Can You Be Pro-Life And Pro-Death Penalty?

Not pictured: Criminal

Back in the dim, long-dead days of my youth when I was pro-choice, those dark ages of the early and mid 2000s, I fancied myself especially clever whenever I advanced the following “argument.”

“How come so many so-called ‘pro-lifers’ support the death penalty? That’s completely illogical and hypocritical.”

This is a favorite pro-choice rejoinder, so it’s a good idea as a pro-lifer to know how to make short work of it.

First of all, this tactic – to accuse pro-lifers of being hypocrites if they support the death penalty – is not an argument at all. It’s just an attempt to discredit the pro-life movement by “proving” that we are illogical woman-haters and not so much concerned with preserving life as stripping “reproductive rights” from people.

It’s important to know how to combat this tactic even if you happen to be, as I am, against the death penalty. No matter your feelings on capital punishment, it is simply ridiculous to compare it morally to abortion.

It’s instructive here to look at what the Catholic Church believes concerning abortion and capital punishment. It’s not necessary to be Catholic to understand this argument, just as it is not necessary to be Catholic or even Christian to be pro-life. Catholics are more likely to believe in what they call a “consistent life ethic,” in other words, the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Some call this the “seamless garment.”

The idea behind this is that only God has the right to take life from a person, and as long as a human being can be kept from committing further harm against society – for example, by locking them up in prison – we should keep them alive so that God may do with the person’s life whatever He intends.

Others oppose the  death penalty because they believe it’s ineffective or that it gives the government too much power over its people.

Then again, there are those, Christian and non-Christian, who are a bit more Old Testament when it comes to punishment. Eye for an eye, and all that. Many of these people happen to oppose abortion.

Whatever your position, don’t allow pro-aborts to tell you that being pro-capital punishment and pro-life is an oxymoron. It isn’t.

Executing, via legal means, a person who has been convicted in a court of law of a reprehensible crime is not even in the same ballpark as a woman paying a doctor to kill her unborn baby in the womb for any reason she chooses.

The pre-born infant has committed no crime. She has had no legal representation. She does not have the voice to plead her case. She simply, through no fault of her own, exists, an entire and complete human being from the moment of her conception. She is blameless.

By contrast, the vast majority of people who are executed by the state are guilty. And even in those rare cases where the accused was wrongly convicted, at least he had a chance: to live, to make other choices, to run, to escape, to defend himself.

The pre-born infant is trapped. She can’t beg for a commutation of sentence and hope for life without parole. She can’t appeal. She can’t ask for a new lawyer. If her mother decides she must die, she will die. It is the ultimate in “might makes right” thinking, the kind of thinking most pro-aborts condemn when it comes to issues such as war, women’s rights, humanitarian causes, institutional racism, and the criminal justice system. Why then do they overlook it by giving a woman carte blanche power of life and death over another human being, for any reason she chooses?

In order to execute a criminal offender, an astoundingly complex legal process takes place. Motions are filed, witnesses called, juries instructed, great quantities of money spent, mountains of paperwork amassed. The defendant is allowed, if he so chooses, to speak in his own defense. Appeal is automatic. Great care is taken, great time is spent, making sure his rights are protected, and in almost every case, they are, and it is an unquestionably guilty man who goes to his death.

The pre-born infant is at the mercy of one woman’s whim. That woman, her mother, whether from selfishness, guilt, coercion, fear, or even the law – as in the case of China’s one child policy – makes a decision to kill her, pays some money, and it’s done. Often the only advocates for that child are the people outside the clinic, offering information, counseling and prayer, to any who will take it. There is no requirement that she listen to them. In fact, burly men in orange vests will often escort her past them, as though she were in danger from them, when it is in fact the child inside her that is in danger.

The pre-born infant receives no escort. She is completely alone when she is dismembered, sucked from the womb, and disposed of as waste.

The executed offender, at least, may have his family present. He may be buried in the manner befitting his beliefs. He may be mourned.

The pre-born infant is mourned, if she is mourned at all, by a few pro-life strangers. Her mother’s only grief often takes the form of depression and psychological trauma she does not even connect to the death of her child, which she quite possibly thought of as a clump of cells.

The pre-born infant is remembered only as a nameless, faceless victim, one of millions, in the prayers and thoughts of people around the world who daily petition God and man for an end to the evil of abortion.

In short, it’s quite inaccurate, and even irresponsible, to compare abortion to capital punishment, even if you happen to oppose both, as I do.

This issue gets brought up a lot by pro-aborts. But the good news is, the counter-argument can be summed up pretty easily. For example, if ever I’m asked why I’m not speaking out against the death penalty instead of abortion, I tell them very simply: “Criminals have lawyers. Fetuses have me.”

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Kristen Walker is Vice President of New Wave Feminists. Her personal blog can be found here.