Trump foes are cheering Chris Matthews and MSNBC for setting the trap. They think they got what they most need: evidence that Donald Trump is “anti-woman."
If abortion were made illegal, then there would be “some sort of punishment,” Trump said. At first, he said for “the woman,” but said he didn’t know what the penalty might be. Later, he back-tracked: no, only the abortionist would be punished.
A campaign-ending sound bite?
Let’s think about the issues a minute longer than the candidate had to think about his answer. Did abortion supporters really trap themselves? Let’s try some hypotheticals and demands for “yes or no” answers on Matthews and his political friends.
Suppose that something is made illegal. There is always a penalty, isn’t there, Mr. Matthews? Should the government enforce the law, Mr. Matthews? Or is there an exception for abortion? Yes or no?
Who is generally penalized? The person who wants the act done, or the person who carries out the deed? Consider a landowner who wants to fill in a mud puddle without EPA approval, or a businessman who wants to “off” a competitor. Do they go to jail—or does the backhoe operator or hit man do the time? Or do they all get punished?
With abortion, we have a precedent. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was illegal in most jurisdictions. Enforcers did not target the women who got the abortions. People then, like Trump today, considered “the woman” to be a second victim, and trained their sights on the abortionists. How about it, Mr. Matthews? And have you asked Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards? Are women who have abortions victims, or are they the happy beneficiaries of an essential “reproductive health” service that permits them, for example, to complete divinity school?
Most abortion laws proposed today concern informed consent or requirements that other medical facilities are routinely expected to meet. Abortions can cause life-threatening complications. Are laws designed to protect women “anti-woman,” Mr. Matthews—or unconstitutional? Should there be some penalty for violating them? Or should abortionists like Kermit Gosnell be given free rein?
As Trump pointed out, “a human life” is involved. Matthews said that some people considered abortion to be murder. Well, Mr. Matthews, what do you say it is?
Contrast the mother who dumps her newborn in a trash compactor and the abortionist who puts a crying preemie in the soiled utility room to die? Should anybody be punished, Mr. Matthews?
As Trump noted, Matthews claims to be a Catholic. He says he agrees with his Church’s “moral view” on abortion. But Trump is running for president and has to accept the law.
Don’t candidates advocate change, Mr. Matthews? How about changing laws to protect human life? Is that ok only if the threat is something like choosing to smoke tobacco, and not abortion?
The interview alluded to another potential target of enforcement—someone who benefits from the deed and who facilitates it or at least doesn’t stop it. With abortion, that would be “the man.” Matthews noted that a man is “usually involved.” Trump said he didn’t contemplate penalizing the man. But shouldn’t we think about that too?
Sometimes a baby’s father knows nothing about the pregnancy. But often he pays for the abortion or pressures the woman to have it. Why didn’t you grill Trump about that, Mr. Matthews? Do you think that getting his own son or daughter killed should be a punishable offense for a man, yes or no?
Already there are laws against statutory rape. An underage girl presenting for an abortion is almost always a victim. How often does Planned Parenthood report this? Rape is presumably one of Trump’s exceptions that justify abortion, but he has not suggested immunizing the rapist from punishment. Since you brought up the issue of enforcing laws about abortion, Mr. Matthews, why didn’t you discuss these existing laws instead of hypotheticals?
Neither Trump nor anybody else is calling for jailing women who have suffered abortion. But the accusation that they are diverts attention from the billion-dollar industry that profits from ending about 1 million human lives every year, while causing lasting grief and misery for the “second victims.” That industry—not women—is what Matthews is protecting.
Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. She completed an internal medicine residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital and University of Arizona Affiliated Hospitals and then became an Instructor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Tucson Veterans Administration Hospital. She has been in solo private practice since 1981 and has served as Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) since 1989. She is currently president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. Since 1988, she has been chairman of the Public Health Committee of the Pima County (Arizona) Medical Society. She is the author of YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Healthcare, and the second through fourth editions of Sapira's Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis, published by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. She authored books for schoolchildren, and Professor Klugimkopf’s Spelling Method, published by Robinson Books, and coauthored two novels published as Kindle Professor Klugimkopf’s Old-Fashioned English Grammar books, Neomorts and Moonshine, More than 100 of her papers have been published in the scientific and popular literature on a variety of subjects including risk assessment, natural and technological hazards and nonhazards, and medical economics and ethics. She is the editor of AAPS News, the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, and Civil Defense Perspectives, and is the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.