We’re two pro-life women who say ‘no’ to prosecuting women for abortions

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s imitation of being handcuffed during a recent protest sums up the type of media frenzy that has followed the Dobbs decision. Misinformation and political theater abound, with debunked claims continuing to circulate in the press and on social media. 

This is reminiscent of the pre-Roe days, when abortion advocates promulgated claims that thousands of women a year were dying in back alleys – a claim that earned Planned Parenthood’s president four Pinocchios in 2019 — still cited by people who “should know better.” But to the extent that these inaccuracies are creating real fear, they cannot be ignored by those of us who care about what happens to women and how they feel about this moment in time.    

For example, consider the falsehood that pro-life laws prohibit medical intervention for ectopic pregnancy or miscarriages. Not a single state law in effect does this – all contain exemptions to save the life of the mother, something the pro-life movement has supported all along. Ectopic pregnancy cannot result in a live birth and can be fatal to the mother if not addressed. Even Planned Parenthood has acknowledged that ectopic pregnancies are not ended by abortion – they’re not even the same procedure. Care for women in an emergency must always be offered. But while it’s sometimes impossible to save the baby’s life, the intent of elective abortion is always to ensure the death of the baby.  

Few things cause more alarm than the idea of prosecuting women for abortion, which the pro-life movement as a whole has rejected repeatedly.  

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Attorney Paul Benjamin Linton in his analysis Overruling Roe v. Wade: The Implications for Women and the Lawexplains, “Contrary to what advocates of legal abortion may believe, women were not punished for abortion before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. There is not one reported case from any State, prior to Roe, in which a woman was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced for inducing her own abortion, or for consenting to an abortion performed upon her by a third party.” 

Pro-life feminists have always advocated prevention and accountability from men and society.

Pro-life attorney and author Clarke Forsythe adds, “Prosecuting women is counterproductive to the goal of effective enforcement of the law against abortionists.” The woman herself is a witness to a crime against her, as well as the child she carries. 

As leaders of two national organizations operating in all 50 states and working to pass life-affirming legislation, we state again emphatically that we oppose prosecuting women for abortion.  

The pro-life movement includes many women who have experienced and been deeply hurt by abortion. We understand that women are targeted by a predatory, multibillion-dollar industry in the United States and worldwide that profits from ending their children’s lives and from their misery. First abortionists sell women short – repackaging the same old misogyny that women can’t handle career and family – and then they sell them abortions.  

Instead of practicing the ancient maxim of “do no harm,” the abortion industry uses medical knowledge to end young life. Rather than offering women a helping hand, they take her money and her child’s life, leaving her exactly where she was before – perhaps in need of economic assistance, education, or an exit strategy from a bad relationship.

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Moreover, like “robber barons” throughout history, the abortion industry has political friends in high places. Taxpayer funding enters the revolving door, and millions of dollars in political spending exits. Today these allies are found almost exclusively within the Democrat Party, where candidates frequently can’t name any limit on abortion at any point in pregnancy that they support. Regardless of what the problem is, most Americans agree unlimited abortion for any reason is not the solution.

As pro-life leaders, we embrace pregnant mothers looking for a path forward. We want to see unborn children protected in the law, and we want to offer loving service to women in need. Together we have decades of pro-life work to prove that. Thousands of pregnancy centers and community-based health clinics outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities 14 to one across the United States, according to a recent analysis. Pregnancy centers provide critical resources throughout pregnancy and after their child is born, typically at no charge. In the face of vandalism, firebombings and uninformed attacks from politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren who want to shut them down, their majority-volunteer workforce are true heroes. 

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At Students for Life of America and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, we will continue to strengthen the service network for women and families through initiatives like Standing with You, and Her PLAN. We know the Dobbs decision was just the beginning of a new era in our work to make abortion illegal and unthinkable. We’ve never shrunk from that challenge, and we’re not about to abandon those who need us now.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America & Students for Life Action, with more than 1,300 groups on middle and high school, college and university, medical and law school campuses in all 50 states. Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, Explicitly Pro-Life.

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