Recently at The Catholic Thing, David G. Bonagura, Jr., published an article entitled “Don’t Criminalize Women for Abortion”. His title leaves us little room for error in guessing his conclusions. I disagree with his article and will explain why in this essay. My argument will not be that women should be prosecuted in every circumstance, but that it is not immoral, but rather preferable, to have laws to this effect on the books, to be enforced when and where necessary.
Bonagura starts by saying that prosecution of abortion providers and those involved, but not of abortive mothers, “should be the pro-life policy going foward”. His argument against prosecuting the women is that they already “bear…responsibility for the act”, would “turn the country against abortion prohibition”, and other related statements. Abortive mothers do suffer complicated psychological effects from their choice, but that’s not enough of a punishment. This could be argued for other serious crimes, which might lead to undesirable outcomes.
Bonagura states that other murders have one of the seven deadly sins as their root, but departs from common sense completely to hold that this is not the case for abortion. Despite numbers that demonstrate differently, he holds that “fear, insecurity, and social pressures” are primary abortion reasons. According to the linked article, “fewer than 1%” of abortions can be blamed on Bonagura’s causes. Furthermore, it almost seems like he downplays the role of lust, only mentioning it in a parenthetical statement. I have written elsewhere about the direct link between even something as “simple” as immodesty and abortion. Downplaying the role of lust, the one thing which causes a lot of unexpected pregnancies, seems to be ignoring the root of the problem.
Bonagura states that abortion is “so repulsive, so counter to nature, that it is arguably more egregious than other murders”, yet will not allow prosecution for the abortive mother. He bases this on the lack of “soundness of mind” of a mother willing to kill her unborn child. Whether he means insanity or merely diminished capacity (which are defined differently in the legal sphere), these do not often work in the court of law. Current legal standard requires the defendant to prove “that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts”. By this definition, it does not seem that, in the majority of cases, an abortive mother could be considered “not of sound mind”. Unless the abortive mother is wilfully ignorant about what is growing inside of her, or is indeed suffering from a mental disease/defect, it must be assumed that she is aware of what she is doing, whether or not it is forced or coerced.
When a someone kills a pregnant woman, he is charged for double homicide. So, in the interest of justice, directly and purposefully killing just the fetus should be equally treated in the eyes of the law. Of course, the providers need to be prosecuted as well, and thankfully Bonagura sees that. And certainly, many abortion rights activists might not be of as sound mind as they like to think. However, refusing to prosecute an abortive mother, after she commits such a grievous act against the natural and divine laws, herself, her child, and society, just to name a few, seem unwise and unjust.
I am not saying that the mother deserves jail time. Maybe the sentencing recommendations could include therapy and other similar measures. If the mother can be proven to meet the legal definitions of insanity or diminished capacity, the case should be handled differently. Bonagura abandons hard and effective action for the easy way out of appealing to being “creative and caring”, reaching out in “love, mercy, and hope”.
Bonagura caves to concupiscience by saying that since the Fall, “men and women have succumbed to sexual temptation despite fears of pregnancy and massive social consequences”. While that is true, it does not mean we should allow that to be the status quo as Bonagura seems to argue; it is almost as if he says, “Pre-marital sex will still continue to happen and that will lead to unexpected pregnancies, but we’ll deal with that when we get there”. Absolutely not! That is complacent to a high degree! He recognizes that a “massive cultural shift” is necessary, but does not build on that point, and actually sounds quite hopeless on the matter.
It is not impossible to change the culture. The Catholic Church has been doing it since the beginning, converting first Rome, then the barbarians, expanding into new countries and building Christendom, and beginning many of our most important cultural systems, including hospitals and universities. Why can’t this be done in the anti-abortion fight? Why can’t we argue for pre-marital abstinence, the outlawing of contraceptives (thank you, Justice Thomas), and the proper end of the marital act?
In conclusion, while having a law against something doesn’t mean nobody will do it, it is an important first step. Abortive mothers need to know they will be punished for the heinous act to which they have consented. Abortion providers also must be run out of business by legal means. Resources must be offered to mothers considering abortion, so that they know they are not being “forced” to carry their baby, but rather fulfilling the natural consequence of their actions. Finally, it is important to emphasize the love and mercy of God that is available to repentant sinners, but not at the expense of His justice.