By Michael Bryan
I have had a few thoughts about the idea and practicality of criminalizing and prosecuting abortion, as the GOP seems intent on doing recently. But, wow, this prosecutor discusses it more thoroughly and passionately than I could. Go read it. Here's a few samples:
This is what happens when we start second-guessing reproductive health decisions being made by pregnant girls and women. We wade into a thicket where, suddenly, lawyers and judges and police officers are making decisions that we are so incredibly ill-equipped to make. Where people like me end up telling pregnant women, “hey, what happened to you wasn’t horrifying enough for ME to allow YOU to terminate this pregnancy. Sorry. But remember, this is all part of God’s plan for you.”
So, personhood for a cluster of cells means that abortion could equal aggravated murder. Really, do Republicans want us prosecuting girls and women for the aggravated homicide of their zygotes? Is that the plan here? Do they actually want to impose the death penalty, or will life in prison be sufficient to satisfy their pathological need to punish women for the crime of being sexually active? Of course, if the woman is guilty, so is the man who facilitates her in procuring an abortion – boys, if you take your girlfriend to Planned Parenthood for an abortion, we’re going to imprison you both for murder. It’s called a “conspiracy.” In case you were wondering.
And all of this chatter and talk is offensive, it is demeaning, it is patronizing, and it is unconscionable. As someone who has worked with rape victims – including some who were pregnant, some who were children, and some who were pregnant children – for over a decade, I would strongly suggest that you all think a little harder about what you really want here and about what you are really proposing.
I would just add one comment on the subject. The State should not be in the business of prosecuting people based on religious law. There is no secular consensus about the ethical or medical status of a foetus prior to viability outside of the mother's womb. Abortion activists want to shape the civil law to fit their purely religious conviction (which is of fairly recent vintage, btw) that a foetus, even a zygote, is a full human being with a 'soul', deserving of the same rights and protections as any other person.
Conservatives have a buzz-word for the practice of enforcing religious dogma by the state: Sharia Law. 'Personhood' laws, anti-abortion laws, and contraceptive bans are Christian Sharia Law, plain and simple. The religious right doesn't like Sharia Law because they don't like Islam. I don't like Sharia Law (of any religion) because I believe America is established as a purely secular state. In America, no religion gets to enforce it's dogma through the coersive power of the state.
I find it offensive and unacceptable, and down-right un-American, to prosecute someone criminally for violating someone else's religious convictions. Such use of civil law violates the establishment clause, in my view. The State cannot criminalize abortion or other reproductive technologies, in my view, without establishing de facto a particular religious conviction as the official state religion.
Only after a foetus is viable does the State have any rational, secular interest in relgulating or restricting abortion – that is fundamental holding of Roe v. Wade. There is no rational basis for the abortion and contraceptive laws conservatives want to enforce, other than enforcing their own narrow religious dogma on the rest of us.