Do Pro-Lifers Believe in Executing Abortionists?

By Richard Nelson

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October 3, 2014

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Feminist Amanda Marcotte wrote an op-ed this week for USA Today in which she claims to have pro-lifers cornered: If they really believe abortion is murder, then they also believe anyone who has an abortion should be executed.

If abortion is murder, then women who get abortions are murderers. But instead of accepting their own logic, the mainstream anti-abortion movement instead tries to paint itself as people who care about women seeking abortion, people who even want to protect women who seek abortion.

Marcotte brings up an interesting point, one that every thoughtful pro-life advocate must consider. If abortion is the killing of a real human person, then the one who arranges and the one who performs the killing are actually guilty of something. Marcotte is correct that the pro-life camp, to be consistent, needs to say they are guilty of murder. Otherwise why would a pro-life advocate lobby to make it illegal, unless the rhetoric and the reality lined up?

The difference that Marcotte fails to see is that pro-lifers are operating on holistic worldview of human personhood. Without getting into debates about capital punishment, a consistent pro-lifer can say that the life of the abortionist and of the woman purchasing the procedure are not inferior to the life of the infant, but that all three lives are equal. That's the essence of the pro-life position: Human personhood does not vary on the grounds of capacity or maturity. So not seeking to kill those responsible for abortions is not inconsistent, but rather a natural consequence of the pro-life worldview.

Pro-life people also believe in the rule of law. A society runs best when it is governed by laws and not passionate people. Interestingly, Marcotte seems to disagree with this, as she vigorously opposes any and all regulation of abortion practice. Apparently, for Marcotte, if abortion is acceptable in any case, it must be acceptable in all cases. This zero-sum mentality might shed some light on why Marcotte believes that pro-lifers would seek to murder other murderers. If the laws of the country reflected that the unborn were human persons and that wantonly killing them is murder, then yes, those who engaged in the activity should be prosecuted as such. This actually happens already, such as when the murderer of a pregnant woman is charged with double homicide. Again, the rule of law acts as a control against the passions of citizens. This is right and proper.

True pro-life ideology has always been about protecting the innocent. Pursuing the guilty is a function of the law too, but it should only be done within the controls of civic law and in the interesting of promoting human life.

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center