Victim status

April 12, 2018 § 32 Comments

Rejecting the death penalty for women who murder their own children raises the question of what punishment a properly ordered society ought to have in place for murdering unborn children.

There is an enormous amount of room between the death penalty and, not only no punishment whatsoever, but a general freakout over the very suggestion that this form of murder ought to carry some sort of punishment — any punishment at all.

Voluntary abortion only has “two victims” in the same sense that any kind of voluntary murder has “two victims” – that is, when we cast the perpetrator as a kind of victim. There is some truth to that, but it doesn’t keep us from punishing murderers.

§ 32 Responses to Victim status

  • LarryDickson says:

    The simplest answer is to ask what punishment is now inflicted for infanticide. What happens to a mother convicted of deliberately drowning her six-month-old baby in a bathtub? Her case is certainly publicized – which means the just response to abortion has to start with reversing the Supreme Court’s satanic “right of privacy” and publicly identifying the mothers who have abortions. (This is also a matter of fairness for men who seek marriage partners.)

    Once that happens, one of the main motivators for abortion will go away. Abortion is sold because women who kill their babies avoid having a “record” and look more marriage-worthy than women who let their babies live. I call this system satanic because the protection offered is a delusion. In real life, the truth comes out sooner or later – often in a screaming match when the deceptively established couple is fighting. Then the debt is paid with usury – often by other innocents like siblings of the aborted baby.

  • Ian says:

    Kinda impressed that a National Review writer had the guts to take that position.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    If the death penalty is a just punishment for muderers, it’s a just punishment for both abortionists and those who use their services. If it’s not a just punishment for murderers, it may still be a just punishment for abortionists and those who use their services, given that abortion is the crime of murder compounded with circumstances which make it yet more heinous. (For example, there is no such thing as ‘unmeditated abortion’.)

    Whether or not the punishment applies equally in every case is obviously a matter of prudence on the part of the judge.

  • tz says:

    Excepting Rape (which requires a deeper argument), One of the “victims” is usually engaged in “hold my beer…”.

    While I’ve never been a darwinists (the recent book “Evolution 2.0” details it), getting pregnant when you just didn’t want to qualifies.

    We used to have eugenics, though not abortion. If you go full secular, why not simply sterilize women as part of their abortion? That would be Darwinian preventing women who are stupid or who lack self control from passing their genes on.

    In earlier eras, Fathers protected their daughters until the responsibility could be transferred to a husband. And there were larger families with uncles, nephews, brothers to deal with if the husband wasn’t very nice.

    We also used to consider the death penalty for rapists. Now, what value is virginity? We’ve gone schizophrenic as a society saying #MeToo but celebrating the hookup culture with the right alpha.

    In libertarian fora, I’ve asked the sophists that dont think sex is any big deal what the penalty for raping a virgin should be under the Non-Agression Principle. Is it the price of a high-class prostitute?

  • […] Source: Zippy Catholic […]

  • MT says:

    Sterilization is wrong.

  • Professor Q says:

    I don’t see why this issue should be controversial once you grant the basic premise that abortion is unlawful killing – that is, murder.

    Of course, as with any other murder, there are degrees and levels of gravity, but murder is murder.

    That recognizing this equates to “OH NOES THEY WANTS TO HANG ALL TEH INNOCENT WOMENS” is nonsensical. In fact, one could make a good case that the Church’s recent statements on the death penalty (even if we restrict ourselves to the Catechism) are relevant here, and that only the most egregious cases would actually require a capital sentence, as do the most egregious “other” murders.

  • Amanda says:

    Going to sleep permanently is not a punishment.
    Life in solitary confinement is a punishment.

  • Scott W. says:

    A Mafia informant given concrete shoes and tossed overboard to permanently sleep with the fishes is not a punishment.

  • Alex says:

    Zippy, sorry for the more or less unrelated comment. But I was following an argument on another site caused by the same news, and some one brought up the topic of ectopic pregnancy as an example of when abortions are permitted.

    I tried searching your site on this topic to see if you had ever shared your thoughts on the subject, and I did find some posts, but the most recent one I found is from 9 years ago. So I was wondering if your opinion on the subject has changed or developed over the last 9 years.

  • William Luse says:

    Going to sleep permanently is not a punishment

    Except that the death penalty does not put people to sleep.

  • Mrs. Diligent says:

    Zippy, I’ve seen this news and also seen the kerfuffle (from pro-lifers even!) when Trump said something similar. One thing is never clear, and perhaps this thread can enlighten me. Are we talking about the death penalty for future women who murder their babies in some wonderful, sane, future society where it is outlawed? Or, are we saying that should abortion ever be outlawed, we will locate the women who had them when they were legal and prosecute them for murder?

  • Zippy says:

    Mrs Diligent:

    I can only speak for myself, from a kind of “if I were king what would I think I was obligated to do” perspective.

    I would not generally favor ex post facto criminal convictions for things which are legal now, and I’m not a big death penalty supporter in general (though I grant that the DP is sometimes theoretically licit in principle). This post isn’t about the DP, it is about the pro-choice position of the mainstream pro-life movement: about rejection of even discussing the possibility of any punishment at all, not even something equivalent to a parking ticket, for women who deliberately murder their own unborn children.

    But FWIW here is something I noted w.r.t. the DP a few years back:

    Back on topic, every Catholic (see Evangelium Vitae) has a positive obligation to oppose not only
    abortion but its legality, as an action chosen by anyone — including the mother. “Legal for the mother but not for anyone else” – a pro-choice position – doesn’t meet that requirement.

  • Zippy says:


    My views on ectopic pregnancy have not changed. A simple diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy does not warrant killing the embryo. We debated the subject a lot back in the day, and there was a lot to say which I won’t attempt to summarize here; but my position does have Magisterial warrant:

  • Wood says:

    The combox discussion from the link in the OP is so frustrating. There is a never ending stream of mercy from Catholics opposed to punishment for women who murder their unborn child, but there is relatively little – if any – mercy from those same sorts for the murdered child him- or herself.

    Which means their mercy is ultimately selective – and therefore rhetorically weak – and just a cover for positions more important to them than precious life.

  • Alex says:

    Thank you, Zippy. By the way, one point I am not completely clear is if the salpingectomy procedure would be licit in this case? As far as I can tell from the post you linked, it wouldn’t, unless we found a way to re-implant the fetus. However I have seen it argued it would be licit, even though (as far as I understand), it would almost certainly cause the death of the baby. Is that correct?

  • Zippy says:


    I’m not sure what case you are referring to. I’m not a medical expert on ectopic pregnancy, but my understanding is that generally speaking it isn’t a cut and dried situation. Most salpingectomies are being done prophylactically, based on a statistical argument that rupture is a possible outcome and that rupture is a greater threat to the mother’s health than a “wait and see” approach.

    I’d just suggest that in a lot of situations, refusing to wait and see is playing God. This is especially true when it means killing an innocent person, even if New Natural Law theorists – the same ones who think it is possible to crush the skull of an infant without “intending” to kill the baby – argue that it is an “indirect” killing.

  • Mrs. Diligent says:

    So I looked these two kerfuffles up last night, and it seems that Donald Trump did state that if abortion were outlawed, women would/should be prosecuted. That seems so obvious and mundane a point on it’s face I can’t imagine what the stink was: although perhaps, like me, the circumstances he was describing were not obvious in the breathless headlines.

    Kevin Williamson’s comments were much less clear. He seemed to make a general statement that all women, past and future, are equally culpable for abortion and should be prosecuted equally.

    But I do think the distinction matters between prosecuting women who obtain abortions for murder in the future, if/when it is illegal – vs supporting retroactive prosecution of women who obtain abortions NOW when it is legal.

    If I may offer some anecdotal support for my position. In my younger days I volunteered with the Sisters of Life in NYC. My job was to essentially be a friend to various women who were vulnerable to abortion. I would go with them to their doctors appointments, pick up some groceries, provide a little free babysitting for older siblings, and just generally be the ear to listen and the helping hand that so many pregnant women need. And though I didn’t walk in their shoes exactly, I did walk alongside them for a bit, and I can tell you that the pressure on them to abort their babies was IMMENSE: from doctors, employers, parents, boyfriends, etc.

    These were not Catholic girls. Catholic girls who got in trouble got help easily from their pro-life families and parishes. These were girls from secular backgrounds who got in trouble. Their secular friends offered to go with them to Planned Parenthood, but when they timidly suggested they’d like to keep the baby – they were really brutally disregarded. Sadly, many of them did not have the moral foundation to stand firm in the face of so much pressure from authority figures and trusted persons. They often caved in and obtained abortions.

    I know that there are also the heinous Lena Dunham types, who gloat about abortions, but those were not the women I experienced. And I do think the women I assisted have limited culpability because they really don’t know any better, and everyone they trust is telling them abortion is just fine, and it’s only these wacky, Catholic nuts saying otherwise.

    God willing, if abortion is ever outlawed again, a lot of that pressure on vulnerable girls will go away, and then women will have no excuses for choosing murder.

    Does that make sense, Zippy? Or have I missed something? Maybe your whole point? 🙂

  • Zippy says:

    Mrs. Diligent:

    I don’t see where you’ve missed anything, but it may be helpful to clarify two distinct issues.

    First there is the matter of ex post facto law (positive, human law).

    If the positive law of some governing body expressly authorized X yesterday, and then criminalizes X tomorrow, it is unjust – with caveats – for that body to punish someone tomorrow for having already done X yesterday. This has to do with the just exercise of authority, not the justice of the action in question: when a particular authority punishes an action which it explicitly authorized this (the punishment) is an unjust act by that authority. If I authorize you to shoot the dog it would be unjust for me to punish you for shooting the dog.

    This principle against ex post facto law has limits. Punishment might not be an unjust act by a different, especially a higher, authority: God punishing people for doing things that are supposedly “authorized” by the positive law is not unjust, for example. And in general a different authority may be justified in punishing actions which it did not authorize, even though some other authority attempted to “authorize” it. This is especially true when people ought to know better, and I would not be too quick to dismiss the notion that mothers ought to know better than to kill their own children, no matter what pressures they are under.

    (I use scare quotes around “authorize” because in fact nobody has the authority to authorize doing evil).

    This leads into the second related issue, which is the extent to which people ought to know better even when they claim that they don’t, and the extent to which being pressured by others mitigates guilt. These particulars always matter to varying degrees, and I think being pressured by the sovereign to believe that something is permissible may be especially problematic. If the law unequivocally criminalizes abortion that is one thing; if the law expressly says that women won’t be punished for abortion — if it authorizes abortion — then that is another. The attempt to authorize abortion can be (and should be) reversed but the authority which attempted to authorize it does wrong if it attempts to punish people for doing what it expressly said that they could do. Pope St. John Paul II’s point that governments which expressly “authorize” abortion undermine the foundations of their own authority at a fundamental level is pertinent here.

    We cannot say that being under pressure or confused about moral or legal principles is exculpatory in general. Someone who deliberately commits premeditated murder because he is under pressure or confused may warrant a different punishment from someone who murders out of sadism; but in this case we are not haggling over guilt/responsibility, we are haggling over kinds and degrees punishment in a context where some punishment is certainly warranted.

  • Mrs. Diligent says:

    Zippy, I agree completely. In case I was unclear: I don’t mean to say that because abortion is *legal*, women who choose it are *morally* innocent. I only mean to say that because it is legal, a poisonous abortion culture is allowed to flourish that I believe (in many circumstances) mitigates, but (perhaps) doesn’t eliminate, a woman’s moral guilt for the decision to kill her baby.

    I use all the caveats because the state of these women’s souls is obvs unknown to me.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, as always!

  • The combox discussion from the link in the OP is so frustrating.

    Agreed. There seem to be a variety of views though:

    1) rich Republicans are getting away with it so their all a bunch of hypocrites, so the pro-life movement is really just a political ploy. Ad hominem/change of subject
    2) we should talk about what punishment the father of the child should receive too (a charitable interpretation would be that this is qualified to the fathers who encourage mothers to get an abortion), which we should, but it is also a change of subject
    3) This being the logical outcome of the idea that abortion is murder means abortion is not murder, which seems to just be an emotional argument
    4) being “really pro-life” means making sure that we offer ” free maternity care, free child care, free education, and all kinds of support which makes abortion completely, as Mother Teresa said, a case of ‘a child must die so that you may live as you wish’.” which is just a wordy version of “you’re really just a pro-birther and don’t care about born children.”

    I admire Zippy for wading in there; it seems he has a knack for not getting sucked into the comment black holes such subjects in such places create that I fear that I would get dragged into.

  • Oh and I forgot

    5) “Abortion is Biblical, just look at my one translation of an odd part of the mosaic law of determining a woman’s guilt or innocence of adultery.”

  • Mike T says:

    There is a never ending stream of mercy from Catholics opposed to punishment for women who murder their unborn children

    And it is only matched by their tendency to blame guns for why the hood is a dangerous place. Because dontchaknow, Satan held a team meeting 500 years ago and said “so here’s the new org chart, we’re rebranding as Beretta. All familiars with materialize as cold pieces of wood and steel and possess men into buying them, lusting after them and committing wicked acts against their better judgment.”

  • Rhetocrates says:


    I don’t understand. Last I checked, Beretta didn’t manufacture televisions or computers.

  • Mike T says:


    Everyone knows that it is the gun that causes men to form a criminal intent to commit murder. So clearly, they’re evil spirits in disguise. What other explanation can you provide? Was there ever a murder problem before firearms tainted our pristine eden?

  • Urban II says:

    The “Old Pro-life Movement”, as one blogger coined it, is extremely lenient and supportive of women who murder their own children, but go scorched earth on anyone who proposes these women be punished for the free choices they make. I honestly do not understand the twisted thinking of the so called “Old Pro-life Movement”.

  • Mr. Green says:

    Malcolm: Just like every other murder.

    Yes, exactly. So what is the point? Is it just people on the Internet stating the obvious? (Even baby-killers — unless perhaps they’re philosophers — agree that murder should be treated like murder; they just try to come up with excuses why abortion isn’t murder in the first place.) Is it a practical plan of action (that is uselessly devoid of any practical details)? Is a societal strategy to reinforce the gravity of abortion in women’s minds (by hypothetically threatened capital punishment)? Or maybe there is no point, it’s just the winds of casual conversation blowing whither they will.


    Urban II:I honestly do not understand the twisted thinking of the so called “Old Pro-life Movement”.

    If you don’t understand it, then how can you adjudge it “twisted”?

  • Wood says:

    Mr. Green,

    I don’t have the link handy. But I think the “point” is the same one made in Zippy’s post about digging outside the walls of the Evil City. That is enough of a point for many of us. Or at least for me.

  • Urban II says:

    If you don’t understand it, then how can you adjudge it “twisted”?

    The thinking behind it is irrational. Can you understand a five sided triangle?

  • […] If this goes on long enough morality will invert: “team terrorist” will be seen as victims rather than perpetrators; opposing their wanton slaughter of the innocent will come to be seen as […]

  • Jehu says:

    Some injustices are just too large for an ordinary legal or political system to handle. So it is with abortion. The number of women who have obtained an abortion in the US is very large, probably large enough to make a nearly impervious voting block against making justice be done. Who, after all, is going to vote that they be justly punished irrespective of what the ‘law’ was at the time?

  • […] Our society positively celebrates and encourages fornication, to the point where any undesired consequences of fornication – even consequences to which the perpetrator has explicitly agreed ahead of time in writing – are considered merciless tyranny; the perpetrator, a victim. […]

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