30 March 2016
Trump's modest proposal and Republican hypocrisy on abortion
Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich are scandalized by Donald Trump's statement during an MSNBC interview that there should be "some kind of punishment" for women who abort their pregnancies if abortion is made illegal. "Of course women shouldn't be punished," says Kasich, while a Cruz spokesperson recommended "healing" rather than punishment for women who abort. I'd understand and sympathize if Trump were baffled by these statements. He probably expects them from the Democratic candidates, and the Clinton campaign has predictably delivered, but his assumption, now that he's a committed Republican, surely was that Republicans want abortions to be illegal. His assumption is correct, but when it comes to the people who have abortions, Republicans have long been strangely reticent about treating them as criminals, which is why I like to propose amending any anti-abortion bill poison-pill style with criminal penalties for women who abort. Perhaps they have some notion that they'll appear less misogynist if they don't demand some kind of punishment, but any such notion is naive. If anything, they may seem more misogynist if their refusal to criminalize women who abort is interpreted as a denial of women's responsibility and agency. Could Republicans believe that impressionable women have abortions only because they're tricked or brainwashed by wicked doctors or birth-control fanatics? Probably they could, since that seems to be the logic behind all proposals requiring women to be shown pictures and other information intended to dissuade them from aborting. If so, then while the reproductive rights movement claims agency, responsibility and sovereignty for women -- their mantra, after all, is "choice" -- the anti-abortion movement, in its patronizing way, denies them all these things by refusing to recognize them as criminals rather than ditzy dupes of the doctors. Millions of women no doubt are furious at Trump today -- and in the long run his statement may prove one of the nails in his general-election coffin, but despite his caveman reputation they should recognize that, while still their enemy, Trump for once actually respects women more than his Republican rivals do.