Politics & Policy

No, Women Are Not ‘Punished’ for Having Abortions

Abortion activists at the Supreme Court, January 22, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Yesterday Donald Trump did what he does best: opened his mouth and inserted his foot. In an interview with Chris Matthews, he said that women who receive abortions should face “some sort of punishment” if the practice is made illegal. He reversed himself hours later, but in the meantime the radical pro-abortion Left seized on his comments and did what they do best: distorting the English language and common sense to paint an apocalyptic picture of the plight of women in America today.

It was as if abortion high command had given radical feminist writers a directive: Tell America that women are already punished for seeking abortions. The Nation’s Zoë Carpenter writes, “Women Are Already Punished for Trying to End Their Pregnancies.” Slate’s Christina Cauterucci says, “Good News, Donald Trump! Women Are Already Punished for Seeking Abortions.” Then there’s the Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen with her original take: “Hey Trump: Women Are Already Punished for Abortion.” And let’s not exclude the Huffington Post’s Samantha Lachman: “Donald Trump Said Women Should Be Punished for Getting Abortions. They Already Are.”

The articles are as original as their headlines. Women are “punished” because they have to drive farther than they’d like. Or because they’re subject to parental notification laws and waiting periods. They’re “punished” by protesters and ultrasounds. They’re even “punished” by safety measures that require abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to keep to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. My favorite is Lachman’s assertion that women are punished when states ban abortion by telemedicine.

These writers aren’t making a serious argument. They’re simply following the standard leftist playbook by redefining words in service of shrieking hyperbole. To “punish” typically means to make “someone suffer for a crime or for bad behavior.” But if it serves a woman’s right to kill her unborn child, the Left will happily stretch “punishment” to include any minor inconvenience.

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This rhetorical device is a crowd-pleaser on leftist social media, and it’s a great way to demonize your opponents. If you’re pro-life, you’re “punishing” women. Or, to apply the tried-and-true formula, you’re against “women’s health.” We see similar tactics on multiple fronts. If you’re a Christian who believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman, you’re a “homophobe.” If you’re a conservative who believes that a nation should have controlled borders or that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, then you’re a “racist.”

#share#Heaven forbid that one apply the same reasoning to the Left. Advocating expansive gun control isn’t “punishing” law-abiding citizens, it’s just “common sense.” Seeking to exclude Christian groups from college campuses isn’t evidence of bigotry but rather a sign of tolerance. The massive and expanding regulatory state isn’t punishing business, it’s protecting the public.

For the Left, words are a mere tool, used to manipulate those suckers who believe they have actual meaning. When an ordinary person sees the word “punish,” they tend to think there’s, well, actual punishment going on. But the public is slowly growing wise to the game. Cynicism rules the land, and – Trump’s persistent success aside – people tend to believe only those who’ve earned their trust.

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So let me conclude with a few words used clearly and properly. Yes, some women are inconvenienced in their quest for an abortion, but not so inconvenienced as to prevent abortionists from plying their deadly trade more than 700,000 times per year. No, women are not punished, and neither are their unborn children. To argue otherwise is to imply that an aborted fetus is guilty of some transgression, when in fact it’s the opposite: the innocent fetus is simply killed.

That’s abortion in America. Women are sometimes inconvenienced, the child is always killed, and the feminist Left wants both more convenience and more killing. So long as we allow this regime to continue, God may show us what punishment truly means.

— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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