A recent comment by Donald Trump caused something of a stir. What a surprise. This time, it was about abortion, and he said that there has to be “some kind of punishment” for the woman who chooses an abortion, should abortion be made illegal. The internet exploded, as people of both pro-choice and pro-life persuasions came out to discuss the topic, largely coming out against Trumps comments. Here, I want to discuss one post from a pro-life individual that offers a critique of the pro-life movement for not arguing for a harsher punishment of women who choose abortions, in the case of them being illegal. That post is entitled, “Problem in the Pro-Life Camp.” At the outset, it is worth revealing my bias in this. I am pro-life myself and I think that this is a complex topic that many pro-life persons have not thought deeply about. I am essentially editing and re-posting my comments here with some context.
The post in question begins by stating the “problem” with the pro-life camp:
The problem that I have with the “pro-life” movement in general is that much of it appeals to the woman as being the victim/or merely the accomplice to the crime. Rather, the mother is the transgressor who in the majority of cases, knowingly tested positive in her pregnancy test and nevertheless, storms into the abortion mill with premeditated murder. Whether the sin is done in ignorance or not, she is still morally culpable before God. She is not a victim.
Men and women are indeed victims when abortion is presented as the only logical choice or the only option. They are victims when people of specific races are targeted for abortion advertising. But whether one agrees on this or not, it is largely irrelevant to the primary point you’re making in this post. It seems that there are two issues raised in the post, but they are interlinked: the notion that the woman is a victim in abortion is false, and that is intrinsically linked to the notion that woman is morally culpable.
The original post asked, “Can an abortive mother who has malice of forethought be considered a victim and be morally responsible the same time? Morally responsible for what? when they are already deemed a victim.”
It seems to me that there are clear cases where someone who is a victim could still be morally culpable. A child soldier who has been forced into fighting for a cause they don’t believe in is a victim, yet the killing he or she may do is not without moral culpability. We may give a lighter sentence or charge than murder, but that doesn’t mean that this victim is without moral culpability whatsoever. Indeed, I think this is a far better analogy than the one with the bully utilized in the original post. (A bully beats up someone to take their money, and then sends others to do so; are they a victim?) After all, the analogy with the bully begins with the bully directly beating up someone else! The analogy, then, falls apart at the beginning, because I don’t know of any case (I suppose there could be such a case–but I would be surprised if it were even possible) where a woman performed an abortion on herself.
Now my analogy is to show that the notion of being a victim is not incompatible with the notion of being morally culpable. It does not demonstrate that the woman who seeks an abortion is a victim. Instead, my purpose was to show that the complaint of incompatibility is mistaken.
Thus, it seems to me that the pro-life person who maintains that a woman is, in some sense, morally culpable for the abortion, while also arguing or believing that the woman is, in some sense, a victim in such a situation is not being inconsistent.
The original post appealed to a question asked in a group of women who had abortions. They were asked whether they believed they were victims. I agree that self-definition is vastly important, but I also think it is easy to be mistaken about such things. For example, someone who is working as a prostitute may say that they are not a victim and they did it by choice, but even if they choose such a profession, the fact remains that the act of purchasing another’s body for sexual gratification does, indeed, victimize them whether they acknowledge it or not. I’m not saying that women who have abortions are prostitutes, obviously. My point is that self-defining oneself as “not a victim” does not make it the case.
To sum up: my response has sought to demonstrate two primary points. (1) The notion of someone being a victim does not necessarily undermine the notion of that person being morally culpable; (2) Self definition does not necessarily show us with certainty that someone is not a victim.
I would like to emphasize that these points don’t necessarily reflect my own views. I have, instead, written simply to show that the argument here is not sound.
Responses and Replies
The author of the original post kindly responded to my comments above. The comment can be viewed at the original post. I offer below my reply.
A woman cannot be both a victim or morally responsible at the same time. Either she is a victim or morally responsible (i.e. murderer)… I am using ‘victim’ in a more specific and literal fashion concerning a crime against the unborn.
As a result, it would be a logical fallacy (violates the law of non-contradiction and Scripture) to call a murderer a victim.
I think the conclusions here are hardly surprising, then. By what is written above, victim is being specifically defined as “a crime against the unborn” and then concluding, in accord with this definition, that anyone who disagrees is violating the law non-contradiction. Yet this is does not defeat the argument put forth above. I could just as easily say: “A woman can be both a victim and morally responsible at the same time. I am using ‘victim’ in the sense that makes this true. Therefore, disagreeing with me is fallacious.” Yet that is exactly what the response here has argued. I did assert that a woman can be a victim and morally responsible at the same time, but I defended that assertion with arguments.
Substantively we agree that it is a morally culpable act to seek an abortion. The area of disagreement remains as I outlined it in my original comment, and so far the response is simply to define out of existence any evidence to the contrary.
The author of the post followed with another response, arguing that the pro-life movement has consistently held that women are victims in abortions, but that they cannot be. He wrote,
abortive mothers are not victims, when they commit abortions… Either they are a victim or the transgressor when the abortion is committed.
In other words, what we have is simply a re-affirmation of the original point without argument. My purpose in commenting was to establish that being morally culpable is not incompatible with being a victim. I have been arguing all along this is a false dichotomy, and at no point has there been any attempt to refute the argument I’ve put forward. Each response has merely reasserted the initial premise without argument.
Because the purpose of my responses have been limited to the above point, I haven’t made an extended argument for how one might view the woman involved in abortion also as victim. Given the mere reassertion without argument, I believe that on some level my point has carried.
As a final question, I’d ask whether the author of this post, EvangelZ, believes that women are in no way harmed by abortion. That is, does he believe that abortion does not, in fact, lead to increased risk for breast cancer, that it leads to a higher risk of suicide, that it leads to increased risk for depression, that potential for future miscarriages is increased post-abortion, or that other risks (such as the possibility of the death or physical harm to the mother) are not, in fact damaging? The position of this post and the comments following it entail that no harm comes to the mother in any sense. After all, the mother is not–and according to the author–cannot be a victim (repeated claims of logical impossibility entail this). Hence, the woman cannot possibly be harmed by abortion, because that would entail that she is, in some sense, also a victim. Thus, EvangelZ or any who share this position are forced to conclude that abortion in no way causes harm to the mother. I think that is a pill too tough to swallow, because it seems obviously false.
Problem in the Pro-Life Camp– The original post I am responding to here.
Be sure to check out my other posts in which I argue for the pro-life position. Particularly relevant to the present discussion are “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”
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