Thursday, April 14, 2016

Make it their fight, too

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 3:38 PM

click to enlarge LORA OLIVE
  • Lora Olive
As the storm of protest over Indiana’s new law criminalizing many abortions mounts, a question keeps running through my mind:

Why is this just a women’s issue?

Before understandably outraged feminists scream for my head to be served to them on a platter, let me explain that I want to explore just how selective – and, frankly, misogynist – the war on reproductive rights is.

The intellectual and moral premise behind laws restricting a woman’s right to choose whether she will bear a child is that abortion is an evil. Abortion is so morally offensive, opponents of reproductive rights say, that it must be outlawed – that pregnant women who opt not to carry a child to birth, regardless of the health of that child, must face severe penalties. That is the only way to honor life.


For the moment, let’s accept that argument. Let’s assume that abortion is an evil – which, by the way, is something I don’t believe.

In most other criminal acts, we also penalize people who contributed to the act. We call them accessories and, in certain cases, they can be subject to the full weight of the law.

Why don’t we do that with abortion?

Why don’t we say to the man who has impregnated a woman but doesn’t want to commit to her or the child that he, too, will be subject to severe criminal penalties – like the 20-year prison sentence a woman in Indiana received last year for feticide because she felt alone in dealing with her pregnancy?

Why don’t we direct the full weight of the law at the parents and other family members who shun and refuse to support, financially or otherwise, unwed pregnant women and the children they will be compelled to bear and raise? Why don’t we threaten them with jail time if they don’t step up?

Ditto for the employers and co-workers who aren’t supportive of a woman who has an out-of-wedlock or just unplanned pregnancy. If they don’t immediately embrace her and make accommodations for her needs, let’s throw them behind bars, too.

That’s pretty severe – even draconian, you say?

Yes, but there’s method to the madness.

Years ago, some determined opponents of the Vietnam War had a strange, strange idea. They wanted to put an end to college deferments from the draft. They wanted to say that every young man in America would have to go fight in the war.

On the surface, that seemed to make no sense. People who opposed the war wanted to make it easier for the government to draft people to go fight it.

What those clever anti-war opponents really wanted to do, though, was make the war everyone’s fight, not just one for poor and lower-middle-class kids whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to college. Those opponents of the war wanted to make it impossible for anyone to buy his way out of fighting.

It worked.

When it became clear that kids from well-to-do homes weren’t going to be able to sit out the bloodshed in safety, the pressure to end the war mounted.

Once the Vietnam War became a threat to every family, the desire to fight it diminished. When the war stopped being something that happened to “other” people, it became a lot harder to support.

The same could be true of abortion. If we make it clear that the fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, other family members, employers, co-workers and customers also could face time behind bars for refusing to help pregnant women, we might find that their zeal for regulating women’s reproductive choices will decrease.

This new anti-abortion measure became a reality largely because men in the Indiana General Assembly voted for it and another man, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, signed it into law.

Those men did so secure in the knowledge that the penalties within the new law never would apply to them.

My guess is that rewriting Indiana code so they get to spend some time looking at the world through bars for disapproving of unwed mothers might alter their outlook.

It would be interesting to see how men might look at abortion if the laws and the punishments applied to them, too – and not just “other” people.

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John Krull

John Krull

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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