On January 21, 2017, the streets of Washington D.C. were flooded with a Women’s March to protest the election of President Donald Trump. The group was clearly angry that the nation did not elect the first women president, their preferred candidate Democrat Hillary Clinton. Even more, they came to voice their concerns about what President Trump might do to abortion rights. The ultimate position paper of the march’s organizers spanned a wide range of issues beyond core women’s issues like abortion, to concerns like minimum wage, union rights, immigration policy and clean air.
But back to core women’s issues.
Donald Trump initially caused a stir when he said during a presidential debate in March 2016 that women who perform illegal abortions should be punished. After a loud public outcry, Trump back-peddled from his statement. In October 2016, he amended his comments that he is pro-life and would appoint judges with similar opinions, but ultimately the decisions regarding abortions would be left to each state. The outcry against his comments continued, but this time he did not reverse his position.
So who would get punished for abortion? Trump said “If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”
Many women’s rights organizations were happy with this Trump statement, albeit still concerned about his other pro-life statements. They shouldn’t be. Their agreement that a woman is always the victim is arguably more misogynistic than curtailing abortion rights.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade permitted abortions up until the time that a fetus was viable outside of the womb, roughly 24 weeks at that time (the viability is closer to 20 to 22 weeks today due to advances in medicine). That means that an abortion after viability is not a legal procedure, unless there were particular circumstance like a threat to the mother’s life. In 2014, there was just a small number of such late-term procedures, 1.3% of all abortions. Most states (43) place limits on late term abortions.
What is the punishment for the 1.3% of women who get abortions after 20 weeks? There is no comprehensive information. People assume that late-term abortions must only happen when the mother’s life is at stake, but the reality is that very few abortions overall happen due to the “big three” issues that abortion-rights advocates site as additional arguments to gather support for abortion: rape; incest; and risk to the life of the mother. The vast majority of abortions happen because the mother is concerned about her work or her partner, or the financial ability to support the baby.
So consider a woman that is eight months pregnant who breaks up with her partner and therefore no longer wants to keep the baby. Should the doctor performing the abortion procedure be the sole party punished for killing a perfectly viable fetus? Should the woman escape all liability for such a decision? That would be a mockery of justice.
The Women’s March claimed that Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Indeed they are. But baby rights are human rights too.
The march’s position paper of 16 bullet points chose to not call for the legalization of prostitution, a curious call for a group that demanded “gender justice.. for the power to control our bodies and be free of gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.”
Are the march’s organizers so puritanical that they cannot imagine women willingly be paid to have sex?
This is not just on the march’s organizers, but on society as well. Our government has inverted policies regarding prostitution laws, where new laws in the country seek to punish the purchasers of the service (the “johns”) instead of the prostitutes themselves. This is a clear inconsistency of punishing the purchaser of the illegal services for prostitution (typically men), but only the service provider in the case of abortion (the doctor). Logic would suggest that either the person paying for the service in each instance is punished (the woman in abortion and man for prostitution) or the service provider (the prostitute and the doctor). Instead, society has chosen to have an overriding concern to not punish women in each case.
That is wrong.
To respect women is to hold them accountable. Women cannot claim complete control of their bodies unless they assume FULL RESPONSIBILITIES for their bodies, as well. In that regard, the women’s rights movement and society should finally push for legalized prostitution and for the punishment of women who perform late-term abortions for non-medical reasons.
It is time for the women’s rights activist and society to stop being so protective of women as to treat them as passive wards of the state.
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