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“How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?”

— Posted by John (July 31, 2007 at 12:00 pm)

A column by Anna Quindlen in the current issue of Newsweek begins:

Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless.You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: “I’ve never really thought about it.” “I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know.” “Just pray for them.”

Since the Pro-Life Action League sponsored the Face the Truth Tour demonstration at which this video was filmed — in fact, I was one of the Tour coordinators, so I was there that day — Quindlen’s article deserves a response from us.

First, Quindlen didn’t check her facts.

She says that the video was filmed “in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill.,” even though the video doesn’t say anything about its taking place in front of an abortion clinic.

In fact, it couldn’t possibly have take place in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, because there are no abortion clinics in Libertyville, as a quick check of a listing of abortion clinics in Illinois reveals.

When a writer makes an error like this in the opening sentence of a column, it doesn’t do much to boost her cogency.

The video’s purpose is quite clear: It sets out to show that the average pro-lifer has never seriously considered the question of what — if any — sort of punishment should be given to a woman who has an abortion.

Here, Quindlen thinks, is the rhetorical equivalent of green kryptonite — “a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do?”

She works up to this conclusion:

But there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can’t countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can’t have it both ways.

Ironically, however, this is a false choice.

Shortly after this video was first posted on the At Center Network website nearly two years ago — long before it first appeared on YouTube — Eric and I both posted comments responding to the video.

This is what Eric said:

Take a look at the first few seconds of this video. You see a yellow-shirted coordinator unloading signs. Those selectively interviewed on the video are wearing a red shirts.

The red-shirts are volunteers. They hold these signs because they want to educate Americans on the reality of abortion. That they don’t have all the answers to what a scarcely imaginable post-Roe world would look like says nothing about whether abortion is just or not.

If the interviewer had bothered to interview Joe Scheidler or another of the Truth Tour organizers, he would have gotten a clear answer to the question. Clearly, the goal was to interview a handful of volunteers without all the answer, thus to “prove” that the pro-life movement hasn’t thought the issue through.

The answer is that the abortionists would be penalized for performing illegal abortions. This is what the situation before Roe v. Wade was. Women would not be penalized — certainly not with prison terms.

If you’ve got a problem with that, you can advocate for women to suffer the same penalty as abortionists if you want to, but we would oppose that. The original laws against abortion were advocated by feminists, who believed abortion exploited women. They did not wish to penalize the women being exploited by abortion; penalties were imposed on the abortionists.

It’s unfortunate that abortion advocates are so little interested in learning the truth about abortion or really finding out what the leaders of the pro-life movement think. Or perhaps, from our perspective, it’s just as well they remain so deliberately benighted; the less they understand us the more they will continue with the same failed tactics that have helped turn America increasingly against abortion on demand.

This is what I said:

In spite of this video’s disingenuous portrayal of anti-abortion activists as a gaggle of slack-jawed bumpkins, it unwittingly dispels a common misperception. To wit, the absurd notion that vindictive pro-lifers are gleefully anticipating the day when they can begin rounding up women who have abortions and exact Torquemada-style justice upon them.

The idea of punishing women who have abortions could not be further from pro-lifers’ minds.

Several who were interviewed spoke about the need to treat post-abortive women with love and to provide them counseling and assistance. The last interviewee noted that post-abortive women are already “punished enough,” clearly recognizing that women are victimized by abortion.

Pro-lifers’ real motivation is rooted in charity and compassion for unborn children and their mothers. This video makes that point abundantly clear, and plainly shows that vengeance has no rightful place in pro-lifers’ minds.

A few minutes ago, I spoke with Paula Emmerth, a longtime pro-life activist who was also interviewed by the man behind the camera at the Libertyville demonstration.

When he asked her if she thought there should be a legal penalty for women who have abortions, she said:

No, I believe she should be dealt with in a pastoral way, compassionately, and that the crime should be placed on the physician who is breaking the law and performing the abortion.

Interesting, isn’t it, that you didn’t see her on the video?

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20 Comments on ““How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?””

Please Note: Visitor comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Generations for Life or our parent organization, the Pro-Life Action League.

  1. Quinn says:

    I affirm that the God given punishment for murder includes the murder of babies – the abortionists, the moms paying to have their babies, the clinic workers, etc.

    I want to see all those who played a part in knowingly murdering that baby brought to trial and charged with murder. Upon conviction the guilty would be surely, swiftly, painfully and publicly executed the very next day as God demands.

    Prison is inherently unjust and was never given as an “optional punishment” by God. All the nations around Israel had prisons, so it wasn’t as if God was unaware of imprisonment as a form of punishment. And despite what many Catholic priests claim (I’ve only heard priests make this claim) Israel did in fact have the resources to build prisons and put criminals in there.

    Anyone who claims that God presently wants injustice instead of justice is anathema. Those who love God and their neighbor want to see justice brought about in their area. Especially when it comes to serious capital crimes such as murder, kidnapping, rape and adultery.

    Every person asked in that video should have given the answer that human life begins at conception and those who murder a baby are to be brought to trial for murder and upon conviction surely, swiftly, painfully and publicly executed as God commands.

    Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; FOR IN THE IMAGE OF GOD HE MADE MAN.

    Exodus 20:13 YOU SHALL NOT MURDER

    Exodus 21:12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.

    Numbers 35:33 ‘So you shall not pollute the land where you [are;] for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

    Ezekiel 13:19 “And will you profane Me among My people…
    killing people who should not die,
    and keeping people alive who should not live…?

    Matthew 5:17-18 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

    Galatians 3:24-25 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

    1 Timothy 1:8-11 But we know that the law [is] good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for [the] lawless and insubordinate, for [the] ungodly and for sinners, for [the] unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

    Comment posted July 31st, 2007 at 1:29 pm
  2. Mike says:

    Has anyone seen these videos?

    NFP vs. Contraception…



    Comment posted July 31st, 2007 at 2:53 pm
  3. Mary says:

    I couldn’t answer how women who have abortions should be punished, any more than you could quickly answer how women who kill their born children should be punished. Circumstances, intent, everything plays into the matter such that we even have different legal terms for different killings.

    Comment posted July 31st, 2007 at 5:24 pm
  4. Adam's Blog says:

    On Sending Women to Jail for Abortions…

    One of the more popular pro-abortion canards is that pro-lifers want to send women to jail. This is addressed by Eric and John at Generation Life:
    The answer is that the abortionists would be penalized for performing illegal abortions. This is what t…..

    Comment posted August 1st, 2007 at 10:15 am
  5. Nathan Sheets says:

    I’m a pro-lifer who thinks that we definitely should have clear answers to these kinds of questions—and one who believes that women who kill their babies should be punished to a certain degree. I wrote about it here.

    Comment posted August 2nd, 2007 at 2:01 am
  6. Dave Giere says:

    Somehow, 2 years after the fact, I just stumbled on Lee Goodwin’s video, “Libertyville Abortion Demonstration”. As your feedback on his website said, he selected people for his video who would be unlikely to have a well-reasoned answer to his question. This led his sympathizers who saw the video to characterize the people interviewed as stupid and ignorant.

    As I watched the video, I struggled with how I would answer the question. At first I felt kind of stupid because I had no answer. I’m an aerospace engineer (rocket scientist) and I do like to think through all the ramifications of decisions.

    The more I thought about this, however, the more I realized the power of their lack of a ready answer. Those beautiful people he interviewed were focused on Life, not on punishment (they remind me of our Lord Jesus). They want to save babies, punishment wasn’t even on their priority list. What a marvelous, graceful, Christ-like testimony that lack of an answer is!

    Perhaps some day Mr. Goodwin will be able to see that.

    God bless you for what you’re doing.

    Comment posted August 2nd, 2007 at 3:41 pm
  7. lauren says:

    What if I perform the abortion on myself or refuse to tell you who performed it on me? I don’t believe that Eric and John are the norm. Most anti-choicers would send a woman to jail. Why not send her to jail before her abortion so she doesn’t even have the opportunity to make that choice while we’re at it?

    Comment posted August 2nd, 2007 at 11:03 pm
  8. John says:

    Dave said: “Those beautiful people he interviewed were focused on Life, not on punishment (they remind me of our Lord Jesus). They want to save babies, punishment wasn’t even on their priority list. What a marvelous, graceful, Christ-like testimony that lack of an answer is!”

    Well said, Dave!

    Lauren said: “Most anti-choicers would send a woman to jail.”

    Then surely, Lauren, you wouldn’t mind providing us a list — complete with proper documentation, of course — of names of anti-choicers pro-lifers who have publicly stated their desire to send women who have abortions to jail?

    Comment posted August 3rd, 2007 at 8:37 am
  9. twix says:

    Add me to Lauren’s list:

    If a man hires someone to MURDER his wife, he goes to prison.

    If a woman hires someone to MURDER her husband, she goes to prison.

    If a woman hirese someone to MURDER her unborn child, she goes to prison.

    End of Story.

    Comment posted August 4th, 2007 at 7:58 am
  10. softspade says:

    Ok, I’ll gladly give you the fact that the author was wrong about where the rally took place. In fact, it hardly matters. Your calling attention to the fact is equivalent, in the context of that article, to pointing out a grammatical mistake.

    What you never respond to in this post is the charge that Quindlen was actually making. The main thrust of her argument, which you, and some of the commenters, have amply reinforced here, (excepting, Quinn, Lauren, and Twix) is that many anti-abortionists consider the pregnant woman to be a mere pawn in the game. Are you against punishing the woman because she is not competent to make a decision? The fact is, in order to have an abortion a woman must actively make a choice and then undergo a stressful medical procedure. There are certainly some cases where a woman might be pressured to have an abortion, but any doctor who might be tempted to perform one under such circumstances does not deserve the title. (And will probably lose it too, along with a term in jail.)

    The non-competence of women is certainly a very interesting road to peer down, because the question then becomes: under what circumstances is a woman competent to face the consequences of her actions? You’ve stated clearly that killing an unborn child is not for which something a woman should be held accountable. Why should she be put in jail for any number of lesser offenses? A woman who kills her toddler (or five, cf Andrea Yates) is surely in a very vulnerable state of mind, the same goes for a woman who steals cars or computers or clothespins.

    The corner you’ve forced youself into, Mr. Jansen, is that now you’re arguing that woman are idiots. (Why else wouldn’t they be liable for what you think is murder?) I, for one, know plenty of women who would disagree with that.

    Comment posted August 4th, 2007 at 8:44 pm
  11. Young Christian Woman says:

    No abortionist would ever go to jail, lose a license, or face any other penalty for performing any abortion. Not if the woman was coerced, protesting in the operating room, or had to be restrained. Not if they gave her false information on the baby’s health or even told her it was already dead.

    Why? The so-called “Pro-choicers” would never allow it. Because even if a woman is coerced or lied to, abortion is still the sacred sacrament of choice. Other choices, like choosing not to work outside the home, or choosing to bear a child when finances are tight, or choosing not to use birth control, are ridiculed, but the right to have a forced abortion is sacrosanct. Why else would “pro-choicers” protest cutting off funding to “family planning” programs in China?

    I think that every child ought to have a right to be an unplanned gift of God.

    Comment posted August 6th, 2007 at 5:57 am
  12. John says:

    Young Christian Woman,

    Well said!

    Comment posted August 6th, 2007 at 12:11 pm
  13. John says:

    Softspade said: “Ok, I’ll gladly give you the fact that the author was wrong about where the rally took place. In fact, it hardly matters. Your calling attention to the fact is equivalent, in the context of that article, to pointing out a grammatical mistake.”


    When I wrote this post, I wondered whether I should bother pointing this out. I decided to do so because the target audience in Libertyville that day — as with all our Face the Truth Tour displays — was the general public, not specifically women seeking abortions.

    Generally speaking, we recommend against pro-lifers displaying large graphic abortion signs — such as we display at Face the Truth Tours — outside abortion clinics, as such signs can serve as a physical barrier between a woman intending to enter a clinic to have an abortion and any pro-life sidewalk counselors who are there to talk to the woman and warn her about the physical and emotional harms that abortion poses to the woman herself.

    As for the corner I’ve allegedly forced myself into, several pro-lifers who are much smarter than I am have recently responded to Quindlen’s column.

    The most succinct remarks, methinks, were offered by the ever cogent Frederica Mathewes-Green:

    “The goal of abortion laws is to stop abortion. And the person to stop is not the woman, who may have only one abortion in her life, but the doctor who thinks it a good idea to sit on a stool all day aborting babies.”

    And, just this morning, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign issued its response.

    Comment posted August 6th, 2007 at 12:44 pm
  14. Quinn says:

    Hey John and Dave Giere:

    Not knowing the just punishment for murdering a baby is not something to be proud of.

    That so many don’t know what justice is is a fact that should make you concerned. Not something you should praise God for.

    Comment posted August 6th, 2007 at 1:28 pm
  15. Quinn says:

    If we bring about a sure, swift, painful and public execution for everyone directly involved in murdering a preborn baby then it won’t occur hardly at all. It will be an incredibly strong deterrent.

    You have to do it right though. The trial must be fair and speedy (most being done within a week) based upon two or more pieces of evidence. And the execution must be sure (everyone convicted of murder is executed), swift (the execution must occur swiftly), painful (it has to be painful enough that the experience deters anyone thinking of murdering their baby from doing so) and public (as much of the public as possible in the local area is to see the execution take place).

    Currently, the USA does it completely backwards in every way. That’s why the so-called death penalty that is given to a small few capital criminals is ineffective at deterring those crimes from occuring.

    Comment posted August 13th, 2007 at 3:36 am
  16. Pat Goltz says:

    To Quinn,

    Capital punishment keeps that criminal from ever killing again.

    The person who should be put on trial is the abortionist, along with anyone who used coercion on the mother in any way. Most mothers are NOT voluntarily choosing to have an abortion, and most of them are being lied to about what it is and does.

    In order to get a conviction in a capital murder case, you have to prove:

    1. scienter – the mother has to know she is carrying a formed baby (with all the deception out there, few do, and they can’t exactly look for themselves)

    2. mens rea – the intent to kill her own child. If she is being coerced, she lacks that intent.

    Abortionists have both. They commit medical rape on women, and axe-murder on children, knowing full well what they are doing, and do it freely. Prosecute, convict and execute a few of them, and there will be no more abortion. It makes no sense to execute a woman who was deceived and coerced. That’s no better than stoning a woman for being a rape victim.

    True feminists support a woman’s right to refuse. Most women ARE being deceived or coerced, or both. It almost happened to me, and I am totally opposed to abortion, and far more knowledgeable than most women.

    Comment posted December 20th, 2007 at 5:53 pm
  17. Generations for Life » Blog Archive » Bill Clinton Is Really Angry says:

    […] How long do pro-abortion politicians think they can get away with claiming that pro-lifers want to jail women who have abortions? […]

    Comment posted February 18th, 2008 at 1:14 pm
  18. Generations for Life » Blog Archive » Tour Recap says:

    […] “Libertyville Abortion Demonstration” video was filmed three years ago (and which was referred to in an Anna Quindlen Newsweek column last year) and got footage for a long overdue video […]

    Comment posted July 21st, 2008 at 1:58 pm
  19. Pro-Life Hotline » Blog Archive » Bill Clinton Goes Berserk says:

    […] wonders how long pro-abortion politicians think they can get away with claiming that pro-lifers want to jail women who have abortions. It’s a non-starter, and they know […]

    Comment posted December 18th, 2008 at 3:59 pm
  20. Kate says:

    We Must Condemn The Hypocrites who think that Raped Women and Girls who are also Victims Of Incest Should Be Forced To Have A Baby Whether They Are Ready To Or Not! These same Extremist Don’t Care If Having A Baby or Carrying A Pregnancy To Term Could Actually Kill The Mother, But They Claim To Be So Concerned About Life! These are Also The Same People Who Want To Take Away Government Programs That Help Women Afford Birth Control So They Won’t Get Pregnant In The First Place! These Same Anti-Abortionists Want To Vote To End Government Programs Like WIC And Welfare To Work, So That Single Moms Can’t Get The Help They Need When They Do Decide To Have Their Babies! Basically…The Name Of The Game Is Leave Poor Women With No Options At All! Anti-Abortionist Don’t Really Care About What Happens To Babies Once They Are Born To Poor Women That Try To Tough It Out OnTheir Own. They Just Want To Be In Control Of What Disadvantaged Women Do Because it Makes Them Feel Powerful! It’s Usually Men And White, Married Women Who Are Against Abortion Because They Don’t Face The Same Economic and Physical Struggle That Black Women And Other Women Of Color Have To Face As SINGLE Mothers! I Bet These Same White Republicans Who Are Against Abortion, Even in The Case Of Rape Or Incest, Would Not Feel This Way If Their White Daughter Was Raped By A Black Or Latino Man! These Same White People Would Not Want Their White Daughters To Have To Carry Their Pregnancy To Term If It Were A Child That Was Conceived By Being Raped By A Black Or Latino Man! As Far As Black Genocide……..What’s Really Killing The Black Community Are All The Black Men Who Choose To Abandon Their Own Kids! Maybe More Black Women Would Not Choose Abortion If They Thought They Had A Shot In Hell Of Actually Getting A Helping Hand From The Black Men In Raising The Children They Created Together! If Anti-Abortionist Want To Complain About A Woman’s Right To Choose…….I Say Give Her The Choice Of Actually Helping Her Raise Her Child Once It Is Born! How About An Anti-Abortionist Getting A Second Or Third Job And Literally Helping Take Care Of A Pregnant Woman Who’s Is On Mandatory Bedrest and Can’t Work Anymore…..Or Help A Pregnant Woman Who is Already A Single Mom With Other Kids That She Has To Take Care Of Alone, While She Is Pregnant! Seriously……..If You Can Take The Time To Dictate What A Pregnant Woman Does With Her Body…….Take The Time To Get Involved Personally In Her Life Every Single Day And HELP HER RAISE HER CHILD FINANCIALLY As Well As Become Involved In The Child’s Life In A Positive Way Each Day At Least Until The Child Is An Adult. If Every Person That Is Against Abortion Would Partner Up With A Pregnant Woman And Make A Serious Life Time Committment To Help Her During Her Pregnancy As Well As Help Her Raise Her Child………..Most Abortions Would Not Even Happen! Anti-Abortionists Need To Stop Complaining About Abortion And Judging Women For Having Abortions And Start Helping Women Who Feel They Have No Other Option!

    Comment posted April 12th, 2012 at 8:19 pm