Something that tends to come up in debates over abortion rights is the supposed inconsistency, or hypocrisy, of anti-choicers. Those of us who support a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion have some tricks we like to use to try and chase our opponents into a corner. One of them is the Rape Double Bind: if an anti is willing to make exceptions for rape, she’s a hypocrite. If not, she’s a monster. I think this is problematic, but I’m not shooting my mouth off about it today. Instead, I’m going to comment on another purity test we like to inflict on the other side: the Death Penalty Trap. Specifically, I’m going into the supposed hypocrisy of people who both oppose elective abortion rights and support the death penalty.
The Death Penalty Trap is problematic on two levels. One is that all anti-choicers are not pro-death penalty. Some are all in favor of state-sanctioned execution, some are indifferent or ambivalent, some are actively opposed. It’s those who are all in favor who are supposedly the hypocrites, the inconsistent ones who go on about the “sanctity of life” but then have no problem with putting convicts to death.
I do understand the idea, that it seems awfully arbitrary to be all about Life this, and Life that, but then it’s totally fine to give lethal injections to prisoners, but here’s the thing: this is another example of how anti-choice morality, once you ignore the warm-and-fuzzy aura it projects around itself, is perfectly consistent. Rather than agreeing to the nomenclature of “pro-life,” (which I already refuse to recognize) perhaps a better label would be pro-innocent-life. It’s the idea that every human life (which they define as the union of sperm and egg) must have a chance.
However, there is nothing in this framework that precludes the idea that a person who has been given a chance at life, and has done something wrong, should be punished. Abortion and the death penalty are separate issues. A prisoner on death row has (presumably) committed a heinous crime and needs to repay his debt to society. A fetus has done nothing wrong. A fetus is a clean slate that needs a chance to do good. We might ask such pro-execution anti-choicers how they can accept the small percentage of death row prisoners who are wrongfully convicted and executed, but, you know, I can’t expect them to think through these issues the same way I do. That’s a rubber-meets-road issue, but it’s not a philosophical contradiction. Protecting fetuses doesn’t have to mean protecting convicted murderers as well. From within this framework, there is also nothing inconsistent about people like Scott Roeder. Perpetrating violence on abortion providers is merely the logical conclusion of the idea that terminating a pregnancy is tantamount to murder. If a doctor spends all day committing murders, there should be nothing hypocritical about killing him. A more interesting question would be why they always target the doctors, but not the women who procure the abortions for themselves. In my opinion, it’s the woman making the decision to terminate her pregnancy who’s really the murderer; the abortionist is just a hitman, or an arms supplier.
Another question worth exploring is why some anti-choicers are also pro-war. Do they not realize that when war happens, innocent civilians tend to be among the casualties? Including small children? Do they have another loophole in their “pro-life” framework for why civilians caught in the crossfire between armies aren’t worth defending? Is the war simply a sufficiently important pursuit that civilian deaths are to be considered an unfortunate side effect, but not as important as…whatever we’re trying to accomplish by firing machine guns on other countries?
Perhaps they’re just really good at compartmentalizing the issues. Or perhaps there is a way to argue that anyone who happens to live in a country we invade is already our enemy and their life is forfeit. It’s sort of like telling a rape victim that she shouldn’t have been walking alone at night: if they weren’t making trouble, then what were they doing in that warzone?
It should also be pointed out, meanwhile, that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy is not innocent. She is one who dared to get sperm up her vadge while not wanting a baby. Very often, she has done so while not married. Sometimes, even with more than one man in a short span of time. Therefore, she has done something bad and needs to face the consequences of her Slutty McSlutness. Forcing her to have the baby ought to get the message across.
It all adds up.