Is Abortion Your 'Personal Business'?
A new Eric Swalwell ad suggests as much.
“Elections have consequences… Stop Republicans from criminalizing abortion everywhere," reads a narrator at the end of a new political campaign ad from Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat best known for sleeping with a Chinese spy.
The commercial tells the story of the Andersons, a fictional family of four torn apart as the mother, Mary Anderson, is arrested by police for obtaining an illegal abortion.
The ad, which implores voters to “stop Republicans from criminalizing abortion,” opens with the Andersons' baby boy cooing at the dinner table, waving his spoon in the air and looking lovingly at his mother as Mr. Anderson makes airplane noises to the toddler. “You’re weird!” the Anderson’s older daughter tells her father. “He is weird,” Mrs. Anderson assures her daughter. "But cute,” she adds, before giving her husband a peck on the lips.
All hell breaks loose as flashing police lights appear in the background. Soon, there’s a rap on the door. When Mr. and Mrs. Anderson open it, they find two officers standing outside.
“Mary Anderson?” one officer asks.
“Yes?” Mary replies.
“I have a warrant for your arrest."
“Arrest for what?” Mr. Anderson asks.
“Penal code 243 violation," says the office. "Unlawful termination of a pregnancy."
“That is my personal business,” Mary says.
“That is for the courts to decide,” the officer informs her, adding that her medical records have been subpoenaed and the abortionist responsible was in custody.
The Andersons daughter has sheepishly joined her parents at the door. Mary’s face is frozen with a look of shock, disbelief, and fear. “No, my God, you c—you can’t just—” she stammers. The officer tells her she will "have to submit to a physical examination.”
“No one is touching my wife, Mr. Anderson says, stepping forward. The cops instantly draw their guns, waving them at the family.
“Turn around. Put your hands behind your back, now!” The officer shouts. Anderson's daughter cries in the background. Mary says, “I love you, honey bear,” as the cuffs ratchet around her wrists.
“We’re just enforcing the law here,” the officer says, before Mrs. Anderson is taken out of her home.
Then comes the “elections have consequences” warning, before the camera cuts back to Mary in the back of the cop car. “Please. Don’t do this. Please,” she begs, before the screen fades to black.
Swalwell’s campaign ad is a work of fiction. This is not happening anywhere in the United States, even in a post-Roe America. What is happening, however, is the FBI breaking down the doors of pro-life activists with weapons drawn to arrest them for violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, subjecting them to long potential sentences and hefty fines.
Republicans and right-leaning pundits have taken to social media to mock the advertisement. They have noted the terrible acting and the improbability of such arrests ever coming to fruition.
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Maybe they should, though. Parts of the conservative movement have long insisted that pro-lifers do not want to punish mothers who obtain abortions. Perhaps these conservatives think they are winning converts, but in reality, their position betrays the cause of life. It introduces major logical inconsistencies and makes conservatives seem unserious about protecting the unborn.
If abortion is murder, why would you let the murderer—or the person who hired the hitman—walk? Of course there will be certain cases where the mother should not be prosecuted. There will be other cases where the mother should be treated leniently because of coercion or other mitigating factors. But that does not mean we should foreswear punishment altogether. Indeed, existing criminal laws already make provisions for defendants with limited or no culpability for their crimes.
Let’s revisit Swalwell's advertisement. It doesn’t say when Mary Anderson received her abortion, but it seems clear that she was aware she was breaking the law when her and her doctor conspired to abort her child. Rather than deny the allegation, her only defense was “that is my personal business.” Is any violent crime, much less murder, for which this would be a legitimate defense?