This is why pro-lifers, at least, pro-life politicians, also oppose contraception. Their real problem is with people having sex just for fun. This is also why they are so vicious in their hatred of homosexuals – gay couples can have irresponsible sex all day with no risk of pregnancy.

      • Anonymous  On April 5, 2016 at 7:17 am

        except than no serious pro-lifer says such things…it is a made-up position to make the movement look anti-woman and anti-sex

      • Anonymous Poster  On April 5, 2016 at 8:04 am

        @Anonymous: I’d believe you if several “pro-life” organizations, anti-abortion activists, and lawmakers didn’t support laws that would criminalize contraception (certainly the morning-after pill, but also things like IUDs and condoms in extreme cases). A number of proposed “fetal personhood” laws attempt to do just that.

        Other than “protect the unborn” and “punish women for sex”, what other reason could anti-choice activists/politicians have for supporting contraception bans?

      • Larry Benjamin  On April 5, 2016 at 8:24 am

        Here’s an example of a state legislature ending a successful contraception program that had significantly reduced the number of abortions in the state, and lowered Medicaid expenditures. But the GOP ended it because, to quote one legislator, it led young women to “look for love in all the wrong places.” Apparently, conservatives would rather have dead fetuses than allow people to have sex just for fun.

  • Larry Benjamin  On April 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    A while ago, there was a meme going around that asked pro-lifers, if someone was holding a petri dish with a fertilized egg in one hand, while training a gun on a child, if you had to choose whether the person dropped the petri dish and killed the zygote, or shot the child, the only reasonable pro-life position would be to flip a coin because the two choices would be morally identical.

  • Brent Holman  On April 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Where do they stand on pollution (Flint) induced miscarriages? Do any of these people do ANYTHING once a baby is actually born? Do they support slashing food-stamp funding, early kindergarten, etc, etc?

    • Larry Benjamin  On April 4, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      That’s not an issue. This is also why they don’t have a problem with war, even though war inevitably results in the deaths of civilians, including at least a few pregnant women and their fetuses.

      • Anonymous  On April 5, 2016 at 7:19 am

        as was mentioned above, 20 million pro-lifers are liberals…many millions more are non-conservatives…please stop with the dismissive stereotypes and actually deal with what a huge and diverse movement actually believes

      • Larry Benjamin  On April 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

        I personally know people who oppose abortion, while also opposing any laws against it. It’s possible to disapprove of something without wanting to make it illegal. I think a distinction should be made between people who want to outlaw abortion and people who personally abhor it but don’t want to dictate what others do.

  • Larry Benjamin  On April 4, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    My problem with Roe v. Wade is that the “right to privacy” is nebulous. I would have preferred the decision to have turned on the right to self defense, which most people support. If your life is in danger, you are allowed to take steps to protect yourself, up to and including murder if necessary.

    It’s a medical fact that abortion is safer than full-term childbirth. If a woman chooses to take this risk in order to have a child, she should be free to do so, same as she’s free to ride a motorcycle instead of driving a car, or going skydiving, or engaging in any other risky activities. But for the government to tell a woman that she must take this risk whether she wants to or not, violates the right to self-defense.

    What people forget is that a government that can force you to reproduce against your will, can also sterilize you against your will. Once, a conservative friend made a comment about how she was against abortion because “it killed little babies.” I asked her if she thought the government should control whether people had children or not. She answered, of course not.

    I think if we frame the abortion debate as self-defense, along with opposition to government control over reproduction, we might be able to lure a few right-wingers over to our side. Focusing on “women’s rights” isn’t going to work with people who don’t think women should have any rights to begin with.

    • jh  On April 4, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      I would have liked the bodily autonomy argument. There’s a reason it’s illegal to harvest organs from corpses without permission.There’s a reason that the government cannot force somebody to give up their body or any part of their body to “save a life”.

      to put it in context, the government can’t force me to give up my blood, my bone marrow, my liver, my spleen, my eyes, my tongue. Not without my consent. When I’m dead.. say minutes after my death, they still cannot take those organs to “save a life”.

      I dislike the idea of a society that so cavalierly waives a pregnant person’s rights to their own body. If they can do it to a pregnant woman, what happens when they suddenly decide that all women don’t have the same rights, or black people, or brown people? It would be a disturbing world where human beings have no innate right to their bodies and are merely walking organs that anybody can take.


  • By Paying Hell | The Weekly Sift on April 4, 2016 at 11:36 am

    […] week’s featured posts are “Crime and Punishment: Did Trump Spill the Beans on the Pro-Life Movement?” and “Where North Carolina’s New Law is […]

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