New Media Outlets Explain That Abortion Laws Already Punish Women

Several writers for online media outlets are pointing out that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's remarks that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions just made “more explicit” the philosophy of Republicans who already punish women for obtaining the procedure through various pieces of legislation. 

Trump Says “There Has To Be Some Form Of Punishment” For Women Who Obtain Abortions

CNN: Trump: There Must Be “Some Form Of Punishment” For Women Who Get Abortions. During a March 30 town hall with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Trump said, “There has to be some form of punishment” for women who obtain abortions. Trump later released a statement walking back his remarks, claiming “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed.” From CNN's March 31 report:

Donald Trump scrambled to clarify his position on abortion Wednesday after he said women who undergo the procedure should face “some form of punishment” should the practice be outlawed. 

Several hours later -- after widespread condemnation from Trump's presidential rivals and even leading anti-abortion groups -- he walked back his remarks, releasing a statement in which he said that women who obtain abortions are victims and that doctors who perform the service are the ones who should be punished. 

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed -- like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.” 


Trump's initial comments on Wednesday came after a lengthy exchange with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who pressured the Republican to give a yes or no answer to the question, “should abortion be punished.”

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said during a televised town hall event. 

“For the woman?” Matthews asked, to which Trump replied, “Yes.”

Trump declined to specify how women should be punished if they underwent an illegal abortion.

The Republican front-runner also conceded that outlawing the practice would lead some women to seek out abortions illegally. 

“Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places, but we have to ban it,” Trump said during the town hall. 


March for Life released the toughest statement of the three groups, calling Trump's remarks “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.”


Ohio Gov. John Kasich told MSNBC, “Of course, women shouldn't be punished for having an abortion.”

And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Trump's comment “demonstrated that he hasn't seriously thought through the issues, and he'll say anything just to get attention.” [CNN, 3/31/16]

Several Writers For Online Media Outlets Explain That Trump's Remarks Just Made “More Explicit” The Philosophy Of Anti-Choice Republicans Who Already Punish Patients Seeking Abortions

Huffington Post: Trump Just Made “More Explicit” The Philosophy Of Republicans Opposed To Abortion Who “Already Punish Patients Who Seek The Procedure.” The Huffington Post's Elise Foley, Igor Bobic, and Samantha Lachman wrote March 30 that Trump “tried to walk back his comments afterward,” but “Republicans opposed to abortion rights already punish patients who seek the procedure so Trump was just making their philosophy more explicit.” The writers pointed to  the fact that a “record number of restrictions on abortion have been passed since Republicans swept control in a slew of state legislatures in 2010,” such as waiting periods, banning telemedicine, forcing patients to undergo an ultrasound, mandating “biased counseling,” and disallowing providers to use the safest procedures, which “are meant to dissuade patients from seeking abortions and punish them if they do”:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday that there “has to be some form of punishment” for abortion if it were banned in the U.S. -- as he says it should be -- and that punishment should fall on the woman.


Republicans opposed to abortion rights already punish patients who seek the procedure, so Trump was just making their philosophy more explicit. 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. 

Requiring a patient undergo a waiting period of 24, 48 or 72 hours before having an abortion is a form of punishment. Banning telemedicine for medication abortion punishes patients in rural areas. Requiring an ultrasound in which the provider describes the details of the fetus to the patient is a form of punishment. Mandating biased counseling, in which doctors are required to tell patients that abortion causes breast cancer or depression, is a form of punishment. 

Forcing providers to use an outdated regimen for administering medication abortions, which carries a higher risk of side-effects, is a form of punishment. Laws preventing providers from using the method used in the vast majority of second-trimester abortions, because it is the safest, punish patients. And requiring adolescents to get permission from both of their parents to have the procedure, while mandating abstinence-based sex education at the same time, punishes teens for getting pregnant. [The Huffington Post, 3/30/16]

Daily Beast: We “Don't Need A President Trump To Punish Women For Abortion” As State Laws Already Do So. The Daily Beast's Samantha Allen wrote that Trump's position is just “saying out loud something that is already happening.” Allen explained, “The punishment starts when women must walk past groups of shouting protestors to even enter an abortion provider,” or undergo mandatory biased counseling, state-mandated ultrasounds, or endure waiting periods:

But even though Trump retracted his earlier comments to Matthews, a ban on abortion--even with his preferred exceptions for rape, incest, and life endangerment--would still punish women with or without legal consequences.


In essence, Trump was admitting that his official position is tantamount to the pre-Roe v. Wade days of back-alley and coat hanger abortions. For women, Donald Trump's America would be punishment enough. Studies estimate that hundreds of thousands of illegal and unsafe abortions took place every year in the 1950s and 1960s. Restricting access to safe abortion by jailing physicians would almost certainly lead to dangerous self-induced abortions, hospitalizations, and deaths. 

But we don't need a President Trump to punish women for abortion. Women are already punished for having abortions under the sort of laws that [John] Kasich and [Ted] Cruz have long supported. 

The punishment starts when women must walk past groups of shouting protestors to even enter an abortion provider. It continues when women in at least 17 states are given mandatory pre-abortion counseling that includes medically inaccurate information about fertility risks, breast cancer links, and fetal pain. In 13 states, they are punished with a state-mandated ultrasound, no matter their stage of pregnancy. Women are punished again when waiting periods require them to make multiple trips to the clinic, further increasing the expense of the procedure.


But if a wide range of maddening logistical restrictions doesn't count as “punishment,” some women are already legally punished and jailed for having an abortion. 

Thirty-eight states have some version of a “fetal homicide” law which can, in some cases, be used to prosecute women who self-induce or attempt to self-induce an abortion. Last year, for example, a 31-year-old Tennessee woman was indicted on a charge of first-degree attempted murder for a failed coat hanger abortion that sent her to the hospital. Even women who terminate their pregnancies using less risky methods like medication have been punished under these laws. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there have been at least six cases of criminal charges for attempting to self-induce an abortion using pills, often ordered over the Internet. [The Daily Beast, 3/30/16]

Slate: “Trump Will Be Glad To Hear That Women Seeking Abortions Are Already Punished” In The U.S. Slate's Christina Cauterucci responded to Trump's remarks writing, “Trump will be glad to hear that women seeking abortions are already punished here in the United States of America”:

“You'll go back to a position like they had where people will, perhaps, go to illegal places,” Trump predicted of the bright tomorrow in which women seek, obtain, and get punished for illegal abortions. We haven't re-great-ified America to the point of coat-hanger abortions just yet, but Trump will be glad to hear that women seeking abortions are already punished here in the United States of America:

1. Women are fed misleading information and outright lies by doctors compelled by law to tell them that their abortions may cause breast cancer (it doesn't), that they'll be prone to infertility (untrue), and that life begins at conception (up for debate). In fact, one out of three bits of information abortion providers are forced by law to tell their patients are false.

2. To get to clinics, women must walk through gauntlets of protesters calling them murderers, telling them they're going to hell, and waving signs with bloody imagery.

3. Women must wait for a prescribed amount of time between mandatory pre-abortion counseling and the procedure in 28 states. Waiting periods make abortions more expensive, more dangerous, logistically challenging, and emotionally taxing.

4. In 14 states, women must make two separate visits to a clinic, requiring extra time and money for transportation, time off work, child care, and travel expenses.

5. In Utah, women seeking abortions at 20 weeks gestation or later are forced to take anesthetic drugs, even if it's against their will, adding additional risk to an overwhelmingly safe procedure.

6. Two-dozen states impose redundant or unnecessary safety requirements on abortion providers, making it harder for them to stay open and serve their patients.

7. Twenty-two states impose superfluous licensing standards, and 14 require doctors to have affiliations with local hospitals. These laws are forcing clinics across the country to close, leaving women with longer distances to travel, longer wait times, and more expensive procedures.

8. Poor women cannot use Medicaid to cover their abortions, sentencing them to debilitating expenses or unwanted pregnancies and children.

9. In 38 states, girls must notify or gain consent from their parents before obtaining abortions, putting themselves at risk of financial, emotional, and sometimes physical harm. [Slate, 3/30/16]

MSNBC: “Women Are Already Being Prosecuted And Even Convicted On Suspicion Of Having Abortions.” MSNBC's Irin Carmon noted in a blog post that while anti-abortion groups and Trump's rivals tried to “immediately distance[] themselves” from Trump's remarks, “women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions”:

Minutes after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that “there has to be some form of punishment” for women seeking abortions, many anti-abortion rights advocates immediately distanced themselves.

A Cruz campaign staffer tweeted, “Trump doesn't understand the pro-life position because he's not pro-life.” In swiftly-issued statement, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said: “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”


But even under the status quo, where Roe v. Wade technically hasn't been overturned, women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions. Just ask Purvi Patel, who is appealing a 30-year prison sentence for her conviction for feticide in Indiana. Prosecutors said she had ordered abortion pills online and charged her with feticide, which had been initially touted as a way to prosecute people who attack pregnant women. The prosecutor in South Bend, Indiana who brought the case told MSNBC of prosecuting Patel under the feticide charge, “A more accurate title would be 'unlawful termination of pregnancy.'” 

Or ask Tennessee's Anna Yocca, who at 24 weeks pregnant used a coat hanger to try to induce an abortion and later gave birth to a living child. Earlier this month, she pled not guilty to aggravated assault after having been initially charged with attempted murder. Or Rennie Gibbs, a Mississippi teenager who after a stillbirth was indicted for “depraved heart” murder for allegedly smoking crack during her pregnancy. Or Jennie Lynn McCormack, the Idaho woman who was initially prosecuted for violating the state's 20 week abortion ban, until a federal court said it was unconstitutional.


A few hours after the town hall, Trump abruptly backed away from his own comments, saying that in the world anti-abortion advocates would prefer, in which abortion is illegal, the doctor who would perform an illegal abortion would be prosecuted, not the woman. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.

But a world in which abortion is banned entirely and women are themselves prosecuted for breaking that law is not so hard to imagine, after all. [MSNBC, 3/30/16]