Earlier this year, NPR reported on a controversial abortion-related arrest:
Jennie Linn McCormack was charged last year under an obscure Idaho law for ending her pregnancy with RU-486. She joins an increasing number of women who get the so-called abortion pill off the internet.
NPR describes the circumstances of the abortion:
In late 2010, McCormack learned she was pregnant. The father was out of the picture. Her youngest was barely two and she was living off child support checks.
Getting an abortion would have cost at least $500 and required multiple trips back and forth to a clinic hours away. So, McCormack turned to the rising number of Internet suppliers of abortion pills.
Some pro-lifers believe that, should abortion be made illegal, doctors–and not women–should be prosecuted for breaking the law. How would that play out in cases of self-administered medical abortions?
Now, this is where the story gets more complicated. RU-486 is medically recommended only within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. It turns out that McCormack was way past that although she said she didn’t realize it at the time.
After she aborted the fetus she was horrified by how far along it seemed. Possibly as much as 20 weeks. McCormack confided in a friend. It was this friend’s sister that tipped off the police.
This, by the way, is why pro-lifers emphasize prenatal development as a part of informed consent.
“There are many cases where they prosecute or threaten to prosecute a doctor,” [defense attorney] Hearn says. “There are not so many where they’ve prosecuted a woman.”
One of the few pro-life groups we could find willing to say anything about McCormack was the Susan B. Anthony List. President Marjorie Dannenfelser calls the case “not acceptable.” She adds, “We do not think women should be criminalized. Criminal sanctions or any kind of sanctions are appropriate for abortionists, and not for women.”
And that’s the tricky thing about the case for the pro-life side according to Will Saletan. Saletan writes about reproductive health politics for Slate magazine. “The prosecution of abortion, which always hinged on the doctor being the targeted party, now has to target the woman,” he says. “And the pro-life movement is completely unprepared for that.”
So what do you think, readers? If most abortions–and not just self-administered abortions–were illegal, what should the repercussions be for breaking the law? And why?