Donald Trump's recent remarks on abortion, particularly in regards to punishment for women who procure abortions against their children, have caused quite a discussion in Catholic blogosphere (and other arenas as well). In pro-life circles, a difference of opinion has been made manifest - to put it mildly.
On the one hand are those who hold only the abortionist culpable for the murder of babies, believing that the women themselves are also victims of abortion. On the other hand are those who seem to hold that all women are culpable (maybe to varying degrees) for the murders of their children. So where does the truth lie?
Those in pro-life leadership, particularly of the Catholic persuasion, do tend to ascribe absolutely no responsibility to any of the mothers who procure abortions. I hold that to be erroneous, as this view does not admit that the woman has any freedom of conscience, that she is not a competent moral agent. While such a view appears to be compassionate, I think it can be quite condescending and patronizing to the woman. How can such a woman achieve any real healing if she doesn't accept any fault and thus receive authentic forgiveness through repentance and the Sacrament of Confession? Moreover, there remains the question of justice for the child just murdered. If his/her life is to be respected, then the demands of justice do require a punishment for the crime of his/her murder.
That is one extreme view from pro-life circles. However, on recent blog posts from fellow bloggers whom I respect (see here, here, here, here) I'm starting to see manifestations of the other extreme viewpoint, namely, that most and even all women are culpable for their abortions and should therefore incur punishments (in varying degrees). I think caution is needed there, too.
For close to twenty years now, I've spent most Saturday mornings in front of abortuaries with other Christians, seeking to offer life-affirming assistance to these women who are abortion-minded. These women by no means fit into any "cookie-cutter" mold. Some of them would most likely be very culpable for their children's murders. They walk in hard as nails, sometimes followed by a man pleading for the life of his child.
On the other hand, there are those women going in who are obviously ambivalent or remorseful about what they are about to do. Usually they are being coerced: either by parents or by their male companions (whom I refuse to call "men"). I've no doubt that some of these women have been threatened or even subjected to physical violence; at times we counselors have also been attacked ourselves by belligerent males or the parents (seems like the mothers are the worst). I recall one case when it was a cloudy day and the woman and thuggish boyfriend hurried past us. He was literally dragging her. She had her head down and was wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day; it didn't take a rocket scientist to understand why.
It seemed to me that such women were under duress and thus not fully culpable for the abortion due to lack of free will. I looked into a book on Catholic moral theology for clarification. It's called "Moral Theology" by Father Heribert Jone, first published in 1953 (German). That means no one can ascribe to it any "spirit of Vatican II" contamination. It's available from TAN.
What is evaluated in moral theology are human acts. These are defined as "those actions that proceed from knowledge and free will". For the time being let's look at the "free will" aspect for in many of these women "free will" is hindered. One such hindrance is violence, defined in the book as "force brought to bear upon one against his/her will by some extrinsic agent." It then goes on to say that "absolute violence destroys free will. Therefore whatever is done under its influence is not imputable." Ladies and gentlemen, too many of these women are dragged in under credible threats of violence. As I said a few paragraphs ago, we counselors can attest to this because we've been on the receiving end of just a few seconds of that violence by thuggish parents/males. These women live with those brutes.
Unless we've been living in cocoons, we've seen account after account of women being murdered by "males" precisely because they refused to abort their babies. So these "males" murder not only the women but their own babies as well. Where's the educational outreach to them? But I digress. Following this paragraph are some accounts. If these don't constitute "absolute violence" as noted in the preceding paragraph, I don't know what does.
If you want to see more examples, just google "murder of women who refused to abort".
The fear that many of these young girls face is real. If pro-lifers are going to wag their fingers at them, they'd better be prepared to assist them should these girls need help. If they aren't regularly and currently spending time in front of abortuaries to offer assistance, I've no idea what constitutes their basis of opinions.
I said above that in order for justice to be done for the primary victim of abortion, that is, the child, then proper punishment must be inflicted on the perpetrator. Who is the perpetrator? I think common sense dictates that the perpetrator is the one who is seeking the abortion and controlling the woman's situation. That may very well be the woman herself, but quite often that is not the case. It's probably the guy, parents, teachers, etc. A proper judicial system will take all that into account. Unless a miracle of God is visited among us in His mercy, I don't expect that to happen in my lifetime.