Gobsmacked by Logic: Will Pro-lifers Succumb to Silencing Tactics?


The question is simple and blunt: "If abortion is criminalized, what should the penalty be for a woman who has one?"

It's amazing the abortion movement has taken more than three decades to come up with it, but even more dumbfounding that they see it as the "eureka!" moment, the great trump card that will, they believe, stop pro-lifers in their tracks.

This is their new strategy?


For every pro-life victory in the battle for hearts, souls and laws in the land, abortion activists adjust their strategy to compensate, and usually with some success. Last year, they faced their biggest challenge since Roe v. Wade when South Dakota legislators passed a comprehensive ban on abortion that set the model for other states and seemed destined for a Supreme Court showdown (see "A Choice Battle", Michaelmas 2006 Voices). That has only been slowed, not defeated, by abortion activists desperate for an end-run. Planned Parenthood and NARAL stopped the ban from taking effect by launching a mass petition drive, getting the abortion issue to a voter referendum, then deceiving the citizens of South Dakota in a statewide disinformation campaign about the language of the ban. The "Women's Health and Human Life Protection Law" was narrowly defeated by scare tactics, only postponing the inevitable.

Abortion legislation is on the table in many state capitals now, and the road from Sioux Falls to the Supreme Court is being paved by pro-life legal experts, crisis pregnancy centers, and courageous post-abortive women, the real heroes of the pro-life movement.

Abortion activists have adjusted accordingly. First, they launched a new tactic last January using major media to run what posed as in-depth coverage of crisis pregnancy centers, but what was in fact a campaign of deception. ("The Abortion Movement Takes Cover", Pentecost 2007 Voices). Now, they have begun to ambush pro-life people outside abortion clinics with a camera, drop the big question about making women criminals, and post the video online.

That's the level of discourse we get in the media these days. The ambush tactic?

Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen hardly contained her enthusiasm over this new strategy in her piece titled "How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?" (Newsweek, August 6, 2007). It starts with the description of a YouTube "mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic" in Illinois. "The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations."

Quindlen relishes this story. Especially reporting these responses by pro-lifers: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."

This is unacceptable. Her cynicism? That's the level of discourse we get in the media these days. The ambush tactic? That's the type of attack we can expect in the abortion battle at this point. But Quindlen's report on the inability of committed pro-lifers to answer the big questions that still confuse this culture is totally beyond the pale. Because the debate has shifted dramatically in recent years, especially since South Dakota, the pro-life movement owns the argument. There is not one question they should fear, and not one answer the abortion movement can honestly claim as validation for what they do.

But this isn't about honesty. It's about talking points and spin control. Now they're spinning this myth that pro-lifers want to criminalize abortion, and make women criminals for getting one illegally.

Quindlen declared it triumphantly: "A new public-policy group called the National Institute for Reproductive Health wants to take this contradiction and make it the centerpiece of a national conversation, along with a slogan that stops people in their tracks: how much time should she do?" They are celebrating their cleverness.

This much Quindlen gets right: "If the Supreme Court decides abortion is not protected by a constitutional guarantee of privacy, the issue will revert to the states. If it goes to the states, some, perhaps many, will ban abortion."

But she draws a false conclusion: "If abortion is made a crime, then surely the woman who has one is a criminal". Wrong. Not one state has written or planned language in abortion ban legislation that would consider — or allow anyone to consider — the woman a criminal for having an abortion. The party guilty of a crime would be the abortionist. Quindlen and her abortion-backing colleagues came up with this false dichotomy. They propose that, by their logic, the woman is a criminal. And they're pinning that tortured logic on pro-life people; at least on the ambush video and in print articles like Quindlen's. That is, until she inadvertently stumbles on the truth: "Lawmakers in a number of states have already passed or are considering statutes designed to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned," Quindlen writes. "But almost none hold the woman, the person who set the so-called crime in motion, accountable."


Get it Straight

Pro-life legal experts, legislators and advocates know that women are already victims in abortions. Whether the abortionist is a doctor or a back-alley hack, they would be held accountable for breaking the law wherever abortion is banned. This is information all pro-life people need to understand thoroughly.

The South Dakota abortion ban, House Bill 1215, states in Section 4:

Nothing in this Act may be construed to subject the pregnant mother upon whom any abortion is performed or attempted to any criminal conviction and penalty.

The South Dakota legislators who drafted it had already crafted legislation to protect women in the earlier informed consent law, HB 1166. Here is one of its provisions:

Require that the State create a written disclosure form that requires the abortion doctor to provide the mother, in person, with all of the risks of abortion to the mother and her unborn child. Require that this disclosure take place before the woman pays for the abortion and before she is taken to the procedure room. Require that the mother must also be provided sufficient time for personal review and discernment.

First of all, nobody in the pro-life world, nobody in state or federal government — at least nobody of reason and consequence — is considering holding women accountable for abortions after they're banned.

In other words, a standard informed consent that any medical procedure requires. Planned Parenthood immediately took the law to court and blocked its enforcement. Their argument before the district judge and then the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was that the abortionists' freedom of speech (i.e., not to tell women about all the risks) trumped the women's right to know.

Quindlen's article in Newsweek wraps up with this: "The great thing about video is that you can see the mental wheels turning as these people realize that they somehow have overlooked something central while they were slinging certainties."

Actually, abortion activists have been slinging their own certainties for decades. It's only a matter of time before a video turns up that captures their wheels turning, while the most committed abortion supporters confront a few questions and see whether there are any true epiphanies.

Questions like: "If the abortion movement is really all about 'choice', why are you so opposed to actually giving women one, by following the standard medical procedure requirement of obtaining 'informed consent'?" "When informed consent laws in different states actually are close to passage, why do you fight them so vigorously?" "If you really are 'pro-choice', what do you have against giving women a two- or three-day consideration period ... or even 24 hours ... after allowing her to know all her options?"

The Newsweek column concludes that "there are only two logical choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place. If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. You can't have it both ways." But that is wrongheaded and illogical. This is the abortion movement contriving an untenable calculation.

First of all, nobody in the pro-life world, nobody in state or federal government — at least nobody of reason and consequence — is considering holding women accountable for abortions after they're banned. Following from that, women would not be "sent to prison", nor would any other action be taken against them. The pro-life movement is engaged fully in protecting women from abortions, and from the ravages of the "procedure" if they have undergone one, or more. The pro-life movement is the only movement looking out for the health and rights of women.

Turning the Tables

This new tactic of the abortion movement to nail pro-life advocates with one stunning question actually works best when it turns full circle. Especially when it's the post-abortive women themselves pressing for answers.

Abortion activists want to put the big questions out there. Let them be prepared to answer them, to carry the argument through to its logical conclusion.

The week the Quindlen column came out in Newsweek, LifeNews.com ran an interview with Georgette Forney and Janet Morana, co-directors of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, reacting to the continuing deceit of the abortion movement. "To Anna Quindlen and anyone else I would say that women are already serving time for abortion right now in our own prisons", Forney said. "No condescending dismissal of women's torment by abortion ideologues can diminish the daily punishment of guilt, shame, and remorse post-abortive women experience."

The article continued: "Morana made it clear to LifeNews.com what the overwhelming majority of pro-life people believe: women who have abortions are frequently victims as well because of the way abortion businesses sell abortions to them with misinformation.... 'The abortion profiteers and their shills in the press have been telling society for years that whatever it is that abortion terminates, it's not a baby,' Morana explained.

"'This propaganda onslaught has taken its toll in women who believed that lie and who emphatically state today that had they known that their child was not just a "clump of tissue," as abortionists told them, they would have never aborted,' Morana added."

Abortion activists want to put the big questions out there. Let them be prepared to answer them, to carry the argument through to its logical conclusion. Why does an abortionist have more of a right to remain silent about abortion risks than the woman patient does to receive it, when her health is at stake? Why did NY Salon's abortion forum, titled "What's So Bad About Abortion?" refuse any participation to the women from Silent No More, who could actually answer that question? Why does NY Salon's website claim the group "believes passionately in free speech and discussing ideas robustly" but they would not allow Forney to discuss the idea that abortion is bad for women? After all, they already stacked the forum with four abortion advocates, from NARAL, the National Abortion Federation and a British abortion business. But the forum did not include any women who have had abortions and regret that decision. So, did they really want to know what's so bad about abortion, after all?

Furthermore... Why has the abortion movement turned its back for so long on Norma McCorvey after she was useful as "Jane Roe", after she turned pro-life and Catholic and began to work so hard to inform the public about the impact of abortion? Do abortion activists realize that "reproductive rights" is a euphemism to fool the public into blanket acceptance of all contraception and abortion, or are they deluded as well? Although, if they're deluded, they can't answer that.

There's a principle in law and logic that applies here. Never ask a question you can't answer.




Sheila Liaugminas "Gobsmacked by Logic: Will Pro-lifers Succumb to Silencing Tactics?" Catholic Exchange (September 23, 2007).

Reprinted with permission of the author, Sheila Liaugminas.


Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist with extensive experience in both the secular and religious journalism. Her writing covers a variety of topics, with her particular interest being matters of the Church, faith, culture, politics and the media.

Sheila began her journalist career working for Dayton Journal Herald newspaper in Ohio, and then for the Dayton CBS affiliate. In Chicago, she reported for Time magazine for more than twenty years, having reported on a number of Time cover stories. As well, she contributed to the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business. At Chicago’s NBC owned station (WMAQ-TV) she served as co-host of the Emmy Award winning program YOU, and guest-hosted a morning talk show.

Sheila has been active in the religious media, with contributions to National Catholic Register, Crisis Magazine, Adoremus Bulletin, and Voices, the magazine published by Women for Faith in Family. Most recently, Sheila hosted the popular radio shows The Right Questions and Issues and Answers on Relevant Radio, heard throughout the United States. She has appeared as a guest on other shows on Relevant Radio, as well as on Ave Maria Radio. She is married with two sons, one in major seminary, and the other one studying communications at a university.

Copyright © 2007 Sheila Liaugminas

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