I believe that abortion should be far more legally restricted than it currently is, but I don’t think it should be illegal in every circumstance. I think abortion should be legal if the mother’s life is threatened, for example, or if the mother was raped (see more here.)
Because of my particular perspective, I’ve had both pro-choicers and pro-lifers tell me that I want to punish various people. Some pro-choicers insist that being anti-abortion is about punishing women. Some pro-lifers insist that having a rape exception is about punishing the fetus conceived in rape. I disagree on both counts, and for the same reason.
To punish is to “subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault.” [Emphasis added.]
This is a claim about motivation, not effect.
There’s no denying that restricting abortion is restricting options for women, and would serve to prevent women who greatly desire abortions from obtaining them. There’s no denying that having a rape exception allows the death of fetuses conceived in rape. But in order for these situations to constitute punishment, they must be enforced with the goal of penalizing. It’s not just the effect that matters—the motivation matters as well.
It’s possible—indeed, it happens all the time—for people with completely different motivations to desire the same effect, as I’ve discussed before. If you want to punish women you may want stricter abortion laws. If you want to protect fetal life you may also want stricter abortion laws. If you want to punish rape babies you may want a rape exception. If you want to protect bodily integrity you may also want a rape exception.
Step outside the abortion debate for a moment, and consider this line of thinking as applied to other situations. If you want everyone to know that those who support homosexuality are going to hell, you may support the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest. If you want to protect free speech, you may also support that right. If you want hothead motorists to feel frustrated having to drive less than 80 mph on the highway, you may support speed limits. If you want safer driving conditions for everyone, you may also support speed limits. Imagine telling someone you support speed limits on highways, and they tell you “You just want to punish people who like to drive quickly!”
In every case, there are some people who may desire the outcome because they see it as a punishment, and other people who may desire the same outcome because they see it as a protection. Someone may view the outcome as a punishment, but that doesn’t mean every person seeking that outcome wants to punish.
Assigning false motivations, and trying to get people to defend motivations they don’t even hold, is just a distraction. This disconnect (or, in some cases, purposeful misdirection) prevents a true understanding of the opposition’s stance. For those who just want to troll, I guess that works out. But for those who want to have meaningful dialogue or proper debate, I have a suggestion: don’t tell people how they feel, or why they do what they do. Let them tell you instead.