The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Abortion: Do The Crime, Do The… Time?

Posted by Talia Cain on September 24, 2008

One particular aspect of the abortion debate that is rarely discussed is that if performing-slash-undergoing an abortion should be deemed an illegal act, then what is due punishment for the woman who commits this “crime”? Last year, Anna Quindlen of Newsweek wrote a compelling article addressing this conundrum, titled “How Much Jail Time?”.

Quindlen is not surprised by the responses of pro-lifers to this question in a mini-documentary:

The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: “I’ve never really thought about it.” “I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know.” “Just pray for them.”

It poses questions to those who classify abortion as murder. What do you propose as punishment? You consider it murder, so the first step would be incarcerating the medical team that perform and assist in the procedure. Will there be a non-parole period? Should the sentence differ if the aborted foetus is 1 week old or 28 weeks old? Surely not if you believe that “life begins at conception”. What of the woman that seeks out the aborting of a foetus? She’s a willing participant – perhaps a lesser sentence of say, manslaughter?

It’s stupid for me to play the guessing game, I’m pro-choice and believe abortion should be legal – so you tell me the answers. I’m fairly certain there would an uproar if we started to see women put through our courts and flung into jail for a harrowing decision they have made about their own body and pregnancy.

Recently I was invited to join a Facebook group called “Saving Babies” (emotive-much?), by my (extremely lovely) old school-mate who happens to be a new mother and a staunch Christian. I had noticed her Facebook updates where she stated that legalising abortion is “too far”, I bit my lip at responding “putting a law in place that women and medical practitioners don’t always have the threat of the law hanging above their head is ‘too far’?!”. I had held back with these types of rants, until this group invitation.

As a pro-choice advocate, I believe that each individual has a right to their own set of beliefs when it comes to abortion. I also understand that these beliefs are unlikely to change, but when you spot such idiotic comments such as “i red [sic] this in an article, Mother Theresa prayed to God asking him why there had never been a cure for Aids and the Lord told her that he had sent some one but she was a aborted…… that says it all“, it’s really hard not to smash your head against the keyboard. It’s also hard to refrain yourself from replying “What about all the aborted foetuses that might have been (shock-horror) homosexuals? Atheists? STEM-CELL RESEARCH ADVOCATES?” Alas, Jesus wept. Feel free to view the group and read my more diplomatic comments that follow.

Pro-lifers should perhaps extend their thought processes to what would happen if they stopped medical professionals administrating abortions, as there are dire repercussions for preventing abortions from taking place in a safe environment. Hypothetically speaking, if we go back to back-yard abortions because anti-abortionists put a stop to medical practitioners safely administrating abortions, perhaps they should be bought before the courts for the deaths of women that would ultimately follow.


10 Responses to “Abortion: Do The Crime, Do The… Time?”

  1. thomasr said

    I have a list of those who have voted against the decriminalisation in Victoria and will be writing to them to request they ask the police to prosecute.

    I hope this will highlight the absurdity of this current situation; how can we turn a blind eye to prosecution, yet refuse to codify the current status quo…? We needed clarity and acceptance, instead we have more idiocy and confusion.

  2. The death rate from incomplete abortion and sepsis, from the time of illegal abortion in this country amounts to a most unchristian number of women who died unnecessarily. The thing I’ve always found weird about the fervent, god-fearing pro-lifers is that these women just don’t count. Preserving the life of an “innocent” baby has always been at the price of the expendable “whore”. Surely in the eyes of any fair god (if such a thing existed) all life is equal.

    But back to doing the time. What about the men? Surely the father’s of aborted foetuses should be equally as liable.

  3. I couldn’t get on to the Facebook site, so I couldn’t see any of the responses to your question. But I remember when it was first published, and how a few of the folks at Christianity Today Magazine (online version) thought she was unfair and trying to divert attention away from the issue of abortion itself. (I tried, and failed, to find the exact links. Sorry.) I thought, Hm. She’s asking a question which flows logically from the ‘criminalize it’ position, and, somehow, she’s distorting that position? I am as strongly pro-choice as one can get, but I accept that I have to take account of the status of the fetus. If only more prolifers would similarly take account of the status of the woman. I think the reason so few prolifers had a response to the question is that so few of them think of the woman—as a being unto herself, neither victim nor demon—at all.

  4. Good point. Here in Norway it is leagal and lucky for us, we don’t have many of the fanatics that shout anti abortion.
    There are too many people that should never had had kids but since there is no viable option(abortion) they have to live with it. I cannot fathom why a woman that has been raped and got impregnated must have the baby.

    Anyways, good point.

  5. shevaberakhot said

    Incarcerating the mother would be counter-productive and unfair, particularly since following Roe versus Wade (1974) both women and men have been encouraged to participate in state sponsored murder.

    Education and rehabilitation should be mandatory.

  6. stephaniesam said

    Did you know that abortion wasn’t illegalized until the 1800’s and that the Catholic Church even advocated it for certain women? Ask that question of a pro-lifer.

  7. taliatalia said

    “encouraged”, shev? you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

    Education and rehabilition? Elaborate please.

  8. tina_sparkle said

    shev, you’re missing the point. a lot of people who have unwanted pregnancies and want an abortion ARE educated. they make an informed decision about they feel is the best option in their situation. you can fill people’s heads with as much propaganda (whoops – ‘education’) as you like but they’re still going to make their own decisions. people who have abortions aren’t uneducated – they understand the pro-life agenda and just think it’s a load of bollocks. take the hint.

  9. taliatalia said

    tina, once again you sparkle. xx.

  10. I’ve been rather naive. I hadn’t really discussed abortion with anti-abortion people before, and I was of course astonished to find that there were quite a lot of people describing killing even a blastocyst in the course of IVF as “murder”.

    Taking these chaps at their word, I have suggested that they attempt to have the murder statutes of their states (most of these people are American) altered to incorporate the deliberate destruction of a gamete, embryo or fetus. The lukewarm response has been a little puzzling. I’m becoming convinced that for most of these people the word “murder” is purely used for rhetorical effect.

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