Healthcare

Trump had one thing right about abortion

Why does this pro-choice writer think Republican front-runner Donald Trump was right in his comments about punishing women if abortion should become a crime? It’s certainly not because I believe in making abortion illegal. Quite the contrary, I believe that women should have the freedom to control their own reproductive lives free of interference from a big-brother government.

{mosads}Rather, Trump was right in exposing the moral hypocrisy that lies at the heart of America’s anti-choice movement. On the one hand, anti-choice advocates want to criminalize abortion, but on the other hand, they claim to absolve women from punishment for the crime. The anti-choice movement cannot have it both ways and still maintain the moral integrity of their cause.

Consider the so-called “right to life” legislation that the anti-choice movement is pushing hard to make the supreme law of the land either by federal statute or constitutional amendment. The 2012 platform of the Republican Party called for enactment of such a measure, saying “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

A typical initiative of the anti-choice movement is the Sanctity of Human Life Act, introduced in 2013 by Republican members of Congress, including now-Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The act stipulates that “the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”

Under this act, any abortion performed at any time, even immediately after fertilization, would constitute the murder of a human being. Would women be absolved of this crime because they directed someone else — in this case, a doctor — to kill what the act defines as the human being within them? No more so than John Gotti would have been absolved of murder because he directed his henchmen to do the killing.

But let’s take the doctor out of the equation and consider self-abortion by women, which would directly constitute murder under the Sanctity of Life Act or other similar proposed laws and amendments. How often is this likely to occur if medical abortion is rendered illegal nationwide and doctors are subject to criminal penalties? The answer is extremely often indeed.

A 2015 study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project conducted primarily by researchers from the University of Alabama, the University of Texas and the University of California, San Francisco, found that between 100,000 and 240,000 women in Texas alone have attempted to self-induce abortions at some time in their lives. Another recent analysis by the New York Times found that some 700,000 women nationwide in 2015 conducted Google searches on how to perform self-induced abortions. Other studies, including a 2010 academic study published in Reproductive Health Matters, found a positive correlation between abortion restrictions and attempts at self-induced abortions.

Imagine what would happen if by federal law, abortion was made not just difficult, but a criminal act, applicable to the entire nation. It is highly likely that many hundreds of thousands of women would attempt to self-induce abortions, becoming either murderers or attempted murders under the law.

Why won’t the anti-choice movement own up to the moral and legal implications of their position on the punishment of women, as Trump pointed out? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics. The anti-choice movement knows that if they ever admitted the draconian effect on women of their proposed “human life” law or amendment, they would lose the support of millions of Americans, both women and men. Hence their moral hypocrisy.

So next time you hear the cry of “baby killing” from anti-choice advocates, close your ears and run away. Those in the anti-choice movement has forfeited the moral high ground of their crusade to stigmatize abortion as murder. They are not worthy of anyone’s time or attention.

Lichtman is distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington.

Tags 2016 presidential campaign Abortion anti-choice Donald Trump Paul Ryan pro-choice pro-life

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