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September 05, 2012

Sanctity of Human Life: Democratic and Republican Platforms

File this under “Some Things Speak for Themselves”:

 

Republican Party National Platform:  The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions -– gender discrimination in its most lethal form -– and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

We also salute the many States that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation. We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement; and we affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women challenged by an unplanned pregnancy. We salute those who provide them with counseling and adoption alternatives and empower them to choose life, and we take comfort in the tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative initiatives.

 

Democratic Party National Platform:  Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose.

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

Posted by Greg Sisk on September 5, 2012 at 11:39 AM in Sisk, Greg | Permalink

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You should also take note that according to the DNC we belong to the government--but, in direct contrast, our belonging to churches and clubs is divisive and doesn't really unite us. No wonder this party engages in coercion when government and church disagree. It is the president's patriotic duty to suppress associations that stand between the state and the individual, especially when those associations dissent from Roe v Wade privacy pneumbra orthodoxy.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 5, 2012 11:51:55 AM

If I were not so jaded by years or GOP promises, I'd think the GOP platform on display was promising.

Thus Christ's admonition, we must be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

Posted by: CK | Sep 5, 2012 12:07:31 PM

Where in the platform does it mention about the possible prison sentences for women who undergo abortions? What would they suggest? Or is this the usual chest thumping from the GOP without any substance to it?

Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 5, 2012 12:38:46 PM

"Where in the platform does it mention about the possible prison sentences for women who undergo abortions?"

Nowhere. Why, do you think women who have abortions should be put in jail? Putting the abortionists in jail would appear to be the better approach.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 5, 2012 1:00:59 PM

Although I come from a different tradition and set of views than Greg, I certainly have no problem with this side-by-side comparison. I'm not sure what party platforms mean, but the parties continue to have them and voters are more than entitled to judge the parties for what they say, for good or ill. I would add a couple of points on the question of whether they speak for themselves, however. 1) If I recall correctly, one or both of the GOP candidates have already made clear that they consider themselves free to agree or disagree with any portion of the platform. And so they should! That does mean, however, that as a voter's guide these planks are necessarily imperfect. 2) If, on the other hand, we are to take these planks seriously, and not just see them as the product of a process in which each party finds a way to offer cheap goods to its respective left or right wings, then I find it interesting that the position of the GOP is that abortion is not and should not be a federalism issue. Many on this site may applaud this, and I certainly get that. But does that mean that when I am assured by some on the right that the proper and constitutional way to resolve the abortion issue is on a state-by-state political level, I can reply that they are wrong -- that, in fact, the Republican position is that abortion is now and must remain unconstitutional, period, as a matter of federal constitutional law and regardless of local views? Again, many may applaud that, and that's fine with me; I would just like to know, for purposes of friendly argument, whether I am now describing the official Republican position on the question. 3) Again without taking a normative position on the question, I note some tension between the language of the Republican platform and the position of individual candidates, including the presidential candidate, on the question of whether abortions may be allowed in cases of rape, molestation, incest, etc. I suppose one possible answer is that the language above should be read as follows: "we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed, except as follows..." Another, and I should think the more consistent one, is to allow the language to speak for itself and conclude that the official Republican position on this question is that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Sep 5, 2012 1:27:11 PM

Brian English,

You say: "Why, do you think women who have abortions should be put in jail?"

If you "affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed," then should women who have abortions be held legally responsible in *some* way? Mother Teresa said, "And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" This is an argument that will never get anywhere, but nevertheless it seems to me if you attempt to prohibit abortion only by trying to make abortions as difficult as possible to get, you have still nevertheless accepted that a mother can *seek* to kill even her own child, and if she succeeds, she does so with total impunity.

For those who want to prohibit abortion, why not hold a woman who procures an abortion in *some* way responsible? How about a $1 fine, waived in the cases of the first and second violations? Probably most people would agree that a woman who procures an abortion should not go to jail. But how can those who consider abortion murder insist on no legal responsibility at all for women who pay someone to murder their unborn children? How is that just or moral? It seems to me, in its own way, it is as extreme as allowing abortion for any reason at any point in pregnancy.

The argument from pro-lifers isn't that women shouldn't go to jail for procuring an abortion. It is that women must bear no legal responsibility whatsoever for procuring an abortion (or a second abortion, or a third abortion).

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 5, 2012 3:44:06 PM

Mr. English,

Actually, I don't think either the woman or the abortinist should be criminally prosecuted. Part of this is from my belief that our system of law doesn't handle issues like abortion very well and part of this is that with declining state resources for incarceration, I'd rather save the prison space for the Jared Loughners and Bernie Madoffs of the world rather than the George Tillers (were he still alive) because I think the first two are a greater danger to the stability of our society as a whole. Part of outlawing something means that there will be a criminal punishment for the action and until the pro-life movement as a whole is willing to show me how they would enforce abortion prohibitions, then I'd rather live without the chest-thumpng. By the way, I also beleive that governments (state and federal) should not monetarily support abortion. It should leave it entirely alone and leave it up to us as individuals and religious bodies to change the culture.

Professor Horwitz,

I would agree with you that the GOP believes that abortion should be decided at the federal level. In doing this, they forget the great lesson of Roe Vs. Wade, which is that federalism works when it is allowed to do so. I firmly beleive that issues such as abortion, same sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research should be decided strictly at the state level. We have seen how SSM is taking hold at the state level and it is doing so wihout having become the bitter political tool that abortion has become to where it is now menitoned in elections where it has no business. Unfortunately, today's GOP is a radical as the Left of the 1970s was and is as disdainful of federalism (except, of course, when it suits their purposes).


Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 5, 2012 3:49:08 PM

"This is an argument that will never get anywhere, but nevertheless it seems to me if you attempt to prohibit abortion only by trying to make abortions as difficult as possible to get, you have still nevertheless accepted that a mother can *seek* to kill even her own child, and if she succeeds, she does so with total impunity."

Abortionists were never popular (even Margaret Sanger despised them), and despite the efforts of the pro-abortion lobby over the last 40 years, their standing hasn't improved much. This really becomes a question of what kind of laws you can get passed, and pinning criminal liability solely on the abortionist makes for a much easier legislative process. That is also consistent with the pro-life approach that views the woman as being an additional victim of the procedure.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 5, 2012 4:03:56 PM

"We seek to protect young girls from exploitation through a parental consent requirement;" "We seek"? The minor child has no informed consent to give until she is emancipated at eighteen years of age. Until then, the child's civil rights are held in trust for her by GOD (IN GOD WE TRUST), her parents and the courts, in that order. Public schools are empowered to teach "in loco parentis". Taking a child to an abortionist without parental consent is KIDNAPPING, across state lines is the death penalty since Lindberg.
"Putting the abortionists in jail would appear to be the better approach." When a woman testifies to having had her baby killed, she is turning state's evidence and immunity from prosecution follows. That in no way changes the fact of her killing her baby. The former mother knows what she did. Again, putting an innocent sovereign person to death for the crimes of his rapist or incestuous father is injustice. Since Roe v. Wade denies the father any right to privacy to claim his own seed, abortion is the most destructive, emasculating movement on the face of the earth. No man ought to vote for emasculation, dispossession and disenfranchisement of his God-given human rights.

Posted by: Mary De Voe | Sep 5, 2012 4:09:50 PM

Mr. English,

Let me translate that. The public would never buy incarcerating and prosecuting women who have abortions so we're not going to pursue that.

Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 5, 2012 4:20:38 PM

Brian English,

You say: "That is also consistent with the pro-life approach that views the woman as being an additional victim of the procedure."

But is the pro-life approach just? And can it be reconciled with the penalty of automatic excommunication imposed by the Catholic Church? And do you reject what Mother Teresa said?

Can I have your personal opinion, not the pro-life movement rationale?

Suppose a woman is in a terrible situation and begs and pleads with a doctor to perform an abortion. He very reluctantly agrees, and then somehow it is found out, and he gets a $10,000 fine and time in prison, and she is not legally liable at all. Would that be justice?

And here's the thing. The pro-life movement has changed the terms of the debate. It was never the case in American law that abortions were illegal because "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." Some people who supported the criminalization of abortion no doubt believed that, but it was never part of the law. Abortion was not considered murder before, but the pro-life movement has promoted a new legal argument that it is (or should be).

By the way, one of the reasons abortionists were unpopular was because abortions were unsafe, and abortion laws were largely seen as protecting women from harm. Now abortions are very safe. I fully agree that it would be easier to get legislation that punished abortionists and that any punishment of women who procured abortion would be politically unpopular. But I am not asking what would be politically feasible or popular. I am asking what would be just.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 5, 2012 4:39:42 PM

Mary De Voe,

You say: "When a woman testifies to having had her baby killed, she is turning state's evidence and immunity from prosecution follows."

May I point out that under the kinds of laws the pro-life movement envisions, the woman who procures an abortion is free of all legal responsibility. He does not need immunity, because she has committed no offense. If women incurred some penalty for procuring an abortion, the state could give them an inducement to testify against the abortionist by plea bargaining or promising immunity. But you can't plea bargain or promise immunity when the woman is guilty of no offense. So of course it actually makes it more difficult to prosecute abortionists when women are legally innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever if they procure an abortion.

The laws pro-lifers want say to a pregnant woman, "Legally, it's perfectly okay for you to seek an abortion, and you won't be punished in any way if you procure one. We're just making it as difficult as we can for you to find someone who will provide the abortion you are seeking."

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 5, 2012 4:49:06 PM

"I'd rather save the prison space for the Jared Loughners and Bernie Madoffs of the world rather than the George Tillers (were he still alive) because I think the first two are a greater danger to the stability of our society as a whole."

Thankfully, there are not that many Loughners and Madoffs, so I think the prisons could still accommodate Tiller's brethren.

"I would agree with you that the GOP believes that abortion should be decided at the federal level."

As a practical matter, the idea is to overturn Roe and get the issue back to the states.

"Let me translate that. The public would never buy incarcerating and prosecuting women who have abortions so we're not going to pursue that."

Well yeah, pursuing laws that people will not vote for would be a waste of time.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 5, 2012 6:21:45 PM

"But is the pro-life approach just? And can it be reconciled with the penalty of automatic excommunication imposed by the Catholic Church? And do you reject what Mother Teresa said?"

Yes, yes and no. The law doesn't have to completely track my beliefs as a Catholic in order for me to consider the law to be just.

"Suppose a woman is in a terrible situation and begs and pleads with a doctor to perform an abortion. He very reluctantly agrees, and then somehow it is found out, and he gets a $10,000 fine and time in prison, and she is not legally liable at all. Would that be justice?"

The doctor is the one who broke the law, so it is justice for him to go to jail.

"By the way, one of the reasons abortionists were unpopular was because abortions were unsafe, and abortion laws were largely seen as protecting women from harm."

I think you are wrong about that being the primary reason. There was a professor from Villanova Law who wrote a book about this. The name escapes me.

"But I am not asking what would be politically feasible or popular. I am asking what would be just."

I have no problem with putting the guy in jail who profits from the abortion. You appear to regard that as unfair, and I don't understand why.


Posted by: Brian English | Sep 5, 2012 6:36:46 PM

"As a practical matter, the idea is to overturn Roe and get the issue back to the states." So, the platform doesn't speak for itself?

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Sep 5, 2012 6:39:41 PM

"So, the platform doesn't speak for itself?"

No, it is aspirational. A constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision affirming the personhood of an unborn child under the Constitution are not likely in the foreseeable future, so getting the issue back to the states is the most likely course of action.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 5, 2012 6:52:49 PM

Brian English,

You say: "I have no problem with putting the guy in jail who profits from the abortion. You appear to regard that as unfair, and I don't understand why."

Perhaps you didn't understand the question. In the situation I described, where the pregnant woman is in a very difficult situation and begs and pleads with the abortionist to perform the abortion, and then he is jailed and she is legally blameless, would it be justice for both? I know you don't mind putting the abortionist in jail. Would it be just for the woman to be completely legally blameless? I am not saying she must go to jail. But is it just for her to have no legal responsibility at all?

Suppose the woman is in a very difficult situation because she is married and she dare not let her husband find out she is pregnant. Suppose she begs and pleads with the abortionist to either perform an abortion or kill her husband. Either way will solve the problem. If she helps make the arrangements for the doctor to kill her husband and even pays him to commit the murder, and he does, she is not legally blameless. If she makes the arrangement for the doctor to kill her baby and even pays him to do so, she *is* legally blameless. Is that justice?

You say: "The law doesn't have to completely track my beliefs as a Catholic in order for me to consider the law to be just."

What are your beliefs as a Catholic? That a whole class of people (the unborn) may be legally killed by another whole class of people (their mothers)? That the only one who is legally blameless for killing an unborn child is the child's mother?

If a woman buys an abortion drug, takes it, and successfully aborts, would you say it should be legal for her to buy the drug but illegal for the seller to sell it? Would it make sense to penalize a woman for buying an abortion pill but not for procuring an abortion?

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 5, 2012 7:06:04 PM

"It is that women must bear no legal responsibility whatsoever for procuring an abortion"

This is not the pro-life argument, it is just another caricature that DN likes to make of the pro-life argument.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 6, 2012 9:33:48 AM

Mr. English,

There may not be that many Loughners and Madoffs but there are others who commit criminal acts like them. And you know as well as I do that state budgets for incarceration are decresing and that some states have even had to release inmates, including some violent ones. I don't want a abortion doctor to be taking a space for someone who commits armed robberies and the like.

As for returning the matter to the states, that would be preferable. But please don't tell me that today's GOP would leave it at that. They would overreach and for evidence of that, I harken you back to the Terri Sciavo case.

The legal remedy that you would propose would further weaken respect for the law and it would weaken the moral argument against abortion. And that's why I think this issue is not well handled at the legal level and needs to be approached from the cultural aspect.

Mr. Bowman,

Well, Mr. Nichol seems to have summed up the argument regarding legal responsibility so far. Where is he wrong, because I can't see it.

Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 6, 2012 9:54:17 AM

The pro-life argument for aiming punishment at abortionists is not that women have no moral culpability at all ever. It is that aiming punishment at abortionists is the way in which law in this country will actually protect the preborn, and in addition does actually serve justice vis a vis the hired killers. Catholic teaching requires, as a moral matter, that the law protect the preborn from what Pope John Paul II called murder. It does not require that we punish women when punishing abortionists will do. Catholic teaching makes it an independent grave evil for the law not to protect the preborn, so all the Catholic Left's theories about it being OK to oppose restrictions on abortion are absurd. But once we get into the realm of actually restricting abortion effectively, Catholic teaching does not require what DN wants it to require, that of jailing women. DN deperately wants to tell Catholics that they really believe what they insist they do not believe, that women must be jailed. He can't take yes for an answer, because he doesn't want to--he wants to caricature his opponents as supporting things they don't support, and believing things he insists they believe when they make it clear that they don't. DN's constant harangue is "you really believe X [insert belief that is troubling]; even though you have fully explained that you don't believe it, you really do."

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 6, 2012 10:22:03 AM

Matt Bowman,

You say: "But once we get into the realm of actually restricting abortion effectively, Catholic teaching does not require what DN wants it to require, that of jailing women. DN deperately wants to tell Catholics that they really believe what they insist they do not believe, that women must be jailed."

You are seriously distorting what I said. I have not advocated jailing women who have abortions if abortion is criminalized. I have argued that I think it is unjust that they bear NO LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY AT ALL. Above, for example, I said, "How about a $1 fine, waived in the cases of the first and second violations?" Does that sound like jail time? How about counseling? How about a week or two of community service in a crisis pregnancy center?

You are arguing against a position I have not taken, and I can only imagine that it is to avoid answering the question I am raising. How is it just to punish an abortionist with large fines and prison time while holding the woman who arranged and paid for the abortion totally and completely blameless under the law?

Here's a straightforward question for you. If abortion is criminalized, should women bear ANY legal responsibility, or pay ANY legal penalty, for procuring an abortion? A second abortion? A third abortion? I am not asking if they should go to jail. I am asking if they should be legally scott free.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 10:40:32 AM

Matt Bowman,

You say: "It is that aiming punishment at abortionists is the way in which law in this country will actually protect the preborn, and in addition does actually serve justice vis a vis the hired killers."

In what way is it justice to punish "hired killers" but to hold those who actually *hire* the "hired killers" totally and completely legally blameless. Again, I am not suggesting or advocating jail time. I am raising the question of how a woman who pays a "hired killer" to murder her baby?

The words "hired killer" are yours. How can it be a serious crime to murder for hire, and yet be no legal offense at all to pay a murderer to kill a victim you deliver into his hands?

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 10:49:59 AM

Matt Bowman,

You say" "Catholic teaching does not require what DN wants it to require."

Just to clarify one point. I am not so much discussing Catholic teaching as the political (and taking them on their word) the personal positions of those who speak for the pro-life movement. It is not the Catholic Church that teaches a woman who procures an abortion must be legally blameless. It is those—Catholic or otherwise—who speak for the pro-life movement. It does not seem to me it is a Catholic teaching that *either* an abortionist or a woman who procures an abortion must go to jail. As I understand it (and correct me if I am wrong) Catholic teaching says that the unborn must be protected by the law. It doesn't provide model anti-abortion laws or anything of the sort.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 11:00:28 AM

"Perhaps you didn't understand the question. In the situation I described, where the pregnant woman is in a very difficult situation and begs and pleads with the abortionist to perform the abortion, and then he is jailed and she is legally blameless, would it be justice for both?"

I understood your question, it's just that I find your sympathy for the jailed abortionist to be very misplaced.

"Either way will solve the problem. If she helps make the arrangements for the doctor to kill her husband and even pays him to commit the murder, and he does, she is not legally blameless. If she makes the arrangement for the doctor to kill her baby and even pays him to do so, she *is* legally blameless. Is that justice?"

Well, in the case of the abortion, it is justice compared to what we have now, where both are legally blameless.


"What are your beliefs as a Catholic? That a whole class of people (the unborn) may be legally killed by another whole class of people (their mothers)? That the only one who is legally blameless for killing an unborn child is the child's mother?"

You are mixing concepts again. As a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception. The laws of a jurisdiction, which are promulgated by the state, will not always reflect may beliefs. I can try to convince others that my beliefs should be reflected in the law, but I will not always be successful. The challenge is to get as close as possible. On abortion, I believe I will have a much better chance of getting laws passed prohibiting abortion if the mother is not held criminally liable. You may feel that is unfair to the abortion doctor, but I can live with that.

" If a woman buys an abortion drug, takes it, and successfully aborts, would you say it should be legal for her to buy the drug but illegal for the seller to sell it? Would it make sense to penalize a woman for buying an abortion pill but not for procuring an abortion?"

If you sell abortion drugs, you go to jail.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 11:12:15 AM

"I don't want a abortion doctor to be taking a space for someone who commits armed robberies and the like."

Abortion was illegal in most states up until 40 years ago. Do you have any evidence of prison overcrowding prior to 1973 due to the jailing of abortion doctors?

"But please don't tell me that today's GOP would leave it at that. They would overreach and for evidence of that, I harken you back to the Terri Sciavo case."

Well, we will just have to see what happens.

"The legal remedy that you would propose would further weaken respect for the law and it would weaken the moral argument against abortion."

How?

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 11:20:12 AM

"It does not seem to me it is a Catholic teaching that *either* an abortionist or a woman who procures an abortion must go to jail. As I understand it (and correct me if I am wrong) Catholic teaching says that the unborn must be protected by the law. It doesn't provide model anti-abortion laws or anything of the sort."

The idea that Catholic teaching "doesn't provide model anti-abortion laws" is not the same as saying that Catholic teaching means whatever the Catholic Left wants it to mean including to justify voting against all legal restrictions on abortion and just voting instead to increase government funding for pregnant women. That would it nonsensical when Catholic says abortion must be illegal and the preborn must be protected. That is the Catholic teaching, and it logically necessitates that the murder be illegal and enforced with basic effect. This is not fulfilled by proposing that we not enforce the illegality of abortion against anyone, which you and others propose is an option. But it can be fulfilled, and historically has usually been fulfilled, by enforcing it against abortionists/suppliers. The Catholic teaching that abortion must be illegal and the preborn protected cannot possibly mean that abortion need not be either. But it can mean that once illegal and the preborn protected by prosecuting suppliers, there is no Catholic teaching requiring the jailing of women.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 6, 2012 11:27:14 AM

Would anyone on this thread change his or her views about the law's proper response to abortion if evidence showed that countries that outlaw abortion have higher rates of abortion?

Or to put it another way, if you have to choose, do you care more about (a) reducing the total # of abortions, or about (b) having the law reflect the moral view that abortion is wrong?

(And I know some will prefer to fight the premise, but it's more interesting if you try to answer the question...)

Posted by: JR | Sep 6, 2012 11:49:41 AM

Matt Bowman,

I'll try again.

Here's a straightforward question for you. If abortion is criminalized, should women bear ANY legal responsibility, or pay ANY legal penalty, for procuring an abortion? A second abortion? A third abortion? I am not asking if they should go to jail. I am asking if they should be legally scott free.

Is it just for a hired killer to murder, but for the person who hired the killer and delivered the victim into his hands to go legally scott free?

These do not seem like particularly difficult questions to answer.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 11:51:49 AM

Brian English,

You say: "I understood your question, it's just that I find your sympathy for the jailed abortionist to be very misplaced."

Did I express sympathy for the jailed abortionist? No, I pointed out the disparity between the harsh punishment of the abortionist and the total absence of any legal responsibility on the part of the woman who paid for the abortion and delivered the victim into the abortionist's hands. I am not asking if it is just to punish the abortionist. I am asking if it is just to punish the abortionist severely but not to punish the woman who paid him to perform the abortion not at all.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 11:57:33 AM

"Is it just"

Some MOJ bloggers might point out to you that the raw, isolated "justice towards women who abort" box you are trying to paint Catholics into is artificial. The justice of abortion laws is first and foremost in making it illegal and effectively protecting the preborn. It is also entirely just to punish abortion suppliers. Once that is accomplished, indeed once it is done to greater effect by not needing to punish women, the retributive question vis a vis women that you insist Catholics must focus on is not what Catholic teaching calls us to focus on at all. I don't know how many times I need to tell you that Catholic teaching is not what you insist it is.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 6, 2012 12:04:43 PM

"Did I express sympathy for the jailed abortionist? No, I pointed out the disparity between the harsh punishment of the abortionist and the total absence of any legal responsibility on the part of the woman who paid for the abortion and delivered the victim into the abortionist's hands."

Well, you are going on about how unfair it is that only the abortionist goes to jail.

When we get right down to it, isn't really your position that neither the mother nor the abortionist should go to jail? Isn't it true that the only reason you are raising this issue is because by seeking to place the mother under legal liability, you are hoping that laws prohibiting abortion would be defeated?

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 1:10:09 PM

Remember when DN was complaining that the Born Alive Infant Protection Act created a false dilemma for pro-choicers by forcing them into a box where they'd have to come out against infanticide in a context where infanticide wasn't really an issue? Remember how that was totally unfair and a dirty trick probably concocted by some Lee Atwater-type in the woods of Amherst? Remember how infanticide was a non-issue and those dastardly Republicans were just using it to make the pro-choice position seem unreasonable? Neither do I. Answer the question, Matt! Why can't we jail women?

Posted by: Mike | Sep 6, 2012 1:38:06 PM

Mike,

You say: "Answer the question, Matt! Why can't we jail women?"

But that is not the question I asked. I asked whether it was just to have harsh penalties for a doctor who performs an abortion but ABSOLUTELY NO PENALTIES AT ALL for a woman who asks the doctor to perform the abortion, delivers the victim (her unborn child) into the hands of the "hired killer" (Matt Bowman's designation, not my own), and pays the hired killer for killing her unborn child, the equivalent of murder.

One can only assume from the evasions and distortions of those who won't answer the question that the two likely answers are, "I'd rather not say," and, "Yes, it is just to absolve from all legal responsibility, in advance, women who pay hired killers to murder their own children."

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 1:55:04 PM

Brian English,

You say: "Well, you are going on about how unfair it is that only the abortionist goes to jail."

My word is "unjust," and the injustice lies in the inequity. The hired killer kills and is severely punished. The person who hires the killer to kill and delivers the victim into his hands is absolved of any legal wrongdoing in advance. If a woman hires a hit man to kill her husband, she is guilty of murder. If she hires a hit man to kill her "post-born" children, she is guilty of murder. If she hires a hit man to kill her unborn child, she is innocent of any wrongdoing.

You say: "Isn't it true that the only reason you are raising this issue is because by seeking to place the mother under legal liability, you are hoping that laws prohibiting abortion would be defeated?"

Brian, I am under no illusion that what I say on Mirror of Justice or First Things will have any impact on abortion law whatsoever. I am conflicted enough on the issue that if I thought I would actually influence the outcome, I would probably not write anything.

The reason I bring this up is that I am at minimum bewildered that anyone who considers abortion to be murder, punishable by law, would automatically exempt a woman who procures an abortion (and especially a second, third, . . . , sixth) from *any* legal liability whatsoever. It makes no sense from a law enforcement point of view. Women who have had abortions cannot be bargained with to testify against abortionists. And it is grossly inequitable.

And remember. I am not talking about sending women to jail. One of the ideas I mentioned was a token fine, which could be waived in the case of the first two offenses. Or counseling. Or community service.

Punishing abortionists but automatically guaranteeing no legal liability at all for a woman who procures an abortion makes no sense to me whatsoever, except insofar as it is purely a matter of political expediency. If you think you can get laws passed prohibiting abortion that you would otherwise not get passed if women were held in any way responsible, then it would be perfectly reasonable to refrain from trying to hold the women responsible in the law. But such laws would not be just. They might not be so unjust that they shouldn't be passed, but they would be unjust nevertheless.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 2:25:49 PM

Matt Bowen.

You say: " . . . the retributive question vis a vis women that you insist Catholics must focus on is not what Catholic teaching calls us to focus on at all."

I am not talking about retribution. Retributive justice doesn't interest me very much. I am talking about deterrence and the practicalities of law enforcement. What is to deter women from seeking an abortion if they cannot be held legally liable for doing so? And as I have said, there is no way to induce a woman to testify against an abortionist is she is exempt from prosecution and a prosecutor has no bargaining chips. Also, many abortions today don't even require abortionists, just pills. Also, what does the law teach when it punishes anyone who arranges a murder for hire is a murderer except when the victim is her own child? Laws that hold women in no way legally responsible for procuring an abortion, in my opinion, say it is perfectly okay to procure and abortion. The crime is performing one. Why would society expect women not to seek to have abortions if they are legally at perfect liberty to do so?

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 2:42:02 PM

"I am conflicted enough on the issue that if I thought I would actually influence the outcome, I would probably not write anything."

Yes, you seem very conflicted.

"If you think you can get laws passed prohibiting abortion that you would otherwise not get passed if women were held in any way responsible, then it would be perfectly reasonable to refrain from trying to hold the women responsible in the law. But such laws would not be just. They might not be so unjust that they shouldn't be passed, but they would be unjust nevertheless."

They would be more just than the laws we have now.

"Why would society expect women not to seek to have abortions if they are legally at perfect liberty to do so?"

Because they couldn't find someone to perform the abortion?

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 3:01:13 PM

JR,

That's a fair question and I'll answer it for my part. I'm interested in reducing the number of abortions first and foremost. If that can be done without outlawing them and if it is more effective than legal bans, then I'm for that.

Mr. English,

Regarding the evidence about jail overcrowding before 1973, I have no such eveidence. But I can confidently state that the states didn't have the budgetary problems in corrections that they have now. That's why these choices will have to be made.

Regarding the Terri Schiavo case, I can't foresee the future but I can look at the past and the GOP on this issue is only interested in federalism when it suits their ends.

Mr. Bowman,

You are correct in that Catholic teaching doesn't mandate that a woman who has an abortion be incarcerated. However, we're not talking about CST but rather how one enforces an abortion ban and bans that will only punish the abortion doctor won't be respected (IMHO). That will further erode the standing of the pro-life view and I don't think that would be a good thing. As I have said in my previous posts, it's the culture that needs to be changed, not the laws.

Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 6, 2012 3:12:47 PM

Also, Mr. Bowman, without someone first going to the abortion doctor or asking for an abortion, the doctor then wouldn't have an abortion to do. How that gets the woman off legally from the doctor is something that I can't fathom for the life of me (no pun intended).

Posted by: Ed Dougherty | Sep 6, 2012 3:14:56 PM

Sorry, I misunderstood your bad-faith, non-sequitur trap, David. My earlier comment should read, "Answer the question, Matt! Why can't we punish women?"

Posted by: Mike | Sep 6, 2012 3:16:44 PM

"However, we're not talking about CST but rather how one enforces an abortion ban and bans that will only punish the abortion doctor won't be respected (IMHO)."

But that was the way the laws generally operated before Roe.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 4:05:20 PM

Brian English,

You say: "But that was the way the laws generally operated before Roe."

However, the premises have changed since before Roe. Abortion was not considered murder, legally. Once you "affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed," things are different from the days prior to Roe. And if you pass "a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children," you've got a whole new ballgame.

I am definitely no lawyer, but if the unborn are declared persons entitled to "equal protection," I wonder if it couldn't be argued that it was not equal protection to forbid a mother to have ther children killed after they are born but not before they are born.

In any case, it seems to me declaring the unborn to be persons under the 14th Amendment entitled to equal protection of the law would raise many unanticipated issues.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 4:42:21 PM

If what the Republican Platform says about abortion is truly implemented, wouldn't that render it impossible to make exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother?

Also, is a frozen embryo in a fertility clinic, or an embryo in an embryonic stem-cell-research lab, an unborn child?

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 4:49:52 PM

"Abortion was not considered murder, legally."

It was at one point, but then the penalties were reduced so that more convictions could be obtained. The main focus was on putting abortionists out of business.

"Once you "affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed," things are different from the days prior to Roe. And if you pass "a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children," you've got a whole new ballgame."

Since neither one of things is going to happen, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 4:53:49 PM

Brian English,

You say: "It was at one point, but then the penalties were reduced so that more convictions could be obtained."

Is this to be found in that book* you can't remember the name of by a Villanova law professor? :P

Was it in one state? Many states? Nineteenth century? Twentieth century?


*(Presumably Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History by Joseph W. Dellapenna)

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 6, 2012 5:26:53 PM


"Is this to be found in that book* you can't remember the name of by a Villanova law professor? :P"

Might be. There was also a book called Abortion Rites, that might have it as well.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 6, 2012 6:04:56 PM

Nikel, You are talking about retribution, or something much more petty, a mere cry of "it isn't fair!" when what Catholic teaching thinks about in the justice of abortion laws is making abortion illegal and effectively protecting the preborn, not whether you think prosecuting abortionists but not women isn't "just." But when you were proven an incorrect interpreter of Catholic teaching on that question, you switched to say you were talking about something else. You are simply wrong that an abortionist/supplier (including pills) prosecution of abortion wouldn't work. You are in fact in the least qualified position to lecture society about how to have pro-life laws. You are simply accusing pro-life Catholics of believing something they don't believe, and of insisting of something they do not and need not insist on. The pro-life position is clear: make abortion illegal and punish abortionists. It is a sound and time honored position. That is what drives you up the wall and makes you insist that it really wants to punish women. What you think about what is fair about that arrangement is irrelevant to the Catholic position, because you and it have opposite principles and goals.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 6, 2012 9:11:33 PM

Re: jailing women for abortion.

This fundamental principle seems to be so easily forgotten: not all immoral and unjust acts can or should be criminally punished by society, just as not all moral and just acts should be legally required by society. Whether something should be criminally punished by society is highly dependent on a variety of factors, including whether the prohibition is effective, whether it is easily flaunted, whether it tends to bring the rest of the law into disrepute, whether it has negative consequences, etc.

Consider that committing suicide is an unjust and immoral act, but the person attempting suicide shouldn't be criminally punished -- he or she needs love and support --- while the doctor who assists the attempted suicide is in an entirely different position, considering that he or she is betraying the duty to help the person in need. I think this is analogous to the abortion example.

Posted by: Thales | Sep 6, 2012 11:12:03 PM

Thales,

Your topic is "jailing women for abortion," and I have said countless times that I am not raising the question of whether women should be sentenced to jail or prison for procuring an abortion. The question I am raising is whether women should have NO LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY AT ALL for procuring abortions.

Not to go off on a tangent discussing suicide, but I believe there are two main reasons why attempted suicide has (really quite recently) ceased to be prosecuted or even to be on the books as a crime. First, a person who attempts suicide is seen to be mentally or emotionally disturbed and in need of medical attention, not criminal punishment. Second, many people believe that individuals own their own lives and have a right to end them. I don't see how either of these reasons applies to a woman who procures an abortion.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 8:17:18 AM

Matt Bowman,

You say, "But when you were proven an incorrect interpreter of Catholic teaching on that question, you switched to say you were talking about something else."

I am not trying to interpret "Catholic teaching" on the matter of punishing abortionists but exempting women who procure abortion from any legal responsibility whatsoever. I am looking at your rhetoric and noting how the law handles analogous situations. You refer to abortionists as "hired killers" and you stated that John Paul II called abortion murder (your own personal view, I can only assume). Certainly it is not absurd to note that it is the women procuring abortions who actually hire the "hired killers" to murder their unborn child. Why it seems to be considered an outrage to ask the following question is something I fail to understand: Why should a woman who engages and pays a hired killer to murder her unborn child be treated so differently from a woman who engages and pays a hired killer to murder her newborn child or even her grown child. It is the pro-life movement that claims birth is a meaningless dividing line when determining the right to life. Why is birth a meaningless dividing line when it comes to the right to life, but such a meaningful dividing line that a woman may have her unborn children murdered and be totally free from legal responsibility.

How can the difference be so profound between engaging a "hired killer" to murder your unborn child and engaging a "hired killer" to murder your newborn child that the former leaves one blameless before the law but the latter is a serious criminal offense?

It is your rhetoric and the rhetoric of the pro-life movement that raises these questions. And no matter how much the pro-life movement rails against people who ask these questions, the questions are still valid and deserve answers, not evasions or personal attacks.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 8:47:55 AM

You just don't like the answer. Abortion laws must make it illegal and effectively protect the preborn. Those ends are served well and better by prosecuting abortion suppliers. End of reason. "But it's not faaaaiiiiiiirrrrrrr!!!" Your objection is irrelevant to the prolife goals I just expressed, again. You just can't stomach the fact that pro-lifers are not proposing to punish women, because you want to attack them for it. So you insist they believe it anyway, as you always do when you lose arguments with social conservatives.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 7, 2012 9:03:51 AM

I also don’t have a problem with criminal sanctions being limited to the abortionist. With on average more than 3,000 abortions taking place in the U.S. each day, abortion is sui generis IMO, and the most effective way to drastically reduce the number of abortions is to target the abortionists, who, one hopes, would think long and hard before engaging in conduct for which they are solely responsible.

Posted by: Bill Collier | Sep 7, 2012 9:37:43 AM

Matt Bowman,

You say: "Your objection is irrelevant to the prolife goals I just expressed, again. You just can't stomach the fact that pro-lifers are not proposing to punish women, because you want to attack them for it. So you insist they believe it anyway, as you always do when you lose arguments with social conservatives."

On the contrary, I acknowledge that pro-lifers sincerely believe women who procure abortions not merely should not be punished, but should bear no legal responsibility at all for having an abortion. You are attributing to me a position that is exactly the opposite of the one I am expressing. I would understand if pro-lifers privately believed women should be held legally responsible for abortion, but, recognizing that was politically unpopular, did not argue that case. But it's clearly the case that pro-lifers truly don't believe women should be held legally responsible for procuring an abortion.

You say: "'But it's not faaaaiiiiiiirrrrrrr!!!' Your objection is irrelevant to the prolife goals I just expressed, again."

I am making an argument that you are not responding to, other than with snide mockery. Why would it be a crime for a woman to engage a "hired killer" to murder her newborn child, but it is not a crime for a woman to engage a "hired killer" to murder her unborn child. As I have pointed out, I am using your premises. An abortionist is a "hired killer." Abortion is "murder." Birth is not a transition from nonperson to person. You are evading almost every relevant question.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 10:43:53 AM

"the most effective way to drastically reduce the number of abortions is to target the abortionists, who, one hopes, would think long and hard before engaging in conduct for which they are solely responsible."

Exactly.

"Why would it be a crime for a woman to engage a "hired killer" to murder her newborn child, but it is not a crime for a woman to engage a "hired killer" to murder her unborn child."

Because we already have laws against murder, and people seem to like them. Laws against abortion will have to be passed, and they are much more likely to be passed if mothers are not held criminally liable. If jailing the abortionist and letting the mother go free offends your sense of justice, I suggest you spearhead a letter-writing campaign to your state legislature when, hopefully, this becomes an issue in the future.

Posted by: Brian English | Sep 7, 2012 11:26:25 AM

You get an answer many times over, and then say "you're evading" because the answer isn't what you wanted it to say. Enjoy your own rhetoric.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Sep 7, 2012 11:52:41 AM

David Nichol, the reason why it seems unjust to some that those who intentionally destroy innocent human life should be held accountable, is because so many do not believe the son or daughter residing in their Mother's womb is worthy of being protected.The best way to change the hearts of those whose hearts have been hardened, is to begin by recognizing the truth about the Sanctity and Dignity of human life, that every innocent human life is worthy of being protected. Throughout History, there have been periods of Time when human individuals were persecuted and suffered greatly, even to the point of death, because their life was not considered worthy of being protected.

Posted by: N.D. | Sep 7, 2012 3:52:38 PM

Please correct me if I have overlooked anything, but with all the back and forth, nobody has offered a reason why women *shouldn't* be held legally accountable for procuring an abortion other than that it would be easier to get anti-abortion laws passed that way. I certainly agree with that. People have given reasons why women *need* not be held legally accountable for procuring an abortion, but that is different from why they *should* not.

I think Brian English is correct that no human life amendment will be passed, nor will any "legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children." But I also don't believe the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v Wade. There may be some further modification and narrowing of constitutional abortion rights, but it seems highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would render a decision where the right to an abortion simply vanished.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 5:21:12 PM

William Saletan in a Slate article summarized the reasons his pro-life readers gave for not prosecuting women who procure abortion:

1. It's just political pragmatism.
2. We can't prosecute women because courts won't let us ban abortion.
3. Even if we can ban abortion, courts won't let us prosecute women.
4. It's rational to target the sellers.
5. If women can be prosecuted, they won't testify against abortionists.
6. Women are innocent because doctors deceive them.
7. Women who get abortions are desperate.
8. Women who get abortions are coerced and remorseful.
9. The doctor will kill again, but the woman won't.
10. For women, abortion is punishment enough.
11. Women who get abortions are in denial.
12. Abortion's legality prevents women from realizing that abortion is killing.
13. The abortion industry prevents women from realizing that abortion is killing.
14. Abortion isn't as clearly wrong as murder.

He easily refutes most of them and concludes: "Once you get beyond the rationalizations—that women don't know what they're doing, that they're all coerced, that they're just occasional users—you have to admit either that they should be subject to prosecution or that abortion isn't murder."

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2010/09/fetal_exception.single.html

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 5:25:31 PM

Charles Camosy, in a piece titled "Getting an Abortion Is Like Not Dying Your Hair Blonde," says of abortion: "At the very least, no matter where we come down on this complex and difficult issue, don’t almost all of us understand abortion at least as a tragic and difficult choice? As Obama said at Notre Dame, 'we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually.'” His answer, ultimately, is no. "We must deal honestly with the fact that many women who choose to have an abortion (along with men who exert various kinds of pressure on women and girls to have abortions) do not see it as an exceptional, heart-breaking choice to be used only in dire circumstances."

http://catholicmoraltheology.com/getting-an-abortion-is-like-not-dying-your-hair-blonde/

This seems to me to be undeniable, and to put the lie to reasons 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13 in Saletan's list above.

Posted by: David Nickol | Sep 7, 2012 5:38:49 PM

David,
Sorry, I don't understand the distinction you're making between not jailing women and "legal responsibility". In my view, "legal responsibility" entails some legal sanction, and legal sanction generally involves either a monetary fine or jailing. And as I said, the question whether to impose legal sanctions is a question of prudence highly dependent on the particular circumstances -- not all immoral acts should have legal sanctions attached.

"First, a person who attempts suicide is seen to be mentally or emotionally disturbed and in need of medical attention, not criminal punishment." And I (and many other pro-lifers) think that most women who get abortions are in need of emotional and psychological attention and support and care, and criminal punishment.

"Second, many people believe that individuals own their own lives and have a right to end them." And many people believe that individuals own their own bodies and have a right to end the being inside their body.

Posted by: Thales | Sep 13, 2012 12:03:12 AM

Sorry, typo: "and, NOT criminal punishment"

Posted by: Thales | Sep 16, 2012 9:24:25 AM

deal honesty and individual rights to other.

Posted by: SEO San Antonio | Feb 26, 2013 9:51:14 PM

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