Even Without A President Trump, Women Are Punished For Getting Abortion Care
Yesterday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump made waves when he supported banning abortion and said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have an abortion. He immediately faced pushback from both pro-choice and anti-choice advocates and quickly walked back his comments. In just three hours he took three different positions on the issue. Shortly after the interview he said that abortion should be left to the states. Then later Wednesday evening, he issued a statement saying doctors who provide abortion care, not the women who receive it, should face punishment, a common argument among anti-choice supporters.
Criminalizing abortion, as Trump suggests, not only violates women’s reproductive rights, but also comes with severe health consequences. A report from the Guttmacher Institute found that highly restrictive abortion laws do not decrease abortion rates. Instead, they lead to higher rates of unsafe abortion. Yesterday, Trump admitted that banning abortion would force some women to seek out abortions illegally but still said “we have to ban it.”
Anti-choice advocates have long avoided answering questions about what should happen to women who get an illegal abortion in the case that the service is made illegal. Typically, the argument is that women seeking abortion care are victims, not criminals, so the goal isn’t to put them in jail. But, even without a President Trump banning most abortion in the U.S., by severely restricting women’s access to safe abortions, the complicated web of more than 300 abortion restrictions currently in place across the country already punish women who seek out an abortion.
Blocking access to comprehensive healthcare, along with the emotional and economic implications of doing so is a severe punishment in and of itself. But further consequences are occurring as well. For example, many women who are unable to access the dwindling number of legal abortion clinics have been arrested for trying to purchase abortion-inducing medication online. Other women have been charged with murder for allegedly seeking to harm their fetuses. And like existing abortion restrictions, the criminalization of abortion would also likely have a disproportionate impact on more vulnerable women like low income women, women of color, and young women.
Despite the fact that Trump’s comments sparked criticism from anti-choice activists as well as pro-choice activists, his support for criminalizing abortion is a reflection of long-standing conservative policies restricting women’s access to abortion. In fact, both other remaining Republican Presidential Candidates, Sen. Cruz and Gov. Kasich, hold similarly extreme positions on the issue. Sen. Cruz has helped make it nearly impossible for women to get an abortion in Texas and helped lead the Senate crusade to defund Planned Parenthood. In Ohio, Gov. Kasich signed a budget that defunded Planned Parenthood, redirected funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers,” threatened to shut down abortion clinics, and stripped funding from rape crisis centers.
BOTTOM LINE: Though painted as extreme, Trump’s suggestion that women who get abortions be punished is a logical end point of the long-standing conservative position that abortion should be illegal. Too many women are already treated like criminals for seeking abortion care and criminalizing abortion forces women into extreme circumstances endangering their health and safety.
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