Robert N. Lee

10 Ways Capital Punishment Is Nothing Like Abortion, for Dummies.

Wonkette points out what always happens when a particularly egregious execution happens in America, these days: creeps who find questionable state killings amusing start throwing around abortion comparisons. Ha ha ha ha, somebody’s getting executed and you’re upset about it, but you support abortion rights, thus you are a hypocrite.

You’ve heard it a billion times. Hell, half those times were last week. Maybe you’ve even accepted it, maybe a little, and thought it about yourself, questioned this seeming paradox: I don’t support the death penalty, but I do support abortion. There is a sort of mass, unstated acceptance of the equivalence constantly claimed between executions and abortions that makes arguments about it pointless and predictable: one side will keep pushing the plain fact that both instances involve killing, the other dances around admitting one or the other is really killing, they switch off, do-si-do.

Which is a trap, because it’s the wrong argument to be having. Lots of things involve killing and harm and things we’d most of us rather not think about, most of the time. Most “pro-life” people support capital punishment and form a big chunk of the kneejerk rah-rah brigade for any war their country throws, after all. They don’t tend to make up the majority of those most concerned about say, torture, either, or prison conditions, or animal welfare, or the gruesome effects of poverty on the bodies of born children, either. These things are so obvious as to need no mention.

Which is why it’s futile to point any of those things out in the argument, tit for tat, too. The argument’s not really about how violent the act or how dead the result or how gruesome the photographs, after all. Humans all have much greater capacities for horror than we like to let on, conditional ones, and we like getting all shocked, shocked at the ways others accept it, and it’s useless.

You accept artificially inducing miscarriages as a necessary horror and he accepts blowing the fuck out of some shepherd’s hut someplace as the same thing, you established that three days ago and now you’re just yelling it over and over at each other. Should probably find another Tumblr post to argue about or something.

Also a trap because this is the only part of the Venn diagram where execution and abortion meet: the killing. Otherwise, the two subjects couldn’t be more different, ridiculously and blatantly so. If so many Americans weren’t at least as fucked in the head about discussing violence as they are about sex and abortion didn’t involve both, pro-life comparisons between the two would scan publicly like “If you’re anti-death penalty, how come fishy-fishy-fishy-fish?” That’s how much sense they make, when you pull your head out of the charnel house in your thalamus.

Anyway, 10 ways in which executions are nothing like abortions, and the positions and people aren’t similar, either, that won’t lead anybody into gainshouting over NSFW photos follow. I have misused “fetus” to describe several stages of early human development, here, but this is a common enough colloquial misuse I hope it’s tolerable.


1. You don’t see anybody surrounding clinics to cheer on an abortion. Ever.

2. You’ll never see a Democratic presidential candidate proudly numbering the abortions in her state on her watch and the liberal autdience erupting with cheers, either.

3. Terrifyingly high numbers of Americans do not support forcing abortions on the mentally disabled or children, or wish that happened more.

4. There simply is no wide dispute about the legal “person” status of accused murderers and rapists, as does exist and go on constantly re: human fetuses. (Fun fact: this is at the heart of the Roe v. Wade decision, that no society or religion or medical body or etc. has ever been able to make a historically consistent call on when human life begins. We just don’t know, but if you’re going to go by observable human behaviors and customs and etc: birth or thereabouts, pretty much.)

5. Anti-capital punishment sentiment and action is about numbers and demonstrably ghastly systemic failures and abuses, and isn’t about “innocent” so much. Even those who love state executions they throw barbecues to celebrate them are theoretically opposed to executing innocent people, after all. (It’s just that they believe anybody sentenced to death is magically and irrefutably guilty.)

Anti-abortion sentiment and action, OTOH, is all tied up in conflicting religious notions of the onset of Adam’s curse and original sin and etc. and entirely about petty and childish notions of “innocence.” Fetuses, by virtue of never having lived life outside the womb even for a day, are less sullied by sin and have done nothing to earn death the way the rest of us born humans all have done. So they deserve to be protected more, they are the best, purest people of all. Basically.

6. Everybody doesn’t know somebody who’s been executed.

7. State-subsidized abortions cost like five hundred bucks and are over in minutes. State executions cost everybody tens of millions of dollars and drag on for decades.

9. Executions provide zero measurable beneficial effect. They don’t thwart crimes or help anybody grieve better or do anyone a lick of good as claimed by their staunchest advocates. If you don’t know any stories about women who bettered their lives because they had abortions, go ask your mom about that. (Seriously, that was not a “your mom” dig, like your mom must have had an abortion, just go ask her.)

10. Abortion is artificially inducing a miscarriage to thwart pregnancy, and execution is execution. Duh.

Leave a Reply