Here's something I didn't know, courtesy of Bob Novak: "No serious antiabortion legislation ever has included criminal penalties against women who have abortions, much less their parents."
Indeed, as Daniel Allott recently noted, "Proposed state abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere explicitly state that aborting women would not be criminally penalized."
Instead, anti-abortion advocates seek to prosecute the abortionist—he who induces the act, not she in whom it occurs.
I post this not because I agree with this agenda—far from it—but because facts are rare commodities in the abortion rhubarb.
Update (3/14/07): Here's an excellent example of why I love the Internet: Shortly after I wrote this post, someone left a comment on it referring me to Anna Quindlen's 2007 article, "How Much Jail Time?" In a much-quoted line, Quindlen argues that "there are only two logical [legal] choices: Hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place."
The problem is, the very evidence she relies on rebuts her charge. And what fascinating evidence it is. In Quindlen's words,
Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."
As strongly as I agree with Anna Quindlen on abortion in general, she is mistaken about its criminalization. As indicated above, serious anti-choice legislation goes after those who administer abortions, not those who have them.
The same counter-question still applies—how much jail time should the doctor do?—but it behooves us who care about this issue to make sure our knowledge is equal to our passion.