In an online survey, 39 percent of 2,000 self-identified Donald Trump voters reported that they thought women should be punished for seeking abortions if the procedure is ever banned in the U.S. A full 60 percent of those polled said abortion should be illegal; 18 percent of all the poll’s Trump voters said it should be illegal without exceptions for rape, incest, or to save a pregnant woman’s life.
The poll, conducted by the Glover Park Group and Morning Consult earlier this month, indicates that a large chunk of Trump voters may take a harder-line stance on legal abortion than the mainstream anti-abortion movement would have laypeople believe.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said that there should be “some form of punishment” for women who obtain an abortion in his ideal America, where abortion is outlawed. He quickly rolled back that statement after learning that most anti-abortion politicians and advocacy groups only publicly endorse punishments for abortion providers, not patients. (For some truly inscrutable reason, punishing women for seeking health care doesn’t play well with the electorate. Weird!) Trump contended that he had meant women who get abortions punish themselves.
But anything more than a cursory look at mainstream abortion policies in the U.S. will reveal and underlying ethos of punishment for women. Anti-choice legislators pass laws requiring women to listen to state-sponsored misinformation and wait days between requesting an abortion and getting one, revealing a fundamental mistrust of women’s capacity to make their own decisions. Laws in many states make women travel to clinics more than 100 miles away for multiple appointments, separated by days, costing them unnecessary time and money. Restrictions on when women can get abortions force some women to carry to term fetuses with no chance of surviving outside the womb. Women are charged with felonies and incarcerated in the U.S. for trying to induce abortions on their own.
The co-sponsor of a recent Ohio bill that would have banned all abortions after six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant, said the bill would “give people the incentive to be more responsible so we reduce unwanted pregnancies.” Here’s another way to describe that incentive: forced birth as punishment.
It seems only logical that if abortion is truly a murderous crime, a woman who pays someone for that crime should be punished. That’s an understandably disturbing notion for many people, especially women, making it a politically unpopular position. So, anti-abortion legislators and activists try to obscure their logical inconsistency with paternalistic claims that women who seek abortions are “victims” of abortion providers. This gives me a warped, horrified measure of respect for a radical Florida group that’s trying to get abortion classified as first-degree murder, with the potential for jail time or even the death penalty for women and their doctors. If you’re going to try to convince one-issue abortion voters that the procedure is murder and it must be stopped at all costs, at least be honest about the sadistic end where that logic leads.