The Intellectual Situation
Your Body, My Choice
The movement to criminalize abortion
Euphemisms have long clouded the abortion debate, and there is no term in American politics more mendacious than pro-life. Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson — a shameless, opportunistic ruling that contravenes nearly fifty years of precedent and will effectively ban abortion in half the states — it is essential to call things what they are. Those who wish to ban legal abortion are not “pro-life”; they are pro-criminalization. Those who wish to protect the right to abortion are not “pro-choice”; they are anti-criminalization. Reframing the conflict in these terms clarifies the stakes. At issue here is not a principled attachment to “life” or to “choice” but the practical question of whether terminating a pregnancy should be considered a crime. It also lessens the temptation to exhaust oneself doing what we often waste time doing: calling hypocrites hypocritical, as if they care.
Is the abortion debate about babies? Or is it about the desire to curtail the rights of all people capable of pregnancy — cis women, trans men, children, and nonbinary people with wombs? Those in the pro-criminalization camp (let’s call them pro-crims) would say the former, and that their mission is not to control or oppress pregnant people but to protect the human fetus, whose right to life supersedes the pregnant person’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. Abortion, to pro-crims, is murder. Those who provide abortions — and in some cases those who undergo them — should therefore be subject to criminal charges. The implication is that if cis men were capable of pregnancy, the same restrictions would apply.
Justice Samuel Alito went out of his way to assert this view in his majority opinion in Dobbs, refuting an argument that doesn’t even appear in Roe: that the right to an abortion is guaranteed under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under equal protection, all citizens have the right to be full participants in American life. If a law discriminates against a certain class of people (religious minorities, racial minorities, or in some hard-won cases women), the application of greater scrutiny is warranted and the Court may deem the law unconstitutional. Proponents of the equal protection defense thus argue that a law that only affects the bodies of people with wombs is, by default, discriminatory — a fairly commonsense argument. But Alito dismisses this line with characteristic glibness. The right to abortion under equal protection “is squarely foreclosed by our precedents,” he writes (oddly, it should be said: casting aside precedent doesn’t seem to bother him elsewhere); and, he continues, “the regulation of a medical procedure that only one sex can undergo does not trigger heightened constitutional scrutiny unless the regulation is ‘a mere pretex[t] designed to effect an invidious discrimination against members of one sex or the other.’” According to Court precedent, “the ‘goal of preventing abortion’ does not constitute ‘invidiously discriminatory animus’ against women.”
But what motivates the criminalization of abortion if not an invidiously discriminatory animus against women and people interpellated as women by the Court? Here a consideration of pro-crim hypocrisy is warranted. In 1971, the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson proposed a thought experiment that has since become famous in the field of abortion ethics. Say you grant that an embryo is a person — a stretch, she says, comparable to saying that “acorns are oak trees, or that we had better say they are” on the grounds that acorns eventually become oak trees. It is plausible under these circumstances to argue that abortion is murder. “But now let me ask you to imagine this,” she writes:
You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist . A famous unconscious violinist . He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you — we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. “Tough luck, I agree, but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a person would find no objection to their organs being put in service of another human life against their will, for any length of time. But let us expand on this. Suppose that while you are the only person whose kidneys could support this particular concert violinist, it just so happened that all persons of your general blood type — and no other — could be conscripted into similar service if they indulged in their preferred form of sexual pleasure, or if they were raped. Suppose that when you unplugged the violinist you were expected to take care of him forever, or live with the guilt of abandoning him. Suppose that the time you spent plugged into the violinist carried serious medical risk and altered the shape of your body forever. Suppose it cost you opportunities, your relationships, and your health.
Then suppose there was a procedure — a simple one, undertaken early enough — that would relieve you of this duty. Would you not balk at the suggestion that a law criminalizing this procedure was not a form of discrimination against people with your blood type, considering that the only people whose freedom the procedure ensured were people like you?
Thomson’s allegory is bizarre on purpose. It’s an instance of literary defamiliarization that allows us to become curious about what we think we already know. What if this happened to me? Unfortunately the same wacky specificity that makes it stick in the mind leaves it open to pro-crim counterarguments, of which there are many. It is tempting to rebut these arguments — to object to the dubious assumptions and morally hazardous claims that undergird them — but that way lies absurdity. Soon you find yourself asking questions like, “If a mother died in childbirth, would you charge her newborn with murder?!” as a vein beats visibly in your forehead. The more salient point is that while pro-crims claim to care about fetal and embryonic life, they care most, if not exclusively, when doing so comes at the cost of someone else’s freedom.
If we were to demystify pregnancy, could we bear to put ourselves and others through it?
If we were to demystify pregnancy, could we bear to put ourselves and others through it?Tweet
If life begins at conception and embryos are full persons, why are the vast majority of pro-crims largely unbothered by in vitro fertilization, a “practice of bringing a number of full persons into existence with the knowledge that many of them will die very, very quickly, before they’ve ever had much of any kind of life,” in the law professor Kate Greasley’s words? (In June, the Washington Post reported that Dobbs could have “unintended consequences” for IVF and other fertility treatments, but “increasingly, state legislatures that pass laws restricting abortion have included explicit exemptions for the fertility industry.”) Why don’t they lobby for labor protections that prevent miscarriage? In a 2018 article for the New York Times, journalists “reviewed thousands of pages of court and other public records involving workers who said they had suffered miscarriages, gone into premature labor or, in one case, had a stillborn baby after their employers rejected their pleas for assistance” and lighter physical labor. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act — “the only federal law aimed at protecting mothers at work,” the authors note — only requires that employers accommodate pregnant workers’ requests if they already accommodate those who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” A warehouse supervisor who ignores an injured person’s doctor’s note can also ignore the concerns of a pregnant person — hardly a check on discrimination, let alone harm. While pro-crim politicians wring their hands over the falling birth rate, fearing the decline of US hegemony and the threat to their personal wealth posed by a smaller population (lower economic growth, higher cost of labor power), they nevertheless block legislation that makes child-rearing affordable and attractive to prospective parents. Why?
Why, in other words, don’t pro-crims intervene in cases where unborn life is threatened and a baby is wanted? The answer is simple, and harder every day to deny: that criminalization and its consequences is the objective, a method of reasserting the gender binary and the primacy of the heterosexual (Christian) family that gives pro-crims the added, sadistic pleasure of punishing those they fear: women, LGBTQ people, poor people, people of color.1 The sadism of Dobbs is the sadism of Trump, who in 2016 said “there has to be some sort of punishment” of pregnant people who get abortions. It is the sadism of his constituents, his judges, his cops, and the Christian nationalist movement to whom he may no longer be useful now that he has given them the Court. In their dissenting opinion in Dobbs, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan reminded us that Roe was itself a compromise, the Court’s attempt to strike a balance between the rights of the pregnant person and those of the fetus, between the rights of the states to legislate for themselves and the obligation of the federal government to protect its citizens’ liberty lest radical minoritarian legislatures try to take it away. “Today,” the dissenting justices wrote, “the Court discards that balance.”
Roe was a deterrent to abortion that already infringed on equal rights. Dobbs is a draconian measure so extreme that even its proponents fail to appreciate the scope of its cruelty. The slogan of Roe was, “My body, my choice.” The subtext of Dobbs is, “Your body, my choice.”
Pro-crims would have us stay in the realm of the hypothetical forever, as if plain facts were not before us. According to the Turnaway Study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, people who are denied abortions are almost four times more likely than those who are granted them to wind up in poverty, even if they began on equal economic footing. Sixty percent of people who seek abortions in the US have at least one child (CDC), and almost half are poor: 49 percent live below the federal poverty line. An additional 26 percent are low income (Guttmacher Institute, 2016). The median cost of a first-trimester abortion is $508; a second-trimester abortion, $1,195; and a later-term abortion can cost $3,000 or more (Guttmacher, 2018), which is nearly a quarter of a single person’s annual income before the cost of travel, fuel, or lodging often required for an out-of-state abortion. Meanwhile, the average cost of raising a middle-class American child from birth to 17 years of age is $233,610 — $292,051 in 2022 dollars (USDA, 2017).
Pregnancy is thirty times more dangerous than abortion. A 2022 study from the University of Colorado Boulder estimates that a nationwide abortion ban would cause pregnancy-related deaths to increase by 24 percent. Among Black women, who are already two to three times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications, the rate of pregnancy-related death would increase by 39 percent.
To undergo all this unwillingly is not an instance of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, or the fulfillment of a sacred duty: it is torture.
To undergo all this unwillingly is not an instance of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, or the fulfillment of a sacred duty: it is torture.Tweet
“Illness is the night-side of life,” Susan Sontag once observed. All of us will someday reside there, in the kingdom of the sick, but most of us would prefer not to think about it until absolutely necessary. Instead we shroud illness in metaphor and let popular mythologies obscure scientific understanding. Sontag was writing about tuberculosis and cancer, but the same could be said of pregnancy. Even those who wish to conceive still approach pregnancy on a need-to-know basis. It can come as a surprise then to learn that the medical term for miscarriage is spontaneous abortion, or that the gestational age of the fetus dates not from the day of one’s missed period but from the last day of one’s previous menstrual cycle. (To put that in context, a “six week abortion ban” is a ban after two weeks’ notice at best; the reality is that in the US, roughly 1.2 million people a year learn they are pregnant after six weeks of gestation.) Uglier details are almost entirely shielded from the general population. When pregnancy does intrude on the lives of the public, it arrives swathed in ceremony, festooned with pastels and bows. There is something fundamentally childish about this, as if the truth about mommy’s body would shatter the fantasy of stability on which our collective psyche rests. If we were to demystify pregnancy, could we bear to put ourselves and others through it?
Pro-crims intensify the already punishing experience of pregnancy by taking their commitment to ignorance to the extreme. Compare the precious fastidiousness with which Alito quotes the Mississippi court’s description of fetal development with his total exclusion of the pregnant body from his opinion. “At 8 weeks the ‘unborn human being begins to move in the womb,’” he quotes. “At 9 weeks ‘all basic physiological functions are present’; at 10 weeks . . . ‘[h]air, fingernails, and toenails begin to form’; . . . and at 12 weeks the ‘unborn human being’ has ‘taken on the human form’ in all relevant respects.” Writing for New York Magazine after the Dobbs draft leaked, Irin Carmon noted, “I, too, have taken on the human form in all relevant respects, although I couldn’t find mention of it in Alito’s draft.” She then illustrates a fact that Alito and his fellow pro-crims occlude: “there is almost no part of the human body that does not transform in pregnancy.”
Pregnancy can make your gums swell and bleed; sores can mushroom in your mouth; your teeth can loosen or erode. Some people will have pica, the inexplicable desire to eat clay, chalk, or laundry starch. . . . You know about the vomit and the constant peeing, but did you know the shape of your eyeballs and the size of your feet might change? These are the minor signs, however much their accumulation can estrange you from the person you once were. Your blood is no longer your own, as it begins to carry the imprint of fetal DNA. . . .
Around weeks 17 to 20, the hormone relaxin slackens the joints around your pelvis, the better for a baby to split you apart on its way out . That same lubricating force can warp joints, too, or even shatter bones. I still can’t sit on a hard surface for long because of how my tailbone tipped during the last round [of delivery].
At 20 weeks, you begin to be at risk of preeclampsia, a risk that will follow you even after you give birth, characterized by abnormally high blood pressure and organ injury. It can attack the kidney, liver, brain, eyes, and placenta, often bringing with it headaches, changes in vision, and filling the lungs with fluid. It can cause stroke, seizures, or internal bleeding of the liver. It can kill you.
This is before the growing uterus crowds out your organs and compresses your lungs, before birth tears your perineum or a cesarean slices your abdomen. This is before the risk of pelvic fracture, hemorrhage, prolapse, or postpartum depression and psychosis. Moreover, “none of the above accounts for how the medical system treats you or what it costs; what happens to your relationships, your work, your life plans,” Carmon writes. To undergo all this unwillingly is not an instance of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, or the fulfillment of a sacred duty: it is torture. As the legal scholar Peggy Cooper Davis reminds us, forced pregnancy and childbirth were one of the many forms of labor violently inflicted on enslaved people. The “right to have families on one’s own terms,” she writes, was central to the Reconstruction Amendments — including the Fourteenth — that abolished slavery and “protected against unwanted invasions of human liberty.”
Lest Carmon’s description of pregnancy be dismissed as antinatal body horror, recall that both of her pregnancies were wanted. People who likewise want to bear children will also suffer more after Dobbs. Take the Texas woman whose fetus died in the womb and was denied a dilation and curettage by her doctor because he feared the legal consequences. “I waited for 2 WEEKS carrying my loss while hoping I didn’t go septic,” she wrote on Twitter. “My pain got worse and I was scared. I begged to get a D&C and was still told no. . . . Instead of allowing me to grieve my loss, I had to fight for 2 weeks to get care which I eventually got at an abortion clinic and not a hospital.” Or the Arizona woman who discovered her fetus was incompatible with life at twenty-three weeks, but was told she couldn’t terminate the pregnancy because Roe had just been overturned:
my baby is suffering inside of me, having seizures multiple times a day. i feel every single one. i knew i didn’t want her to suffer any longer. i let my doctor know of my choice and he said he would schedule an induction for me. . . . i thought i would be ok. . . . i now have no choice. my doctor called me today and told me i have to remain pregnant until this baby dies inside of me or dies when she’s born. what kind of sick country we live in where we force a mom to feel her baby suffer every single day until her baby dies?
In an interview with the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Lauren Thaxton, an ob-gyn and an assistant professor in the Dell Medical School Department of Women’s Health at the University of Texas at Austin, described the feeling of “moral injury” shared by practitioners who find their hands tied by the law. In the case of a second-trimester miscarriage, what under Roe would be a simple dilation and evacuation in the clinic becomes “an induction of labor that can take days, that can be painful with contractions and cramping, that can be associated with more bleeding and a higher risk of infection” — all to deliver a baby that has already died. This is to say nothing of situations in which lifesaving treatment is postponed or denied to pregnant people because doctors fear the legal consequences. “This morning I woke up to a story: a woman who walked into an ER with an ectopic pregnancy . . . lived in a state with trigger laws,” wrote one Twitter user. “She had to wait nine hours while her doctor consulted a lawyer. She almost died. So pro-life folk, did you actually consider [the] ramifications of this?”
It is easier to tell yourself that abortion is not health care when you suppress all knowledge of pregnancy’s less beatific aspects. In no other field of medicine are US doctors required by law to deny their patients the contemporary standard of evidence-based care. “It is impossible to take care of pregnant people safely where abortion doesn’t exist,” Dr. Thaxton said. “Anybody who’s capable of pregnancy is unsafe in an environment where they cannot access abortion care.”
What happens now? As of this writing, sixteen states have effectively banned abortion, although judges in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Utah have placed temporary freezes on enforcement. Bans are imminent in three more states and likely in an additional three. In Missouri, it is now a class B felony to provide abortion services in person or via telemedicine, and providers can be sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. In Oklahoma and Texas, private citizens can file civil suit against anyone who “aids or abets” abortion, with the state promising a $10,000 reward for “each abortion performed or induced” by the defendant (the bounty hunter’s legal fees are covered); those who violate the law could face up to ten years in prison. In Arkansas, abortion is illegal in all cases except to save the life of the mother, and providers can face ten years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both. Anyone who administers or procures an abortion in South Dakota faces two years in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both. Providing abortion care in Alabama carries a minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum sentence of ninety-nine years; attempting an abortion carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum sentence of ten years. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. To induce an abortion at any point in Wisconsin is punishable by up to six years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both; to do so after “quickening” is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, $50,000 in fines, or both.
To be anti-criminalization in this environment begins with recognizing that no morally complex social issue has ever been solved by criminalization.
To be anti-criminalization in this environment begins with recognizing that no morally complex social issue has ever been solved by criminalization.Tweet
Pro-crims would have us believe that these laws do not target pregnant people, just providers.2 But history suggests otherwise. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization that offers legal services to pregnant people, roughly 1,300 women have faced pregnancy-related charges since 2006. Most have been poor and low-income women of color, and as Jia Tolentino notes in the New Yorker, their cases often revolve around drug use. “Women who used drugs while pregnant, or sought treatment for drug use during pregnancy, have been charged with child abuse, child neglect, distribution of drugs to a minor, assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, and homicide,” she writes.
Some of these cases are won on appeal. In California, Chelsea Becker and Adora Perez, both charged with murder after delivering stillborn babies, were absolved after serving partial sentences; Becker spent sixteen months in prison before her case was dismissed in 2021, and Perez served four years before her sentence was overturned in 2022. Marshae Jones of Alabama, who allegedly started a fight with a colleague who shot her in the stomach in self-defense, leading to the death of her fetus, was initially charged with manslaughter, but the charge was dropped in 2019. Purvia Patel of Indiana was sentenced to twenty years in prison for feticide and child neglect before her conviction and sentence were overturned; she, too, did time. But others have been less fortunate, and as Roxana Asgarian writes for Slate, the Court’s decision to overturn Roe “stands to usher many more [people] into the criminal legal system simply for seeking out reproductive health care.”
To be anti-criminalization in this environment begins with recognizing that no morally complex social issue has ever been solved by criminalization. The decades-long “wars” on drug use and sex work have not successfully banished either practice, only driven them to the margins, where they cause more exploitation, injury, and death. Punitive drug laws are more successful at imprisoning people and causing drug-related deaths than at meaningfully reducing the prevalence of drug use and dependency, and laws that threaten sex workers with the charge of human trafficking make them more vulnerable, not less, to the circumstances from which legislators allegedly wish to rescue them: poverty, assault, and abuse. Criminalization also makes it harder for the people whose lives are most shaped by these bans to speak candidly about their effects. The result is that we understand less and penalize more. The same will be true for abortion.
It is entirely possible to morally oppose abortion and also oppose its criminalization. This after all was the position of many people under Roe, including Sandra Day O’Connor, a Reagan appointee and a Republican who nevertheless upheld Roe’s central holding in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. Anti-crims who oppose abortion might instead fight for access to contraception and science-based sex education, both of which are known to reduce the prevalence of teen pregnancy, or push local prosecutors and district attorneys not to enforce anti-abortion laws. For most of us in the anti-criminalization camp, however, this still cedes too much. Roe, again, was a compromise. What pregnant people deserve is free abortion on demand, under any circumstance. Until we have that, we will not have meaningful gender equality in this country.
Opposing criminalization also requires taking a broader view. The fight for the right to abortion overlaps with other struggles, and the current attack on LGBTQ rights is one that deserves our urgent attention. In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas made it clear that contra Alito’s reassurances that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” various Fourteenth Amendment rights previously granted by the Court — namely, the rights to gay sex and gay marriage — are not so different from abortion that they cannot be subject to review. Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ legislation is being aggressively pushed through the states, echoing the piecemeal attacks on Roe that ultimately brought Dobbs to the Supreme Court. In March 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act) which prohibits “classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity” in grades K through 3. Copycat laws have been proposed in a dozen more states. In August 2021, Melissa Gira Grant wrote in the New Republic that “this year, more than 110 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, the biggest wave of anti-trans legislation in US history.” In 2022, that number rose to 130. Of the twenty-five anti-LGBTQ bills that were enacted last year, thirteen targeted trans kids, limiting their access to bathrooms, team sports, and gender-affirming medical treatments.
We are living in a moment of serious gender revanchism in the United States. Feminists who self-define as “gender critical” and are otherwise openly transphobic will object to the comparison, but it is striking how much the movement to criminalize gender-affirming care for young people shares with the movement to criminalize abortion. Both find their fiercest champions in white, religious, conservative men who dismiss the evidence put forward by medical professionals that the treatment in question saves lives. Both claim to speak on behalf of silenced “children,” be they conveniently unborn or too young to be taken at their word. Both struggled to find widespread support until a father took his crusade on the road: abortion was not “an Evangelical issue” before Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a charismatic pastor, promoted his son Frank’s 1979 anti-abortion film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?; and anti-trans legislation was initially “hard to sell,” according to the Texas Tribune, until a North Texas dad named Jeff Younger built a sympathetic following online by accusing his ex-wife, a pediatrician, of wanting to “chemically castrate” their trans daughter. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order that citizens report parents of transgender kids to the authorities so that they can be investigated for child abuse echoes the section in SB 8 that rewards vigilante citizens for reporting abortion providers to authorities. Both movements have become central to the Republican Party’s strategy to raise funds and win elections. Not least, both movements have forced pregnant and trans people to prove, in preordained terms, their absolute certainty that they need the treatment they say they do. As the opposition puts up resistance in the form of misinformation, mandatory waiting periods, sonograms, and extensive psychological testing, patients lose precious time as hormonal processes they hope to forestall come closer and closer to transforming their bodies.
The experience of gender dysphoria is not identical to the experience of forced pregnancy, but it should not have to be for us to defend one another’s right to bodily autonomy as if it were our own. To respond to the heartbreak of losing Roe by further scapegoating trans people, as some cisgender feminists have done, is not only an unnecessary cruelty but a logical and political error that none of us can afford to make. There is no evidence to support the claim that inclusive language in reproductive health spaces “erases” or “harms” cis women, as Pamela Paul recently argued in the New York Times. (If anything, terms like pregnant people are more precise, as not all women are capable of pregnancy and not all pregnant people — e.g., cisgender girls under 18 — are women.) To say so anyway, with no basis in fact, is to do the far right’s work for them.
Dobbs is devastating; what lies ahead is worse. Fascists are waiting in the wings to pass a national abortion ban and demand harsher penalties for pregnant people. We will beg the Democrats to do what they can on the abortion front: to pack the Court; pass state laws that enshrine abortion rights; protect providers who serve out-of-state clients from being extradited to prohibition states; lease spaces on federal lands to abortion clinics to increase access. Meanwhile, we will face the moral obligation to protect each individual’s right to liberty and self-determination, to comfort and happiness in their own body, regardless of the law. People have done it before, like the members of the Jane Collective who safely provided almost 12,000 illegal abortions in Chicago between 1969 and 1973. And people are doing it now — stockpiling the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol and distributing them through the mail, educating one another in home abortion methods like abortifacients and the Del-Em, a suction device made from a mason jar invented by feminists in 1971. Journalists, researchers, lawyers, and doctors will be important to this fight, but so will all parents, partners, friends, and neighbors. Hosts, drivers, clinic escorts, hotline volunteers, donors to abortion funds — we all have a role to play. Our best hope is one another.
Even cis men are not exempt: as Cortney E. Lollar notes in a 2018 Alabama Law Review article, an estimated fifty thousand parents are incarcerated in the US for failing to pay child support, most of them poor fathers. “As with all criminal justice interventions in this era,” Lollar writes, “men of color, particularly African-American men, are disproportionately affected by the decision to treat the failure to pay child support as a crime.” ↩
Alabama’s abortion law, for instance, provides that “a woman who receives an abortion will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable for receiving the abortion.” Last May, around seventy pro-life groups signed an open letter to condemn a Louisiana bill that sought to allow prosecutors to bring criminal charges against pregnant people. “As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women and children across the country,” they wrote, “let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.” ↩