As the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was handing down its decision to allow House Bill 2 to go into effect in its entirety, Kevin D. Williamson, a National Review writer, was also wading into a public discussion around abortion rights.
As The Week reports, Williamson “likes to be the guy who will brashly express the crudest (and sometimes cruelest) version of his own team’s deepest ideological commitments.” This was no exception. In a tweet, Williamson alluded to a belief that he later expressed in more explicit detail: he believes that the appropriate punishment for seeking an abortion is death by hanging.
He went on to say that those who should be hanged included not only the people who have abortions, but the physicians and staff who help them access these services. That’s right, Williamson believes that those who collude in the “crime” of abortion should be hung as punishment.
The conversation stemmed from commentary around Williamson’s article mocking Lena Dunham’s piece about the importance of voting, where he has this to say about the idea that people who care about the right to choose ought to vote to protect their rights:
- A people mature enough to manage the relationship between procreative input and procreative output without recourse to the surgical dismemberment of living human organisms probably would not find much of interest in the work of Miss Dunham. But we are a nation of adult children so horrified by the prospect of actual children that we put one in five of them to death for such excellent reasons as the desire to fit nicely into a prom dress.
Lest we be fooled into thinking it is only superficial pre-prom abortions Williamson objects to, he continued:
- It is the so-called Affordable Care Act that has involved us in subsidizing birth control, abortifacients, surgical abortions, and who knows what else, for the strong, powerful, self-actualized American woman who cannot figure out how to walk into Walgreens, lay down the price of a latte, and walk out with her own birth-control pills, no federal intervention necessary.
While The Week is certainly correct in calling this “intentionally provocative rhetoric,” the substance of Williamson’s inflammatory remarks is far from shocking. The argument against abortion boils down to something very simple: that the act of having an abortion is actually murder, because you are ending a human life.
Hence the rhetoric from anti-choice groups using words like “baby” and “child” to describe a five-month-old fetus. Now, this is not to say that it is always inappropriate to refer to a fetus as a “baby” or a “child.” Especially in instances where a pregnancy is planned, this understanding is far from abnormal. But it shouldn’t form a legal or medical argument against a necessary and constitutionally-protected right to abortion as healthcare.
Not only should this be entirely par for the course of the anti-choice narrative, it is also far from the most violent public act ever taken by an anti-choice person. Williamson simply suggests that hanging is the most appropriate consequence for what he sees as murder. Other people of his same belief have taken it so far as to kill physicians who provide abortions, or to attempt to burn down existing clinics.
Clinics are constantly under attack, and the physicians who provide abortions are, oftentimes, risking their very lives to provide them. And that is why this commentary from the right isn’t surprising.
Behind the curtain of the “protection of women’s health,” offered up by public proponents of anti-abortion legislation such as HB 2 lies a much more sinister truth: if you honestly believe that abortion is murder, then it logically follows that you would support the death penalty for all those who are complicit in the seeking and provision of those murderous services. And two people who espouse this belief are running for the top two most powerful positions in Texas government.
As anti-choice legislators and primary voters continue to enforce their stranglehold on local and state legislation, it becomes ever more important to highlight instances of honesty like this one for what they truly are: not a rare fringe element, but a rare moment of honesty.