Kevin Williamson, managing editor of National Review, speaks during the Council for the United States and Italy (Consiusa) Biennial Conference in New York, U.S., on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. Italian economic growth lagged behind the euro region for the past decade as falling productivity eroded competitiveness. The bloc's third-biggest economy is unlikely to expand more than 1 percent this year and next as the recovery falters, Confindustria said last month. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Abortion Is Not a Thought Experiment

May 2, 2018

Co-authored by Daniel Grossman

The Washington Post recently ran an op-ed by Kevin Williamson in which he addressed whether he supports capital punishment by hanging for women who have abortions ― a previously stated view that led to his high-profile firing from The Atlantic.

Williamson asserted his earlier words did not represent his position at all, yet he continued to theorize how we should punish women for abortions if the practice is once again criminalized:

I differ from most pro-lifers in that I am willing to extend criminal sanctions to women who procure abortions and to those who enable abortions, assuming they are mentally competent adults ordinarily answerable for their actions.

The thing about Williamson’s thought experiment is that it’s really not a thought experiment at all: Across the U.S. and globally, politicians are proposing criminal sanctions for people seeking abortions. Women like Purvi Patel, Bei Bei Shuai, Anna Yocca, Kenlissia Jones and others have already been arrested or prosecuted for terminating their pregnancies (or for being suspected of doing so). Williamson’s theories are already being tested, and people are already being punished.

History has shown us that criminalizing abortion does not make it go away. It simply makes abortions harder to access, targets women of color for prosecution and fuels mass incarceration.