A matter of life and death?

The debate surrounding abortion often comes down to whether or not people think it should be legal. But what happens when we continue the discussion beyond that point? Check out this video documenting abortion protesters responding to this question:

If abortion was illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?

What do you think of this video? It seems to me that the fact that most of the protesters (women, interestingly enough) do not believe that a woman who has an illegal abortion (if it was made illegal) should be punished suggests that they do not actually believe abortion is murder (a thought that is expanded upon on here).

So what does that mean for the abortion debate? If you are someone who believes abortion should be made illegal, what do you think should happen to women who have abortions? Do you think that a question like this is valuable when discussing these issues, or do you think it’s beside the point?

There is a lot to think about, that’s for sure. So share your thoughts with us!

(Thanks to Juliana for the heads up on this video!)

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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20 Comments Have Been Posted

"I've never really thought

<i>"I've never really thought about that before."</i>

Well, I for one, am SHOCKED to hear those particular words from the mouth of a sidewalk fanatic.

I'm surprised nobody mentioned shooting the doctor who performs the abortion. Fresh-faced, well-meaning, called-by-God white people - gotta love em.

If no one really thinks a

If no one really thinks a woman who has an illegal abortion should be punished, what's the problem? Legal or not, she won't be punished. But if it's illegal, she just may find a far unhealthier and dangerous way to do it. So make it legal. She won't be punished for it. Better yet, prevent the pregnancy in the first place.

It's just absurd, really.

I don't think that women would or should be punished for having an illegal abortion. They'd be going to jail for having a medical procedure. That sounds a bit absurd, don't you think? And the doctor would be going to jail for performing a medical procedure. I guess I just can't honestly fathom abortion being illegal in the US. These people want abortion to be illegal, but haven't began to fathom the consequences of making it illegal.


I know I'm being judgmental but woooow those people are really really dumb! It's really quite sad. "I'm not a lawyer" they keep repeating, "I can't decide on a punishment." OH yeah that makes sense guys, you can decide what laws we should have but punishment is totally beyond you as a concept. My head aches.

what a great clip

I'm surprised that no one mentioned the doctors that perform illegal abortions, or that they don't know what the punishment is in other countries where abortion is illegal. That really does mean that they never gave it more thought than what the layout of the dead-baby-blood-clot-poster was going to look like.


I am totally shocked by this, as well. So, they haven't considered the legal ramifications of making something illegal? WTF?
This reminds me of the argument I've heard made that a "I don't know why, I just know it's right/wrong" logic really defines conservatives vis a vis liberals. The extenstion of the argument would be that certain personality types are really drawn to conservative political ways of seeing the world. People who like it black and white, and who like certainity and authority go conservative. There is something really attractive about these theories (and the theory that these people are straight morons)...but, I'm a little cautious to indulge too much....Really, they've never given any thought to what should happen to women who get abortions if abortions are illegal? I can't get over it.

that sheds some light on things.

Wow. I never fully realized how many people were fighting a totally pointless ideological battle - one that would barely begin to accomplish their goals of eliminating abortions, but would in the process endanger thousands of women's lives.

Only one of those women mentioned any punishment or ramifications that couldn't reasonably affect women regardless of the law (most of the anti-choice activists mentioned God's judgment, their own feelings of guilt, and so on). And, tellingly, the only anti-choice supporter who did believe in any kind of punishment also felt sure that it wouldn't be necessary to sentence women for illegal abortions very often, because she doesn't think that women would have abortions illegally. A tiny bit of research into her own cause could have shown her that the number of abortions sought and performed in the U.S. has never been significantly lowered by laws preventing it.

It's also a bit surprising

It's also a bit surprising that these folks don't know about the "punishment" - don't their fire and brimstone blatherings qualify as knowing about punishment? I like their smug little "well, she's gonna get hers" view on it, too, which they assume to be worse than incarceration.

a good herstory

FYI everyone - a really awesome herstory of abortion laws in the US is Pregnancy and Power. It chronicles US history laws and what they said about what women were actually doing, and how well they were followed (i.e. 1/3 of pregnancies have always ben aborted).

Amazing the way some people

Amazing the way some people think...

Or don't think... at all.

Or don't think... at all. The one woman admitted that she'd never thought about the women - no doubt, including women she knows and maybe is related to. Wonderful.

Abortion and the Law

There's some interesting conclusions to be pulled from this video, but I absolutely wouldn't go so far as to say that it suggests that anti-abortion activists "do not actually believe abortion is murder."

The reason for this has to do with the various ways in which we conceive of the Law. The interviewer is driving at one sense of this concept - a juridical one, I suppose. One based in crime and punishment, and in the more or less mechanical ways in which the state intervenes to punish human behavior. Good enough. If this were the only functional concept of the law, the case would be reasonably clear-cut, and it would make sense to cast the unwillingness of the anti-abortion movement to determine or theorize a just legal punishment for mothers who abort their children as absurd or somehow misguided - as surprising, which, from a certain standpoint, it's not.

And here's why: the law also functions to mediate the relationship between the state and "culture." Laws let us know (or announce) what "we" as a group find acceptable and what we reject. They let us know who "we" are. In the process, they also create this "we," and, as a consequence (or, I suppose, often as a starting point) they let us feel comfortable determining who gets left out, who falls outside of the group as we'd like to imagine it.

This is a good deal of what drives an anti-abortion appeal to the Law. It's not so much that this faction of society wants to set up a judicial mechanism whereby mothers who abort are punished. It's more that they want the state to help them make the announcement that "we," as a culture, as a nation, as a group, believe a certain thing about a certain issue.

On a purely ideological ground, this is the same appeal made by a certain faction of queer theory, or by certain members of the GLBT community, whose appeal for marriage rights is not so much a question of obtaining specific legal and financial benefits (although this is certainly a part of it), but is, rather, an appeal to the state to make them recognizable as part of an official culture, rather than casting them off as outsiders, as marginalized, as abject or undesirable.

This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting look at the broader function of the law, but I would like to note that in addition to making an announcement about who "we" are, the effort to legislate a difficult moral issue separates "freedom of religion" and "freedom from religion."

Duh. Women Don't Exist In a World of Illegal abortions.

This isn't surprising.

People who are against abortion see it as life being "snuffed out"; never taking the woman into consideration because, to them, women are not part of the equation. They do not believe in bodily autonomy, so the woman who get an abortion is never really given any fore or after thought.

So we talk about punishment

So we talk about punishment for the woman and the doctor who performs the abortion.
But what about the guy that got her pregnant?

I must confess that I have

I must confess that I have never thought about punishing the father. You could take it further and ask about the woman who throws herself down a flight of stairs in an attempt to abort an unwanted pregnancy. If abortion were illegal, what would be her punishment? And the woman who finds an illegal abortion and is consequently hospitalized; is that sufficient punishment? Is an infection or the resulting hysterectomy enough punishment, or should she go directly from the hospital to prison as most criminals would?

I bet they would see it differently...

...if they themselves were to experience an unwanted pregnancy. One lady said, "I see what happens to the babies; I see what happens to them." What about what happens to the women when they have an unwanted pregnancy? And from what I hear, abortions aren't exactly pleasant. I mean, it's not like they're going to get cake or something. They're going to get their insides sucked or scraped. These women don't get pregnant just to kill it. They're not actively seeking abortions because they enjoy it. Some women probably feel a sense of loss (as in a miscarriage) and some women probably feel relief that their burden is gone. But don't tell me these women feel nothing and it's all on the babies. How can these pro-lifers (most of them women) hate women so much?

And from what I hear,

<i>And from what I hear, abortions aren't exactly pleasant. I mean, it's not like they're going to get cake or something. -- Jennifer</i>

Good call. So many of these pro-lifers act like women just revel in their evil abortion-securing ways. Like, today I'll get an abortion, and then I'll go tie that damsel to the railroad tracks.

It does seem like they have tunnel vision, with only eyes for the bloody fetus parts.
It's all about THA BAY BEE. It seems to go like this:

"BAY BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE...Jesus was a BAY BEE, too! Wahhhhhhhh...!!!"

and then their own brain functions shut down.

Really? Are these people serious?

This is really sad, it showcases all too well the mentality of many Americans who latch onto a system of beliefs and try to impose it on others without truly thinking it through. I am all for having an opinion about something, but if you are going to stand out on the street and tell me what to do, you better be able to back it up with some logic and introspective thought. I am also really surprised that no one mentioned the doctors that perform the abortions. They were that ones who took the most heat from the law when abortions were illegal, and even today from the anti-abortion activists. It is also surprising to me that these people seem unable to make a judgment about the legal ramifications for a woman having an abortion, but they are quick to damn her to hell for all eternity. I agree with many of the posts about the lack of consideration for the women who have abortions. I don't think that anyone could argue that getting an abortion is a good thing. I have never heard of anyone having one for fun or feeling really great about getting one. Abortions are generally sought as a last resort by women who are under highly unpleasant circumstances. I have known a couple people who have had an abortion and they said that it was the hardest and most painful decision that they have ever had to make, the consequences of which they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Even so, those consequences are most likely less than if they were to have had the baby. Making abortions illegal would probably not impact the number of abortions performed, just the conditions under which they happened. These people are really seeking a legislative validation of their beliefs, but clearly they have not thought through what that would mean for those actually affected by that legislation.

Go (in)tolerance!

I'm really shocked by some of the comments here.

I figure that you're probably pro-choice if you're reading a feminist blog, but all these comments on how these people are "Fresh-faced, well-meaning, called-by-God white people", full of "fire and brimstone blatherings", and stupid are kind of remarkably intolerant.

I can't believe that the fact that none of them were crazies who thought that women who have had abortions deserve punishment only served to justify the commentators thought. When I first clicked on the video I was expecting more drastic comments from the pro-lifers, but none of them really thought that women should be punished they just believe that women shouldn't have abortions.

Do you have legal penalties for everything you believe? They mostly struck me as good people who believed that fetuses are people and shouldn't be killed. That's not what I believe, but they weren't raving lunatics and I can respect their point of view.

I understand that most people reading a feminist blog aren't pro-life, but it seems the people who commented here had chosen what they were going to say about these people before they even watched the clip, and, frankly, I'm kind of shocked by how rude they were. If this is what this blog is about, hating on everyone who doesn't believe what you do, I'm out.

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