National Review columnist Kevin Williamson, recently hired by The Atlantic, has taken a nearly unique view on an enduring public policy question, stating that he is partial to the notion of hanging women who have illegal abortions. Media Matters For America found a National Review podcast from 2014 in which he was co-host and remarked
And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, “If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.” And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging.
My broader point here is, of course, that I am a -- as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general -- but that I’m absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code, sure.
This has caused quite a bit of consternation, such as from a disapproving Media Matters, which nevertheless concedes "Notably, although Williamson did hedge saying that he was 'kind of squishy on capital punishment in general' he was 'absolutely willing to see abortion treated like regular homicide under the criminal code.'” Steve M, himself, acknowledging Williamson admitted it would "be 150 years before this happens," snarked "but whenever society has the gallows ready, he's there for it. No walkback."
And of course those who oppose abortion rights, who have the most to lose if this reasoning takes hold, are opposed. Charles W. Cooke, Williamson's co-host on the podcast, argued
Before we get on to the disagreement between us on this issue, it's worth saying that the presumption that you cannot believe something to be murder unless you agree with whatever response to that crime your interlocutor is proposing is ridiculous. [Williamson replies, "Sure."] The reality is that you can simultaneously believe that a crime is murder and that the person should be hanged or that the person should be put in prison for ten years or that the person should be not put in prison at all but rehabilitated by their family or that the person should go to a mental institution or that the person should be sent to Australia or exiled onto an island just off civilization's coast. You can believe all of these things.
Cooke does not have to believe in whatever his interlocutor is recommending as punishment for an illegal abortion in order for him to believe it is "murder."
First off, there is disingenuousness in referring- as Cooke does later in the video below- to abortion as "murder." It is killing but not murder until it is prohibited, and were that its status, pro-life advocates understandably would not be exorcised about it.
Lexicon aside, however, Cooke does not have to believe in whatever is recommended as punishment for the procedure in order for him to believe it is killing. He does not have to support execution for each and every woman who successfully pursues an illegal abortion. But consider his suggestion that a person who commits what he considers "murder" could
be put in prison for ten yeas or that the person should be not put in prison at all but rehabilitated by their family or that the person should go to a mental institution or that the person should be ent to Australia or exiled onto an island just off civilizations's coast.
He said that. The state's response to a woman who seeks, pays for, and obtains a "murder" can possibly be.... rehabilitated by their family.
This is not a slap on the wrist. This is less than a slap on the wrist and not even a penalty for what Cooke believes is- and under his scenario, the law would consider- a murder. Surely, even if capital punishment were the maximum penalty for obtaining an abortion, it rarely if ever would be applied. In 2017 there were 23 executions in the entire nation. It is unlikely, then, that there would be even one execution in any one year. If there were, it would suggest that abortion- with execution even remotely possible- remained extremely common, implying a public acceptance of the procedure which would justify removing the ban.
By far the most commonly stated reason, as it is for Cooke, for supporting forced-birth laws is the belief that abortion is the taking of a human life. One does not, or at least should not, automatically deny prosecutors by law the option of pursuing the death penalty for the wanton, premeditated taking of a life. If an ardent foe (as Cooke is) of abortion legalization wishes to take that punishment off the table, he cannot logically believe abortion is killing.
Alternatively, the pro-life person may believe that murder can be punished by, oh, releasing the murderer to her family. Yet, this is never suggested as the punishment for the doctor who performs the abortion as requested, for he or she must be treated as a dastardly criminal.
When in 2016 Donald Trump told Chris Matthews "there must be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion if it is banned, he backtracked within hours with not one, but two, statements, perhaps to leave no doubt that he really didn't believe a murderer should be penalized. He argued in the latter instance that not only should the health practitioner be punished but even that "the woman is the victim in this case."
He had to reassure conservatives that he was in on the game. In on the game that they must simultaneously pretend that abortion takes a human life and that the primary culprit is not the perpetrator, but the victim.
Considering a woman the victim when she makes a carefully considered decision obviously denies her agency, presuming that she is an easily manipulated child rather than a thinking, responsible adult. But that is a small price to pay, the calculation goes, for maintaining an intellectual incoherence endearing to opponents of abortion rights.