In a July 2005 video clip recently posted on YouTube, an unidentified man asks pro-life activists whether a woman should serve time in jail if she were convicted of abortion in a hypothetical post-Roe v. Wade world. The demonstrators shift feet, flush, show all the signs of thinking as they speak. The interviewer pushes them. Some of their conversations go in circles. Several of the pro-life activists admit they have been participating in anti-abortion demonstrations for years without considering the question of penalties.
Abortion rights advocates see an opportunity in that confusion. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the new National Institute for Reproductive Health are encouraging people to ask politicians, "How much time should she serve?" The question shows "that choice can be a winning issue if you force people to stop evading the hard facts," Anna Quindlen wrote in a recent Newsweek column. Quindlen suggests that people who have pro-life convictions haven't thought past their animosity to the idea of abortion.
"Perhaps rank-and-file pro-lifers haven't thought through that," responded Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst for bioethics at Focus on the Family. "But the people who are doing abortion policy in the pro-life movement have thought about that."
Olivia Gans, who had an abortion in 1981, said, "When I looked at those faces [in the YouTube video], what I saw was a comprehension that women like me are going through something that is extraordinary in its scope, but I also saw a lack of understanding of how the law works." Gans is now director of American Victims of Abortion, a branch of the National Right to Life Committee.
Quindlen wrote, "There are only two logical choices: Hold women accountable ...