Abortion is one of the most intractable of issues: While there are many shades of opinion, people broadly on one side or the other tend to stay there. But one of the areas of general agreement, on the "life" and "choice" sides both, is this: Imprisonment ought not to be a part of the picture.
This is not universal, of course, just a view widely held in this country. The irony is that diminishing abortion services around the country may be generating more cases in which, under current law, women are thrown into prison. There is the Indiana case of Purvi Patel who apparently had a deeply troubled pregnancy and then had either a miscarriage (her version) or a late-term abortion (the version of police) and was charged and convicted of a criminal offense which led to a sentence for her of 20 years in prison.
Much about that case, including many of the key facts, are unclear or in dispute. But, as an MSNBC report noted, "In the contemporary reality of illegal abortion, the woman and the provider are often one and the same. According to public health experts, a hundred thousand women have covertly tried to ended their pregnancies themselves in Texas alone, and legal abortion clinics closing across the country may make matters worse."
Donald Trump has personal history of being pro-choice on the subject of abortion, but that has been thrown overboard during this campaign. (Will the pro-life position be in turn thrown overboard? We'd have to wait and see.)
In March, he said that if abortion is made illegal, “there has to be some form of punishment” for the woman involved. That led to protests from the pro-life side, where the argument was that only "providers" should be prosecuted. And later, Trump revised his stance to say, “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
But again, in a time when availability of abortion is so contricted across so much of the country, the provider now as often as not will be the mother. So what then? Should an illegal act be rendered legal based on who provides it?
A Trump presidency could lead to some very uncomfortable ideas, and practices, along these lines. - rs