Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Abortion and the Death Penalty

Posted in abortion, death penalty by Kathy on March 7, 2008

Every so often, I hear comments from people along the lines of, “How can you oppose abortion, yet support the death penalty?” It’s funny because these people likely do exactly the reverse–support abortion and oppose the death penalty. I’ve thought about writing a post just on that, but have come across something that makes me want to discuss this along a somewhat different angle. The other day I tag-surfed across a post that mentioned the book Freakonomics, and said that the author made a pretty good case for abortion as a means of lowering the crime rate (apparently, he had statistics that showed that areas that had high abortion rates years ago had lower crime rates than areas that had low abortion rates). What’s wrong with this picture? Think about it.

I’m not going to argue the statistics–he’s probably right, in fact. His take was that women who are in the lower socio-economic brackets are more likely to get abortions, and that children who are raised in lower socio-economic brackets are more likely to grow up and commit crimes. Therefore, if these children are killed by abortion before they are born, then they can’t grow up and commit crimes; therefore, the crime rate will drop (or at least be lower than it otherwise would be). The reasoning is logical; the statistics back it up. But what’s the problem with this?

How can people support abortion–the prenatal death penalty–as a means of lowering future crime rates, by killing people who have not yet committed any crimes but might, while these same people (usually) oppose the death penalty for people who have already committed crimes and probably will again? It just makes no sense. Why not enforce the death penalty for the guilty, and spare the innocent? If you really think that abortion as a preemptive strike makes sense, then surely you must agree that the death penalty for the guilty makes even more sense. Many people who are against the death penalty oppose it on philosophical grounds, so would not find any person’s crimes heinous enough to merit the death penalty. Yet they would allow the killing of future criminals (along with future non-criminals), and think it a good way to lower the crime rate.

Isn’t a better alternative to make these crimes under consideration capital offenses, so that the guilty forfeit their lives while the innocent are spared? “But they’re not worthy of death!” you say? How then can you advocate a fetal death penalty for the purpose of reducing future crime rates? If a habitual robber, or drug lord, or rapist, or murderer, or whatever is not worthy of death, then how can a “not yet guilty but maybe sometime in the future” baby be considered worthy of death?

And, fwiw, being pro-life (in my totally un-humble opinion) necessitates the death penalty for murder. It is the only just punishment for the deliberate destruction of human life–forfeiting your own. I love life, therefore I hate murder. I love children, therefore I hate abortion.