Late last week, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, voiced opinions about abortion that raise prominent questions about the ongoing debate over abortion rights in the United States.
At a forum on March 30, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews questioned Trump about his current stance on abortion. When pushed for a detailed answer, Trump stated that if abortion was banned in the United States “there [would have] to be some form of punishment” for the woman seeking the abortions. After facing backlash from both pro-life and pro-choice groups, Trump retracted his statement in favor of the slightly more moderate stance that only the abortion provider should be punished.
However, Trump’s statement raises pertinent questions regarding the pro-life argument.
Pro-life supporters attest that life begins at conception, which means that a zygote has the same right to life as a toddler or a fully-grown adult. With this understanding of human life, both a woman and her abortion provider should be viewed as accomplices in the murder of an innocent person.
But this is not the case.
Instead, pro-life supporters paint women seeking abortions as pitiful and confused rather than adults capable of making their own rational decisions.
With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 699,202 legal abortions in 2012 alone, it is highly unlikely that every single one of these women was pressured into receiving an abortion by external forces, like her parents, significant other or organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Instead, it just might be that many women in the United States choose to have an abortion because they felt it was the right decision to make for themselves.
However, pro-life supporters know that if they held these nearly 700,000 women accountable for their abortions, there is no way every single one of them could be tried and charged for murder. If they were, that would place 30 percent of the female population under the age of 45 in prison, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s statistics on abortion rates in the United States.
By viewing women who receive abortions as fragile and incapable of making their own decisions, it allows the pro-life faction to pretend that their “cause” is women friendly.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that works toward advancing pro-life women in politics, stated, “We believe that women are being punished before the abortion even occurs.”
But when paired with actual abortion statistics, this statement shows how the pro-life faction is actually trying to find a way out of incarcerating 700,000 women annually rather than actually proving that they care about women and women’s issues.
If pro-life arguments were truly about morals rather than controlling a woman’s life and reproductive choices, pro-life politicians would not hesitate to fight for the incarceration of both women seeking abortions and their abortion providers. But instead, they devalue women and women’s abilities to make their own decisions by insinuating that only a woman in a distraught and unhealthy mental state could choose to have an abortion.
The right to reproductive health is guaranteed by the United Nations, and for women it includes the ability to decide when and if they want to have children. Implying that a woman should be punished on any level for receiving an abortion is an infringement on women’s rights. Even creating a cultural environment where someone could claim that a woman is “punished before the abortion even occurs” is wrong, and Trump’s recent statement shows just how detached many pro-life arguments are from a woman’s reality.