March 31, 2016
When I heard Donald Trump’s comments on abortion Wednesday—the formerly pro-choice Republican candidate said that if abortion was illegal, women who sought one should be punished, and then under pressure from all sides, Trump revised this statement and said only abortion providers should be punished—I thought, well, if the woman does the crime, she should do the time.
You read that right.
Let me clarify. First, I am 100% without equivocation pro-CHOICE. If I were empress of the world, I would make abortion legal in all cases and let it be given in any willing gynecologist’s office as part of the routine menu of procedures, so women could truly keep their reproductive decisions private and never have to endure a gauntlet of protestors calling them murderers. Unwanted pregnancies happen for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes women are simply irresponsible and don’t take appropriate pregnancy prevention measures. Sometimes they do, but their contraception method fails. And sometimes a desired pregnancy threatens a woman’s life. In all cases, women must be allowed to choose whether to continue the pregnancy. They need complete autonomy over their bodies and reproduction because pregnancy is not a benign condition, it’s a risky one. Pregnancy can be wonderful—personally I loved being pregnant and for 8 months felt better than at any other time of my life. My ninth month, however, was uncomfortable. Then during delivery I had some life-threatening complications. From severe nausea (remember Kate Middleton being admitted to the hospital with her first pregnancy?) to gestational diabetes to life-long impacts on the way our bodies work, many women experience serious health consequences from pregnancy, and no woman should be asked to undertake these risks without consent.
So why would I condone punishing abortion seekers?
First, again, I don’t—abortion should be legal in all cases in my view. But if it were illegal, the woman seeking one would have to be punished because only punishing the provider and not the pregnant woman is treating her as a child, not an adult responsible for her choices. When Donald Trump made his initial statement that women should be punished, several anti-abortion groups decried the statement and emphasized that they wanted to help the mothers of unborn children and only punish their deceivers.
Steam shoots out of my ears and yes blood streams from my eyeballs (and other places) when I read statements like that, because it highlights these groups’ belief that women are not rational adults capable of making well-considered choices. It reinforces the paternalistic notion that women are at best adolescents who must be closely monitored and restrained from wrongdoing. It is misogyny in its finest form.
Mr. Trump’s supporters love him for never admitting wrong, so I’m sure he disappointed a few people today when he revised his initial position to say that abortion providers but not seekers should be punished. I wish he’d stuck to his original position on this one, though, because it would have been a rare sign of respect for women. Even when I disagree with a law, I think punitive measures should be applied evenly to everyone who breaks said law. If you believe abortion is “murder,” then there is no argument that adult abortion seekers would not be as culpable as providers. But then I suppose that’s the whole goal of the anti-choice movement. When you take away a woman’s control over her reproductive organs, you turn her into a vessel for baby making. A vessel is an object, and objects don’t have brains and they don’t have rights.
Welcome to The Handmaid’s Tale.
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