Incongruities abound: Abortion vs. Capital Punishment

17 Jan

…Or: Why most pro-choicers are anti-capital punishment and vice versa.

The argument against abortion that is most commonly used is: “It’s murder.” And anyone who is pro-choice is pro-murder. I’m here to tell you why that’s a load of bull.

Gallup ran a pool in October of 2009 that demonstrated that Republicans are almost twice as likely to support capital punishment (81%) as Democrats, where less than half of Democrats support it (48%). If those numbers aren’t convincing, perhaps the opposite will be: 47% of Dems oppose the practice, where only 16% of Republicans do.

Republicans, who overwhelmingly identify as “pro-life” (70%, Gallup 2009), believe that a “baby” is “alive” from the “moment of conception,” and that abortion, even prior to week 9 (when the embryo becomes a fetus), is “murder.”

As a burgeoning psychologist, let me break this down for you:

What this poll is telling me is that Republicans, who are vehemently anti-choice, are more likely to sanction murdering someone who commits a crime? Well, that’s interesting. Where is the “value of human life” now? Is it only human life of “innocents” that they deem “valuable?” How do they know that the “baby” that they forced a woman to carry to term isn’t going to be the next Hitler? Or Stalin? Or what-have-you?

That is somewhat beside the point, so before I harp on that for too long, and get into all the ways that “pro-lifers” devalue human life on a regular basis (oh, the irony!), I’m going to switch gears and explain how being pro-choice and anti-capital punishment makes perfect sense.

It’s really simple: pro-choicers value human life. All life, including the lives of people who have committed crimes and the lives of women, regardless of some arbitrary “values scale” that the other side has apparently drafted and been using. For us, if you are a woman, and you don’t want to have a child, you don’t have to, because we value you and want you to be a happy and productive member of society. For us, if you have committed a crime, even a violent one, we still value your life and would prefer to rehabilitate you so that you too can become a happy and productive member of society.

We understand that people are not perfect. People make mistakes. And yet, we still value you. We value you more because you’re not some perfect image of a human being, but because you are a real person trying to do the best that you can with what you have.

For this reason, it makes more sense to me to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment than the other way around. I mean really, if the choice isn’t yours in one scenario, how can it possibly be in the other?


15 Responses to “Incongruities abound: Abortion vs. Capital Punishment”

  1. Steph L. January 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I guess I’m odd that I am both pro-choice and pro-capital punishment. I don’t care to debate the subject much, but I was disturbed by one of your statements:
    “we still value your life and would prefer to rehabilitate you so that you too can become a happy and productive member of society.”
    You imply that people sentenced to capital punishment did something like rob a gas station. How exactly do you rehabilitate a violent serial rapist or chil molester and make them happy and productive society members?

  2. freewomyn January 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Great article. I would extend the argument even further to incorporate a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. If you ask a “pro-lifer” if they abstain from eating animals, they’ll probably tell you “no.” (I don’t have any Gallup polls to back that up, just personal experience of talking to abortion protesters.) How very inconsistent!

  3. Rob January 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    Hey Steph, I am disturbed by your statement as well. You seem to be under the impression that we shouldn’t even attempt to rehabilitate certain types of offenders, when our system is supposed to be all about the rehabilitation. You ask how one would go about rehabilitating them, which feels somewhat like a loaded question. Because in all honesty, we never know until we try if a criminal can be reached and rehabilitated. But we should be trying.

    I think the best way to start this rehabilitation would be to put them in a system that works a far cry better than ours. Our justice system long ago strayed from the path of rehabilitating criminals to simply punishing them. Ignoring a key element that should have accompanied that incarceration. Just my two cents…

  4. Steph L. January 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm #


    It is really nothing short of starry-eyed naivety to think every criminal can be rehabilitated. I have studied/worked in the criminal justice system for some time now and can tell you there are many people far beyond “rehabilitation.” There are many types of offenders that can be rehabilitated (drug offenses, robbery, and even some more serious crimes, I am a strong beliver in circumstances) and others who can only be kept away from society. You tell me the “better system” for dealing with a man who raped an 8 month old repeatedly and then beat him to death.

  5. Steph L. January 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    I love using that one on antis – so far I have yet to encounter a vegetarian/vegan anti (who doesn’t kill bugs either). Usually they will go on to argue that animals are not the same as people – which I counter with “But you made such an issue over a beating heart or feeling pain!” or make a statement about human egocentrism.

  6. Rob January 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    @ Steph, I agree! It is naive to think that every criminal can be rehabilitated. But I also think that it is pretty heartless to not even try. You say you care about the circumstances, and I would hope that is the case, and that each criminal would be judged individually. But you seem to be saying that the crime is the determining factor as to whether or not the rehabilitation should even be an option. Which to me seems like not taking the circumstances of each case into consideration. Background, environment, etc…

    And you bring up the case of the 8 month old. Personally, I feel like any person capable of doing such a thing is beyond reach and understanding. But here’s the rub, this justice system that we have is supposed to be better than me, and the way I would handle the situation. Where I might personally write them off, this system is supposed to be bigger and better than us as individuals. And yes, I can see the naivety in that outlook, but that’s the one I was taught to have. To believe in an ideal that is greater than oneself.

  7. Steph L. January 18, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    I’m a little curious where I implied that crime is the sole determining factor. In my first post I merely alluded to the fact that sex offenders are statistically the most likely group to re-offend. And the one society should be least comfortable taking chances with.

    I admit life has made me quite a cynic. The justice system is designed by people and mantained by people. What is ideal is not often what is real.

  8. Rob January 18, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    @ Steph,
    “There are many types of offenders that can be rehabilitated (drug offenses, robbery, and even some more serious crimes, I am a strong beliver in circumstances) and others who can only be kept away from society. ”

    It was this statement here that made it seem like you classify certain types of offenders as ones who ‘can be’ rehabilitated. The takeaway I was left with is that anyone committing those types of crimes can be helped the rest are a waste of time.

    I understand the cynicism, believe me. I applaud anyone who has the strength to work in the justice system which as we know has its problems. And I agree that any system created and maintained by people is going to fall victim to the whims of said people. This is unfortunate, but not entirely unpreventable or uncorrectable. At least that’s what I have to tell myself to get to sleep at night. 🙂

  9. Jameson January 18, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    @ Steph,

    You’re not the only pro-choicer who also supports capital punishment (albeit in limited circumstances, when it’s proven beyond all doubt that the accused is responsible for the crime). I’m with you in that I believe there are some people that cannot and will not be rehabilitated, that will always be a danger to others, and should not under any circumstances be allowed back into society, because they will only continue to harm others – some of them flat-out admit it. (And frankly, I have no sympathy for the truly vicious, the rapists and the child molesters and the serial killers and terrorists, and my .02 is to get rid of those – permanently.)

  10. placenta sandwich January 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    On the other hand, it’s not clear whether capital punishment for child molestation is constitutional, and it’s already been ruled unconstitutional as concerns the rape of adults:

    So even if you we absolutely KNEW that some people can’t be rehabilitated, it doesn’t mean the system allows for killing them, but rather (probably, in theory) life imprisonment. Therefore, you don’t have to be a total idealist (like Rob), or even believe one bit in convicts’ ability to become happy and productive members of society (like Christie), to oppose the death penalty for people you deem non-rehabilitatable…some of them still have Constitutional rights!

  11. placenta sandwich January 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    PS, Steph L., I really like your rejoinder about “beating hearts” and “feeling pain” to the non-vegetarian anti-choicers. But they really are, for the most part, human-exceptionalists and don’t think twice about saying that “animals” (of course they mean animals other than humans!) are different. It’s part of why they think their “it’s a human, and it’s got growing cells, so it’s a living human being…so it’s a moral and legal person!” argument is so convincing.

  12. Christie January 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi all,

    I do not have a solution to the “How do you rehabilitate them?” question. I don’t think it’s a fair one to ask, because I wasn’t suggesting a solution, merely that I disagree with the concept of capital punishment. Of course there will be people who cannot be rehabilitated, but, as Rob pointed out, we should, for sure, try. And if they can’t be, I didn’t say life imprisonment wasn’t an option. And I would even consider solitary confinement a fitting option for some who are repeat violent offenders. (Also, since when does “violent offender” mean “gas station robbery”?!)

    As a side note, to those of you who are pro-choice and pro-capital punishment, you are, in fact, in the slight majority (1%). Less of a rarity than you think. I, however, happen to disagree with that stance, as evidenced by my statement: “For this reason, it makes more sense to me to be pro-choice and anti-capital punishment than the other way around.” Perhaps I should have accented the “me” in that sentence.

  13. Dee January 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I just wanted to write in to say that I also fall into the category of prochoicers who support the death penalty.

    Re: veganism. It’s not just veganism that antis tend to reject (I’ve encountered one vegan anti in my life), but they also tend to support legislation that harms the environment, as well as animal cruelty. In one state, (presumably pro life) conservatives opposed a bill requiring that puppies not be mistreated. Other conservatives support organizations that demonize environmentalists, claiming that overpopulation is a myth and that God created the environment for humans to plunder, er, dominate.


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