William Saletan has a devastating article at Slate arguing that the pro life movement can’t really believe abortion is murder. Saletan points to recent cases where women were sentenced to death or long prison terms for hiring hitmen to kill their adult children:
Hiring someone to kill your adult son or daughter is different from hiring a doctor to terminate your pregnancy. But you can also see familiar themes. Sometimes a woman seeks an abortion because she thinks the child would break up her relationship, destroy her marriage, or ruin her life. Sometimes she worries that the father won’t support the child financially and that without his help, she can’t afford to raise the baby. Sometimes she’s in a new relationship with a man who doesn’t want some other guy’s kid in the picture, so she gets rid of it. Pro-lifers often describe these situations as abortions for “convenience.”
Still, pro-lifers say the woman must not be punished.
He points out that all of the excuses pro lifers offer for women who abort their children are made by women who kill their adult children, but in those cases we hold women accountable anyway. He argues that the pro life movement treats abortion differently because they don’t really believe it is murder:
If pro-lifers shrink from this conclusion—if they continue to make excuses for women who procure abortions while rejecting the same excuses for women who procure the deaths of their born children—then there’s only one logical explanation: They don’t really believe abortion is morally equivalent to killing a person. They sense that something about abortion— the fetus’s limited development, or its location inside the woman’s body, or the moral seriousness of weighing parenthood before you’ve actually taken it on —mitigates the gravity of the deed and the culpability of the procurer.
In their rebukes of Trump, you can see signs that pro-lifers share his doubt. Officially, the National Right to Life Committee asserts, “The baby living in her mother is as distinct and unique a separate person/human being as I am from you. This human being, as we all do, has the unalienable right to life and deserves full protection under the law.” But in its reply to Trump, the NRLC stressed that it “has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed.” The woman on whom an abortion is attempted. Apparently, the NRLC forgot that abortion, as an act of termination, is aimed at the supposedly distinct baby, not at the woman.
Kasich, Moore, and the Susan B. Anthony List committed the same slip, describing women, not their babies, as the victims who “receive” and “undergo” abortions. Never mind that the woman pays to have the baby killed and leaves the clinic alive…
That’s how you talk when you know, somewhere in your brain, that abortion is a medical procedure, that the woman is the primary patient, and that the physical and moral relationship between her and her fetus is complicated.
Saletan’s conclusion is an obvious one. Even though this isn’t the real reason for the pro life movement’s bizarre inconsistency on the issue, most people will come to the same conclusion.
This will be as devastating for the pro life movement’s credibility as the recent series of sting videos on Planned Parenthood were to the pro abortion movement. It may ultimately end up being even more damaging. Women and men who are on the fence on abortion will see the pro life movement itself acting in contradiction to what they say they believe, and this fits perfectly with the argument that opposing abortion is really just about restricting the freedoms of women. Moreover, the pro life position that women who seek abortions are merely victims offers women a pre-made rationalization for what they already want to do. The Serpent couldn’t hatch a better plan to comfort women into believing that abortion isn’t that big a deal after all.