I’ll oppose prosecution of a woman for having an abortion. I’ll work to prevent the election of policymakers who think such prosecutions are a good idea. And I can’t believe the topic has even come up. Thanks to Abby Johnson, it has.
In a series of posts a few years back, I cited Abby as one of several “voices to trust” – “women who came through a variety of experiences to find themselves – sometimes to their own astonishment – opposing abortion and Roe v. Wade.” Abby’s personal journey took her from being a Planned Parenthood manager to being a pro-life leader and founder of a nonprofit organization that has assisted hundreds of former abortion workers seeking to leave the abortion industry. Amazing conversion, powerful ministry. That much hasn’t changed.
Then a few days ago, on May 7, she used a long Facebook post to advocate the criminal prosecution of women who have had abortions. The key lines: “Are preborn human beings full of infinite dignity and worth or are they not? Do we believe abortion is murder or is it not. Is the preborn child worth the same protection as my 2 year old or are the preborn somehow less valuable? If we do not have the same due process in the law for those who pay to take the life of their children, then we as a movement are liars. We are saying that those in the womb do NOT have the same value as those outside of the womb.”
No. Just no. And no again. Recognizing the dignity and humanity of pregnant woman and preborn child is one thing. Pitting pregnant women against their preborn children is something else, and the abortion industry relies on maintaining that adversarial position. It’s inhumane. I refuse to buy into it. And that’s without even addressing the position’s base political stupidity.
I wonder how Abby’s position will strike the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility for months, slowly building a relationship of trust with her and then welcoming her when she walked away from PP.
I wonder how a prosecute-the-mom policy sounds to someone involved in Rachel’s Vineyard or another post-abortion healing ministry.
Fortunately, people with more fame and clout than I are speaking up. Five days after Abby’s post, numerous groups and individuals released “An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations.” Here’s their conclusion:
Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.
As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.
…We call upon all pro-life legislators to stand with us. We ask you to continue to act with love and compassion toward abortion-vulnerable women. We urge you to reject any measure that seeks to criminalize women who have abortions.An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations, released 5/12/22
Among the signatories are representatives of Americans United for Life, March for Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secular Pro-Life, New Wave Feminists, and the National Right to Life Committee. There are many more, but that short list gives you an idea of the breadth of support for the letter.
Pro-life writer and podcaster Gloria Purvis put it pithily on her Twitter feed: an abortion-minded woman “needs help, not handcuffs.”
Ironically, it’s through the Pro-Life Women’s Conference – founded by Abby Johnson – that I’ve met people from Secular Pro-Life and New Wave Feminists, pro-lifers whose experiences and backgrounds are very different from my own. I’ve learned from them. I wasn’t at all surprised to see some of their names on the letter pushing back on the jail-the-moms idea.
Abby Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood was astounding, and her willingness to support former abortion workers has been inspirational. She played a huge role in promoting 40 Days for Life in its early years. She established an annual conference that in past years has brought together widely (and wildly) differing parts of the pro-life movement.
She got those things right. With her Facebook post this week, I fear she’s undermined all of them.
I won’t look an abortion-minded woman in the eye and assure her that I’ll have her jailed if she doesn’t listen to me. If that makes me one of the “liars” of the pro-life movement, to use Abby’s word, all I can say is that I’ve been called worse.
I wrote eight years ago about Abby’s visit to Dartmouth College. I quoted what she said then about how her heart was gradually softened by the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility: “She says the pro-life witnesses outside her clinic never called her names, but worked on forming a ‘genuine relationship’ with her, ‘without persecution and without condemnation. That’s what heals hearts.'”
Post header stock photo: Pixels.com