Towards the end of March 2016, Donald Trump in an interview conceded that women who have abortions should be punished. There was outrage from all sides. He couldn’t specify what a suitable punishment should. A ten year sentence was suggested but Trump really didn’t accept that. Later his campaign headquarters clarified Trump’s remarks to say only abortion providers should be punished. USA Pro-life groups immediately dismissed Trump’s proposals. They have never advocated punishing women who have abortions. However, I am anti-abortion or pro-life and do think that women who have an abortion deserve punishment and I play a small part in inflicting such punishments.
A crucial distinction is being ignored. There is a distinction between punishing through the criminal justice system (criminalizing) and punishing by expressions of moral disapproval. In the interview Trump let himself to be lead into assuming that punishing abortions would require criminalizing abortions. I strongly object to criminalizing women having abortions. The social and economic costs of punishing through the criminal justice system would be enormous. These costs would be salient and probably lead to public outrage and sympathy for abortion while the value of the deterred abortions would remain unspecified.
USA pro life groups correctly claim that the have never promoted making abortion a crime for the women having it. However, the pro life movement constantly punishes women who have an abortion by proclaiming that having an abortion is immoral. Our saying abortion is immoral is not merely writing a statement in some book or journal. We pronounce the condemnation of abortion publicly in ways which hurt. Standing outside an abortion clinic praying certainly can make some women leaving the clinic very unhappy. Our constant efforts to keep abortion from becoming a standard medical procedure and burdening it with legal restrictions presupposes an obvious moral condemnation of abortion. We do not often dwell on whether or not women deserve to suffer from our moral condemnation. But if it does come up we should grant that they deserve some of their feelings of shame and guilt we helped cause with our moral condemnation of abortion.What can be discussed is how much shame, guilt, anguish, etc., they deserve to suffer.
In summary: Women who have abortions deserve to be punished by expressions of moral disapproval of having an abortion. However, having an abortion should not be criminalized.
If these thoughts interest you, my book on sexual morality might also be of interest.
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.