Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Or Perhaps The Guillotine

A week and a half ago, Irin Carmon tweeted "credit to @kevin NR for openly taking abortion=homicide view to its logical conclusion (death penalty for women)."

In a twitter conversation of September 28, Williamson recommends "treating abortion like as homicide" and argues we should "address the entire criminal architecture," suggesting capital punishment for all hospital staff involved in the procedure. And hanging is his preferred means of execution.

This, of course, prompted a strong reaction.  Salon's Jim Newell wrote

As ugly as it sounds, Williamson’s position, as Irin Carmon tweeted, is the logically consistent pro-life position. If you believe abortion is murder, then the law should charge those who get abortions with murder and subject them to life-in-prison or capital punishment, depending on a jurisdiction’s homicide sentencing guidelines. Or perhaps, since it’s doctors performing the abortions, “merely” charges of conspiracy to murder or whatever. Those who think that abortion is murder but don’t feel that the woman who has an abortion should face homicide charges should ask themselves, Why?

Let’s take another “hard” pro-life position that is at once extreme and logically consistent: the idea that women shouldn’t even be allowed to have abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. So many politicians label themselves pro-life but allow for these exceptions, and these are the exceptions for which the Hyde Amendment allows federal Medicaid funds to cover abortions.

It's understandable, as Newell concedes, that some pro-life advocates accept abortion when the prospective mother's life is in danger, given that the continuance of a life other than that of the fetus' is involved.  A fair trade-off may be made. But pro-life folks might accept abortion also in case of rape or incest because the woman emerges as the victim.

In fact, some anti-abortion rights activists have claimed women should not be prosecuted because they are victims of... victims of whatever; it makes no sense but conservatives have an odd perception of victimization.  In either case, a woman who has been raped or the object of incest is a victim of a horrendous crime.

Nonetheless, Newell- and Carmon- are right to maintain that Williamson's support for prosecuting the prospective mother is the only logical position for the pro-choice crowd.  If abortion were illegal, she will have participated in a murder and should be charged, as Newell understands, with "conspiracy to murder" or "accessory to murder charges.  Or perhaps she ought to be charged with murder itself, as is virtually anyone else who has paid to have someone killed.

Still, Williamson's sincerity can be questioned.  Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs recognizes the "agenda (of many conservatives) is to roll back all progress on women's rights. But he belies a misunderstanding when in reply to Williamson's response, he tweets "it's telling that you advocate hanging instead of a more humane method of execution. Reveals serious animus."

It reveals animus, but a lack of seriousness.  If abortion is banned (chart below from New York magazine) and women prosecuted, the latter can at most be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which is not likely to include the death penalty and surely not hanging.

But that's how it is when people are outraged and react emotionally.  For men, at least, it's rip out their gonads, beat the crap out of them, or hang 'em high. It's not prosecuting someone fully with the aim of life without parole or execution in accordance with the law.

Admittedly, most conservatives can't afford to be serious about this. They can call for charging with murder the doctor; or the doctor and the hospital employees tangentially involved, as does Williamson. However, they cannot call for charging the woman with murder.  For if they did, there no longer would be a rough balance between pro-life and pro-choice activists and sympathizers in the nation.  Instead, the anti-abortion rights movement would be blown up or, alternatively, endure a slow, agonizing death.

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