Abortion and the Death Penalty

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Since the subject is floating around a bit, due to some liberal-style “tolerance” displayed by a magazine, I’ve been thinking about why exactly many pro-lifers do not support automatically punishing a woman who has had an abortion as strongly as they do the doctors who perform them. Not all abortions even require outside support, after all.

Since I can report from the “inside,” so to speak, I was trying to figure out how exactly it was different for a mother to kill her unborn child, as opposed to her born ones. I can sense that it is, which makes me want to eyeball it even closer in case there is something extremely wrong in my assumptions. (An aspect of forming one’s conscience, after all—check yourself, I mean.)

Look: it’s different the same way that someone after the death of a loved one is generally recognized to be vulnerable. If they do something foolish related to that, we recognize that they’re not responsible in the same way that they would usually be. If someone is manipulating them using that vulnerability, we tend to be…ah, quite upset about it. (There isn’t a family friendly phrasing that is also strong enough.)

Heck, there’s even legal recognition of passion as a mitigating factor.

An extremely complex physical state that we know makes the mother much more sensitive to physical threats, hyper-aware of risks and sensitive to social vulnerabilities, while at the same time being less able to do anything? The line about an animal chewing off its limb to escape a trap was well chosen, if not always well used.

I don’t know if it’s a matter where you’ve got to be there to “get” it or not, but the Virgin Mary is even more impressive when you consider that she knew how dang dangerous it was for her to have Christ– Saint Joseph could have chosen to leave her hanging, although we know that he was planning to protect her as best he could even when he thought she had done wrong, before the angel straightened him out. She had to recognize that risk, and accepted it anyways.  That lady had guts.

The well known instability of marriage these days really does not help, for those who are actually married before the kid came to be. My mom made a lady cry at Shriner’s because, being mom, she looked directly at a little girl with a really bad cleft lip (after having been around kids where you couldn’t see what was wrong, usually heart conditions) and cooed at her like any other baby, something about how she didn’t have to guess why that darling was getting help. The lady explained that most people didn’t even look at the little girl, much less treat her normally, and that her husband had abandoned them because she’d refused to abort when the doctor saw the issue on the ultrasound.  Digressing, because it matters: the little girl’s case was one that would take several surgeries, but was totally correctable– I know an adult man that just got married, mom telling this story is how we found out that he’d been born similarly. You could see a little scar on his lip but we’d all assumed he’d tripped as kid.  And yet her father abandoned them both because her mother refused to kill that little girl.

So you’ve got a woman who is biologically primed to be skittish at best, no matter how secure her situation is she knows it is legally unstable, almost nobody tells her that she does have a reason to feel like things are out of control, and on top of that society in general is telling her that she should be able to do absolutely everything by herself and that if she can’t, she’s not fit to be a parent.  (In some cases, telling her she’s not fit to be a woman.) I’ve even had supposedly pro-child people tell me that no-one should have more than two or three unless they’re very rich, because if one parent dies they remaining one can’t take care of them all without help. That is just… wow. I like having a lot of extra space for safety, but basically insisting that one parent should be superfluous as a matter of basic caution is overboard.

Now, I happen to think that there are cases where abortion rises to the level of deliberated choice typically shown in those who murder their much older children. Evil exists, and pregnancy isn’t a protection from it.

But you’re not being a hypocrite if you don’t insist on treating a woman in a known highly vulnerable mental state identically to one who is not.

More to explorer


Ryszard Legutko has written a book, The Demon in Democracy:  Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, which I highly recommend.  The editor of

PopeWatch: Priorities

      Lifesite News reminds us that the Pope has his priorities:   Pope Francis refuses to meet with Italy’s Minister of


  1. I believe that ,like slavery, which was a law of the land, people should recognize redemption rather than punishment for folks who have aborted facilitated or allowed someone to go through abortion (or turn a blind eye to slavery). The majority of folks follow laws blindly without considering the source. Moral reasoning often escapes people until later in life when we tend to critically evaluate our actions. As a medical student I was forced to attend the only mandatory class that was in our curriculum. This was a series of classes on abortion I refused and nearly got kicked out of school . I was forced to write a paper instead. I remember that of the 100 people in the class I was the only one that refused. I also left an ob/gyn clinic during one of my internship because they were using seaweed prior to aborting a baby.
    Prior to these events when I was a navy Corpsmen (surgical medic) I participated in procedures called D & C s but I had no idea what they were actually doing. I was angry years later when I realized the truth
    The issue is awareness and having the character to stand up for principle. Neither of those 2 virtues are even considered until society stops the propaganda and people wake up to horror under our noses. That would be our job to bring truth to light .

  2. Thank you for being brave enough to do so

    I can give you some comfort on the D&C– there are perfectly valid, non-abortion reasons for that procedure; if it was being done as an abortion, then someone had to falsify the paperwork (including hormone tests) for it to happen in a military hospital with military personnel. (Clinton allowed it to be done if paid for entirely with non-military funding– which would have to include the medical personnel.)
    When we lost our child, if she hadn’t come out cleanly, they would’ve had to perform dilation and curettage to remove her body or she might’ve taken me with her.


    I oppose after-the-fact laws, too. All too familiar with folks whose mistake was trusting what the experts told them about the nature of pregnancy. Not everyone grew up, as I did, highly familiar with fetal development. (…I actually never even though about it in terms of humans until I was a teen, I just knew it was bloody obvious that a fetal calf was a cow, just smaller and not able to live outside yet. Mess up the unborn calf, you mess up the cow it will become. Most people DON’T have that.)

  3. I oppose after-the-fact laws, too.

    Ex Post Facto laws are also banned by Article I, Section 9 in the constitution.

  4. The fact that a parent could die before the children are grown is a reason to have life insurance, not to avoid having additional children.

  5. Nate-
    True, but sadly abortion isn’t only an issue here, and a lot of the problems we get into is people not understanding why things are important.
    Yeah, the constitution is the law of the land and thus important– but it can also be edited if folks forget why making something illegal after it already happened, and enforcing it against the folks who did it when it was legal, is so evil.

  6. The Church in the first four centuries after Christ regarded abortion as murder and those authorizing, procuring or performing abortions as murderers destined for hell should they fail to repent.


    First Example: Christian Philosopher Athenagoras said, “What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God?”

    Second Example: The Apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter said, “And near that place I saw another gorge in which the discharge and excrement of the tortured ran down and became like a lake. And there sat women, and the discharge came up to their throats… And these were those who produced children outside marriage and who procured abortions.”

    There is more at the link provided above. Indeed, I think that the people in the early Church were a lot less sentimental than we are today. However, I will deviate a little from what it says. Today many women get abortions because of pressure and influence to do so, being manipulated by culture and society, and later regret their decision. May they find mercy and forgiveness. However, those performing the abortions (e.g., to harvest internal organs or stem cells for profit) in any sane society would be regarded as no better than Hitler’s Nazi doctors. They would be tried in a court of law for murder, and they would receive the death penalty.

    PS, This issue simultaneously causes me great anger and sadness for personal reasons I have discussed previously. I am well conscious of what I deserve for my sins. I also am helpless that the woman who aborted our middle child will not repent. Will not even after 16 years. The ideology of the right to choose is so ingrained as to be invincible. So my anger is not directed against her, but against Democrats, Liberals and Progressives who foster that godless ideology on society and get people to believe that it is their right to abort. They are the real murderers into whose trap I fell. It’s easy to become an accomplice and not even realize that that’s what you are. 🙁

  7. Seeing as two separate Jesus miracles involve unborn humans, it is really not surprising.

    I tend to point folks at Catholic Answer’s page on abortion.

    Disturbing note; the early surgical abortionists were actually more humane than modern in one way– they killed the kid before cutting his limbs off. (Tertullian mentions a tool– embruosphaktes; “the slayer of the infant.” Full quote there.)

  8. *sigh* For clarity, that the early Church put such emphasis on the unborn.

    The urge to reproduce is incredibly strong– and not a bad desire. But if sins tend to be warped goods, then of course the warping of the reproductive desire is going to be incredibly powerful, more than enough to drive a culture insane.

  9. If everything you said applied to a woman who killed a child who was already born, the mother would not be spared punishment. The great conundrum of abortion is that you can’t argue a fetus is equivalent to a person who’s been born but turn around and create an excuse for not applying equal treatment when the fetus is killed. It undermines the whole premise that a fetus and a born person are equivalent. Women should not be jailed for having abortions. Nor does it make sense to throw the doctor in jail. (After all, a mother hiring a hitman to murder her one year old child would not elude punishment). While not a satisfying resolution, it is the only one that holds up logically.

  10. “The great conundrum of abortion is that you can’t argue a fetus is equivalent to a person who’s been born but turn around and create an excuse for not applying equal treatment when the fetus is killed.”

    Oh, of course you can, at least for a time. For example, after slavery was abolished there were no trials against former slave owners for what they had done to their slaves, and no suits for civil damages. When a great evil is made legal, one does not concentrate on punishment for those doing evil under color of law. One concentrates on stopping the evil. Talk of executing women who have had abortions only helps the pro-abort side of this fight. This is typical of the idiocy of Kevin Williamson and why I weep no tears for his firing by The Atlantic. The wonder is that National Review, even in its current degraded state, has kept him on its payroll all these years.

  11. If the only question were the gravity of the sin, there should be a death penalty for profaning the Most Holy Eucharist, too. And perhaps indeed there should be — but only in a society that fully knew and accepted what the Eucharist really is, and that knew and approved of the penalty for desecrating the Eucharist. We do not, however, live in such a society.

    The punishment for any action should depend on more than whether the action is a sin, even a grave sin. Knowledge and consent of the will, which are necessary for a grave sin to be a mortal sin, should also be taken into account; in addition to these, we can borrow a few considerations from Just War theory, such as “likelihood of success” and “will it cause more harm than good?” When those are taken into account, it is clear the death penalty will never within our lifetimes be appropriate for abortion.

  12. John, would you please bother to read what I actually wrote?

    If you did– how about responding to paragraph 3-5?

    If you want to disagree and make a counter-argument, fine, but at least bother to do something besides state a position and totally ignore the entire point of post.
    Indeed. There’s more than one reason I dislike the guy; combining a tendency to do just enough research to support an existing theory with a tendency to be inflammatory is solidly in the “will you please stop being on my side?” category.

  13. Hm, we’re getting some “interesting” comment threading again– I commented this morning, before the kids’ lessons. The email for Howard’s comment was sent just over fifteen minutes ago.

    I’ve noticed a few other oddities, but had figured that someone else posted after I’d loaded the page but before I’d hit “post comment.” This case, I KNOW that Donald’s was directly above my last comment!

  14. Donald, I understand that Kevin D. Williamson is to leave NR and return to The Atlantic. See page 11 of the 16 April 2018 Edition. Now, a lawyer I am not, just merely Irish, yet that is enough to understand that Ex Post Facto prosecution is properly beyond the province of Man’s jurisdiction. It is within the province of Providence whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts and whose perfect justice and mercy are beyond our comprehension. We must do His will but not usurp His role. And by the way, so much for “reparations”,

  15. Ex post facto laws are forbidden by the Constitution. In day to day life, however, our past actions always impact us, especially in regard to employment. The amazing fact about the Williamson tempest is that both The Atlantic and National Review have miniscule audiences even with their online presence. When a scribbler loses a job, other scribblers write constantly about it, even if the audience for the fired scribbler doesn’t amount to a hill of moldy Army beans.

  16. Donald, I understand that Kevin D. Williamson is to leave NR and return to The Atlantic. See page 11 of the 16 April 2018 Edition.

    He did, then was fired because he suggested abortion should be treated the same as murder.

    Got in exactly one article, in which he picked a fight with VDH, and then got fired because a lynch mob couldn’t stand the reality of what the disagreement on abortion means. (As another NRO guy pointed out– women working next to someone who thought they’d murdered their offspring, horrible; KDW working next to people who thought HE should have been killed before birth, just peachy.)

    I hadn’t really thought of it, but the thing where they fired him for stuff that was known well before he was hired is kinda in the same grouping as punishing folks for what was legal when they did it.
    Mostly, I just got to thinking about why it didn’t quite “fit” to punish the mother involved the same.

  17. Ex post facto laws are forbidden by the Constitution. In day to day life, however, our past actions always impact us, especially in regard to employment. The amazing fact about the Williamson tempest is that both The Atlantic and National Review have miniscule audiences even with their online presence. When a scribbler loses a job, other scribblers write constantly about it, even if the audience for the fired scribbler doesn’t amount to a hill of moldy Army beans.

    Not sure what their audited circulations are. As recently as 20 years ago, NR had about 160,000 print subscribers. IIRC, The Atlantic had ca. 1985 about 400,000 or so. Those are small compared to the general newsmagazines of the era, but not miniscule. I think Commonweal had a paid circulation in that era of 18,000, of which 1/3 were institutional subscriptions. Unlike, say, The Public Interest, it’s doubt full their low-five digit subscriber base was influential outside of diocesan chanceries or the apparat of the U.S. Catholic Conference.

  18. Ex post facto laws are forbidden by the Constitution.

    Until some constituency Justice Kennedy dotes on wants one enacted.

  19. In practice, under the old law, women who underwent an abortion were never prosecuted.

    The Crown Office was far more interested in prosecuting abortionists and, for this, they needed two or more women to testify that he or she had performed an abortion on them.

    The principle of our law is “Testis unus, testis nullus” [One witness is no witness]. This requirement of corroboration meant that prosecutors usually relied on the Moorov doctrine, under which witnesses to individual episodes of a course of criminal conduct are mutually corroborative. Thus, two women testifying that a person had performed an abortion on each of them would provide the necessary corroboration against him, but, as their own admissions were usually uncorroborated, there was insufficient evidence on which to prosecute them and, having testified, they were, in any event, immune as socii criminis.

    Any new law criminalising abortion would be subject to the same constraints

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