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Pro-Life Laws Punish Women: Fact or Fiction?

Brad Mattes   |   October 12, 2016

By Bradley Mattes

During recent years pro-abortion activists stepped up their accusations that pro-lifers are prosecuting and punishing women who have abortions. This is being accomplished, they claim, through the many state pro-life laws passed across the nation.

According to those who defend abortion throughout pregnancy, the pro-life movement doesn’t really care about women. They only want to stop abortion.  In fact, pro-lifers are repeatedly accused of being a bunch of prudes who want to “punish women for having sex.” (Justin Rosario, July 20, 2013, www.addictinginfo.org)

They make these declarations with great authority as if they have facts to back them up.

  • A March 30, 2106 Huffington Post article read: “A record number of restrictions on abortion have been passed since Republicans swept control in a slew of state legislatures in 2010; many of these provisions are meant to dissuade patients from seeking abortions and punish them if they do.” (Emphasis mine)
  • Robin Marty in a Care2 online post: “Anti-Abortion Movement Breaks Promise Not to Investigate Miscarriages.”
  • Atima Omara with The American Prospect: “its [vetoed 2016 Oklahoma bill] intentions were clear: to impose criminal penalties on women attempting to exercise their right to choose abortion.”
  • MSNBC’s Irin Carmon: “…women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions.”

A myriad of pro-abortion activists have called pro-lifers misogynists who care little about the women involved—we just want to end abortion. They further claim that laws protecting unborn babies and their mothers in reality punish women.

Are these nothing more than the rantings and hyperbole of extreme pro-abortion advocates? Or are we and the public to believe the true agenda of the pro-life movement is to continue a “war on women?”

Let’s look closely at each specific accusation and then you will be able to judge for yourself.

Writing for the Huntington Post, Elise Foley, Igor Bobic and Samantha Lachman alleged in a March 30, 2016 article, that pro-life laws passed in various states, “are meant to dissuade patients from seeking abortions and punish them if they do.”

Lines like these make news and are repeated in other media outlets, but if readers get past the inflammatory headlines, it is then they realize what the authors mean by “punish,” and the authors’ interpretation of the word is quite different from the average American

A waiting period before an abortion that allows a woman to contemplate her life-or-death decision is, according to them, “a form of punishment.” Ultrasound and an explanation of the development of the unborn child is also “punishment.” And laws protecting taxpayers from being forced to pay for abortion on demand is, you guessed it, punishment.

Online columnist Robin Marty’s headline on Care2’s website declared “Anti-Abortion Movement Breaks Promise Not to Investigate Miscarriages.” The circumstance that generated this accusation was an unborn baby found in a toilet of a Texas high school. Marty was incensed that the police were summoned and that there was an investigation to find the mother of the baby. In the end officials surmised that this was indeed a miscarriage and that no legal steps were necessary. They did not release the mother’s name. But that wasn’t good enough for Marty who insinuated that the only action required was to extract the evidence and that by no means was an investigation warranted.

Quite the contrary. At the very least they need to identify the young mother to see to her immediate medical needs and to notify her parents. A baby floating in a high school toilet is a big deal and no pro-life legislation was responsible for officials taking action.

Atima Omara declared in her June 16, 2016 column with The American Prospect that a pro-life law vetoed this year by Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin had “clear” intentions and those were “to impose criminal penalties on women” getting abortions. This is patently false.

The law in question was actually an amendment to an existing law, “An Act relating to physician licensure amending 59 O.S. 2011, sections 509 and 637.” This law dealt with unprofessional conduct of physicians and was amended to limit abortion after the first trimester. The penalty remained the same, which is to revoke the license of a physician who violates its directives in a wide variety of situations, now including limited abortion. It does not penalize women.

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon joined the fray in a March 30, 2016 online post stating, “…women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions.” Carmon is quick to cite Purvi Patel, their poster child, to drive home their misinformation and is cited by many hard left writers. Let’s take a closer look at the tragic circumstances surrounding Ms. Patel.

To hear pro-abortion advocates tell it, Patel was ruthlessly charged and convicted for being the innocent victim of a miscarriage. However, the documented facts don’t substantiate their claims.

Instead of having a legal abortion, Purvi Patel illegally ordered chemical abortion pills online from overseas and took them. She delivered the baby, who was believed to have been alive and breathing, but was put into a plastic bag and thrown into a dumpster behind her family’s restaurant. Continued bleeding necessitated that she visit a hospital where she then denied having given birth. The protruding umbilical cord evidenced otherwise, so Patel then said she had a miscarriage at two months. Medical experts estimated Patel was 28-30 weeks into her pregnancy. It was determined the baby died from blood loss, asphyxiation, hypothermia or lack of medical assistance.

Patel was charged and convicted for feticide which was later reversed on appeal. It’s unlikely she will face further charges.

Those who perpetuate the falsehoods that the pro-life movement wants to punish women point to the Patel case and others as unassailable evidence. These cases were pursued under fetal homicide laws that were established to punish third parties who harm pregnant women that result in the death of their babies. They were never intended for circumstances like Patel’s. It’s a safe assumption that all 38 states with this type of law contain an exemption for legal abortion.

Patel and other women have faced criminal charges when they operate outside the liberal laws permitting legal abortion. Pro-life legislation is not the culprit.

If further evidence were warranted, look at federal legislation the pro-life movement has devoted untold resources of time and talents to while lobbying for them in Congress. This legislation, that both failed and was passed, not only refrains from punishing women but goes to considerable lengths to make sure they do not.

During 2003 the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was enacted. In part it read: “A woman upon whom a partial-birth abortion is performed may not be prosecuted under this section, for a conspiracy to violate this section, or for an offense under section 2, 3, or 4 of this title based on a violation of this section.”

In 2004 the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was enacted which read in part: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution… (3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.”

Federal pro-life legislation that was introduced but not passed included the: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and PRENDA (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act). All three of these bills included specific and thorough language that prohibited the prosecution of women.

A Personhood bill was introduced in the 112th, 113th and 114th Congresses but did not pass. It included the following wording regarding the mother: “However, nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”

Allegations by pro-abortion advocates that the pro-life movement is not sympathetic toward women do not pass serious scrutiny. In reality, upon closer investigation it shows we are the only ones working to protect women and standing alongside them when their world crumbles after an abortion decision.

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