Last week Andrea sent me this link to some ramblings on abortion and libertarianism. For density of question-begging and bad-faith arguing per paragraph, it’s quite a feat; not since I read the op-eds at the university newspaper have I seen quite so many packed into such a small space. Let’s dig in:
Implication #1: If the fetus is accorded individual rights, then the aborting woman and anyone who assists her are murderers and must be subject to whatever penalty society metes out for that crime, up to and including capital punishment. The punishment should be applied to past abortions as there is no statute of limitation on murder. If anti-abortionists shy away from this conclusion, then they do not really consider abortion to be murder. Note: it does not matter that the woman didn’t view the fetus as a child; if her state of mind exonerates her, then it follows that a racist should be exonerated for killing blacks. “
Wendy misses the point of “no statute of limitations.” What this means is that, for some crimes, no amount of time having passed since its commission will prevent the culprit from being charged and tried. This is not the same as making a law retroactive, which is the notion with which McElroy conflates “statute of limitations.” If, say, Global Warming Wingnuts someday succeed in making it a criminal offense not to recycle newspapers, there is no way in a constitutional democracy, as it is currently understood, to charge people with that crime if they did it before the act was made criminal. I am unaware of any example of anyone trying to do this – if one exists, I hope someone posts info about it in the comments.
The attempt to say that if we charge racially motivated lynchers with murder, we ought to advocate charging women who have abortions with murder, is an amusing attempt to make pro-lifers scamper around the issue of race. I decline to do so. For those determined to find a parallel, though, I suggest that, whenever in the past we have collectively designated one group of humans as having less worth than others, the results have been a blot on our species. Better to err on the side of caution, one would think, if we’ve learned anything from history at all.
I have yet to meet a pro-lifer who wants abortionists or aborting women treated as if they have committed first degree murder. In fact, the most common thing I have heard expressed about them is the sentiment that they are harming themselves, often accompanied by prayers that they rehabilitate themselves, not only to prevent aborting more babies but also for their own sake. As to the women who have abortions, pro-lifers, who know far more about the consequences of abortion for all involved than the average non-committed person, tend to express deep sympathy and grief for these women, and run many programs to help them heal from their abortions.
The reality, too, is that ending a life carries with it a number of different penalties depending on a number of factors. Murder for hire, as a cold-blooded and inhumane act, usually carries the most harsh penalties; deliberate murder in the heat of passion less so; questionable killing in self-defense less still; and causing a death through thoughtlessness or carelessness, while still sometimes incurring a criminal conviction, tends to carry a light sentence. Almost all abortions fit in to one of the latter three categories. If we were, as a society, to criminalize abortion, there is no reason at all to assume that we would or should hand out the same sentences as we did to Paul Bernardo. If a drunk driver kills someone, we emphasize community service, education so the event is less likely to be repeated, and often therapy to address the underlying immaturity and poor judgement that led to the episode. If, and I stress if, we were to criminalize abortion, it strikes me that education and therapy would be the most appropriate response.
And we still have 8 more points to refute! Don’t worry, though; they’re all variations on the same two tired ideas. More to come.