Should abortions performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy be a crime?

Yes! Another abortion thread! I guess it’s just that time of year.

From data from the CDC, 88% of legal abortions performed in the United States in 1999 (the latest year for which information seems to be yet available) were performed in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. In 1974, 82% of legal abortions were done in the first 12 weeks; the percentage of abortions carried out in the first 12 weeks peaked in 1980 at slightly over 90%, and was steady at just about 88% throughout the 1990’s.

So, as the title says, should abortions performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy be a crime? If so, who should be prosecuted for them: Doctors who perform such abortions? Women who obtain them? And what should the penalties be?

Presumably those who identify as “pro-choice” will simply answer “no” to the basic question, so I’m mainly interested in the replies of those who identify as “pro-life”. In answering the question, assume we are talking about women obtaining abortions to end unwanted pregnancies, not women who are victims of rape or incest, and not women whose pregnancies pose an immediate danger to their lives.

For the record, I call myself “pro-choice”, and I don’t believe that abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy should be illegal, nor would I place any legal restrictions on such abortions based on the women’s motives for having them; i.e., “rape or incest” vs. “contraception”.

You pursue a curious line of questioning. Are you implying that, in this hypothetical situation, abortion should only be legal AFTER 12 weeks?

:confused: Um, no. More like, suppose abortion were outlawed (or severely restricted–“to save the life of the woman” only, or that plus cases or rape and incest) after 12 weeks. Would that satisfy the pro-life movement? If not, what should the criminal penalty for getting an abortion in the first 12 weeks be, and who should pay it?

Well, those who believe strictly in the humanity of the fetus from the moment of conception would say that it doesn’t matter, and that abortion should be illegal whether it’s less than twelve weeks or more than twelve weeks, and that it should be prosecuted the same way as murder. The doctor would probably be the actual murderer in that scenario, and the mother would be a co-conspirator.

No abortion should ever be a crime.

I am a conservative woman, who differs totally from her party on this one.

And even though I’m a mom who has felt babies kicking during pregnancy, I believe that life begins at birth, not conception.

Well, that would seem logical, and I have run across a few people who argue that way, but it seems like an unpopular view (and your wording indicates your probably don’t share it either). So I’m wondering, do people who are “pro-life”, and especially those of the “life begins at conception” school of thought, believe that women who have early-term abortions should do hard time, or not? What do they want, legally speaking?

I wonder how many pro-lifers have even thought about this. I get the impression that most of them are much more focused on just stopping abortions than on what the punishment should be.

jeevmon touched on one end of the spectrum - people who believe abortion should be treated as murder. If those folks followed that belief to its logical conclusion, that would mean the same punishment for an abortion as they believe in for any other murder, whether that be life in prison, the death penalty, or something else. My WAG is that most people opposed to abortion are closer to the other end of the spectrum, and (if they thought about it) would want the punishment to include at least as much prison time as it would take to have a deterrent effect. How many months or years that would be, I have no idea, but I’m guessing way less than life.

I’m one of those weirdos who’s staked out a position somewhere in the middle, neither pro-life nor pro-choice, exactly; I’ve managed to piss off people on both sides of the issue. So I think I at least sort of have standing, by MEBuckner’s standards, to put in my 2¢.

IMHO, the fundamental questions relating to abortion are:

  1. At what stage of development is the developing fetus a person, whatever the hell we mean by that?

  2. Prior to that point, does it deserve to be treated with a certain amount of deference on account of its being a critter that will develop into a person, if all goes well for it?

  3. Given our answers to (1) and (2), how do we balance the claims of the mother and the embryo/fetus/developing child?

For me, one prerequisite of personhood in something that’s biologically homo sapiens is that it have a brain. You can cut my arm or my leg off, or give me an artificial heart, and I will still be me. But scoop out my brain, and I’m gone; there will be no person inhabiting my body, even if machines keep the heart and lungs going.

So a developing fetus that doesn’t yet have a brain cannot yet be a person, IMHO.

IIRC, the human fetus doesn’t have a brain for the first 8-10 weeks of gestation.

And we have an idea of how brain development works: first to develop is the ancient reptilian portion of our brain. Later, the mammalian portion develops, and finally, the portions of the brain unique to humans develop.

During the few weeks before the 12-week mark during which the fetus has a brain, it’s a very primitive reptilian brain. I have to doubt that what we have there is a person.

So my answer to my own Q.1 is, whenever a fetus becomes a person, it’s after Week 12.

The answer to Q.2 obviously depends greatly on one’s beliefs. I believe an abortion, even at this early stage, is a morally tainted act that is, at best, the lesser of evils.

But I don’t believe that the fetus is owed legal recognition or protection at this point, regardless of the moral questions. Much that is evil will always be legal; legal and illegal aren’t supposed to match up all that closely with right and wrong.

The law protects persons from crimes against them; it protects higher animals from severe cruelty and mistreatment, but not from death. Given that state of affairs, I can’t see the appropriateness of legal protection for the human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation.

Now that is an interesting question: Given that pro-lifers (such as myself) think that abortion is the premature termination of a human life, what punishment should be used to deter abortions?

Well, we do have a full range of penalties for premature termination of human life. They differ from state to state in the United States. The range of penalties applied also vary depending on the mind set of the accused, and any extenuating circumstances. They vary any where from capital murder (death) to murder of various degrees (prison time) to manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide, etc. There may even be a special class of killing for abortion, just like many states now have a special type for DWI/DUI killings: vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide.

I would think that an abortion doctor would be subject to something on the order of some type of murder (1st degree, 2d degree, etc.), and a repeat abortionists might even be up for capital punishment in some states (although I do not support that either). There would typically be no question as to the doctor’s state of mind and competency.

The mother may be up for murder as well. Or, if there are extenuating circumstances, she might be up for manslaughter or some lesser charge (like “abortion”), which may carry relatively little prison time given that the crime is “killing a child.” That would probably be the best case.

Actually, given our nation’s propensity (beyond my comprehension) to excuse mothers who murder their children (witness the outcries of support for the Houston mother who drowned all five of her children, including Katie Couric supporting her legal fund on the air), I suspect that the mothers will get off with a much reduced charge.

I definitely think a person who kills a baby should get more prison time than someone who smokes a joint or snorts some coke in the privacy of their own home, and we have stiff mandatory sentences for that, which seems absolutely insane since no one is being harmed (except themselves).

This would be part of the reason that while I don’t care for abortion-as-contraceptive, I think it has to be legal. Are we going to ask a rape victim to testify in court at 6 weeks so that she can qualify, keeping in mind that most rape cases take months or years to come to court? Send desparate teenagers to jail? Or what, exactly?

Would prosecuting doctors do much good besides sending them underground and fostering back-alley-type procedures?

(FTR, the other reason I think it has to be legal, as I said the other day on another thread, is that I see abortion as a Band-Aid society uses to cover up a lot of social problems and the way we deal with sexuality. If we worked on the actual problems, instead of the ‘solution’ that deals with the results of those problems, it would probably be more productive.)

However, AFAIK, the majority of Americans do not support the outright banning of abortion, while a majority do support some restrictions on access. Many Republicans have moved over to supporting restrictions over a straight pro-life platform. So I don’t see this as a very realistic topic, when discussing the pros and cons of restrictions might be more helpful.


“No abortion should ever be a crime”

How about at 8 months 29 days? No problem wtih health of the mother, she just decides she doesn’t want a child.

RE: The OP, I would say no.

I’m a Catholic, and as you would expect, I’m quite conservative on this topic.

Yet, there’s a certain pragmatism involved here. If abortions were outlawed, as anti-abortion people would desire, we would have a severe problem with unwanted children and/or severely crippled children.

I loathe abortion under ANY circumstances, but even I have to recognize that banning it would not solve any problems and would only make things more difficult.

However, after the period of time where science has determined that the child can survive if born prematurely, then I think protecting that child is of paramount importance.

Also, I understand that the woman has to bear the child and the consequences, but I’d still like to see the man involved in the decision making. If Robin (my wife) had aborted Aaron without my knowledge or approval, I would have gone stark raving apeshit. And women have the right to do just that. That’s just one circumstance, so understand that I’m not lumping everyone together under that umbrella. I know that there are cases of desertion, rape, and the like. I’d just like to see fathers who want the child able to have a say.

I don’t think that things should change from the status quo, though, overall. This is about as good as one could expect it to get.

Isn’t that sort of the point? To make the life of the abortionist that of a fugitive, and therefore unattractive, and therefore decrease the number of abortionists? Murder statutes have made hit men, and those who would solicit them, go “underground,” and I don’t hear you complaining about that. :wink:

What if the head has cleared the birth canal, and is fully visible, but the shoulders are not yet visible?

Dang, I tried to stop that post after I pressed submit, but it was too late. Sorry–it’s not on topic.


I agree with you. While I support abortions in the early part of pregnancy, I wouldn’t defend it by saying that “making it illegal would be worse.” We don’t know it would be worse. Why not just kill the kid who’s mom is a crack whore? He’s probably just going to join a gang later and get killed anyway…?

First, I don’t intend this to be a personal question about your life, so I do hope you understand that I’m asking in the general sense of law.

How much say, legally, do you think that the man should have? Should he, if he is opposed to the abortion, be able to force the woman to carry the pregnancy and give birth? Should he just have to be told of the decision?

How far does it go that the man gets a say over what happens to the woman’s body? What if she has a medical condition that could cause her very serious health problems? What if she becomes suicidal at being told she has to go through the entire pregnancy because the man’s wish to have a child outweighs her wish to not have one?

I’m asking out of a matter of somewhat personal importance because of how I feel about having children personally, since any such hypothetical law would have a direct impact on my life, and as a WAG, I figure there are other women in this country with medical issues similar to my own, or even mental issues about having a kid similar to my own.

It’s hard to say, catsix. I don’t really have an answer.

It’s just that men have absolutely no control over the fate of their children. It’s frustrating to me to think that things are that way.

I understand that it is.

I just know myself very well, and I am afraid that if I were ever told that I’d be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, I would become self destructive in a pretty violent manner.

I never wanna be backed into that corner, and if there were another way to make it ‘more fair’ for the man, you bet I’d be the first one to go for it.

Unfortunately life is unfair in a lot of ways, and so long as it’s my body and my mental health, self preservation says it’s gotta be my choice. The person whose body it directly affects the most has the final say.

There’s no real way to make this one fair for men, I think.

So, once the baby is born, the air touches it and magically transforms it into a human, or???