Remember Kevin Williamson, the pundit who tweeted that women who get abortions should be executed by hanging, and lost a job at The Atlantic over it? I’m not sure what should be done with such horrible people, but not being hired as an opinion writer ought to be the least of it. But guess what the Washington Post has done? They’ve given him an opportunity to write on their opinion pages! A one-time thing, I hope, because I’d rather just see him vanish.
But no. Now he gets a prominent space to rehash his ugly views. I’m going to go find a puppy to kick so I can get space where I can write more about puppy-kicking.
Shockingly, the first thing Williamson does is…denial.
So what would it mean as a practical legal matter to outlaw abortion? That is a question I have been asked frequently since being fired by the Atlantic over a four-year-old, six-word tweet and accompanying podcast in which I was alleged to have voiced an extremist view on the matter of criminalizing abortion — that it should be punished by hanging.
That isn’t my view at all.
What is this “alleged” BS? There was the tweet, which he has since deleted, closing his whole Twitter account. But then also, he was
repeatedly asked if he was joking or serious, he calmly affirmed that he was.
When Johnson pressed Williamson about whether he was serious, the National Review writer responded:Yes, I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.
He was asked about it in a podcast, and he strongly affirmed it.
And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, ‘If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.’ And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging,Williamson said.
My broader point here is, of course, that I am a — as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general — but that I’m absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code, sure.
He even expanded on his point to say that the doctors and nurses who assisted in an abortion should also be executed! So what’s with the weasely “alleged” nonsense now?
He is lying and pretending he didn’t say it. Further, he’s now piously declaiming that he just wants moderate laws regulating abortion, just like France’s.
France, like many European countries, takes a stricter line on abortion than does the United States: Abortion on demand is permitted only through the 12th week of pregnancy. After that, abortion is severely restricted, permitted only to prevent grave damage to the mother’s health, or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities. France is not a neo-medieval right-wing dystopia.
The law in France imposes penalties on those who perform illegal abortions, ranging from forfeiture of medical licenses for doctors to fines and, in some cases, incarceration (for providers, not for the woman obtaining the abortion) ranging from six months to 10 years. Those sanctions seem reasonable to me. Why not start there and see how it works?
Start there…that’s his key point. He sees this as the point of a wedge, leading to, he dreams, full criminalization of abortion. And look: making it illegal for unqualified people to rummage around in women’s uteruses is a good idea, and I suspect is already consider criminal under existing laws about doing physical harm to people, but that’s not what he wants. He wants to arrest and punish certified doctors, nurses, and women who want an abortion. I don’t think France does that.
But these are just Williamson’s unoriginal excuses. This argument, that they just want to be like Europe, has been around for quite a while, and is an outright lie. Katha Politt has specifically addressed this stupid anti-choice talking point.
Here’s what’s really different about Western Europe: in France, you can get an abortion at any public hospital and it’s paid for by the government. In Germany, you can get one at a hospital or a doctor’s office, and health plans will pay for it for low-income women. In Sweden, abortion is free through eighteen weeks. Moreover, unlike the time limits passed in Texas and some other states, or floating around in Congress, the European limits have exceptions, variously for physical or mental health, fetal anomaly or rape. Contrast that with what anti-choicers want for the United States, where Paul Ryan memorably described a health exception to a proposed late-term abortion ban as “a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it.” If a French or German or Swedish 12-year-old, or a traumatized rape victim, or a woman carrying a fetus with Tay-Sachs disease shows up after the deadline, I bet a way can often be found to quietly take care of them. If not, Britain or the Netherlands, where second trimester abortion is legal, are possibilities. (In 2011, more than 4,000 Irish women traveled to Britain for abortions.)
Here are some other differences: in Western Europe, teens get realistic sex education, not abstinence-only propaganda. Girls and women have much better access to birth control and emergency contraception, which are usually paid for by the government. In countries that require mandatory counseling, it is empathetic and nondirective: nothing like our burgeoning network of Christian “crisis pregnancy centers” and state laws requiring women to endure transvaginal ultrasounds, hear fetal heartbeats and look at sonograms. European doctors are not forced to read scripts that falsely warn women that abortion will give them breast cancer and drive them to suicide, and tell them that an embryo the size of a pea is “a unique living human being.” In countries that have waiting periods, distances are smaller, and just to repeat, abortion is widely available and integrated with the normal health system, not shunted off to clinics in a few cities and college towns. You do not have to travel eight hours four times to get the counseling and fulfill the waiting period—or sleep in your car or the bus station till the time is up.
And just because you’ve read this far: there are no screaming fanatics thrusting gory photos at you as you make your way to your abortion. No one takes down your license plate in the parking lot and calls you—or your parents—later with hateful messages. Doctors who perform abortions do not wear bulletproof vests, nor are they ostracized by their communities and shunned by other doctors. The whole climate of fear that makes many doctors reluctant to perform abortions and makes some women postpone going to the clinic does not exist.
OK, Kevin Williamson, I do want something like that. But that is not what you want: you want gibbets installed in every town with those wanton women who didn’t want a baby hanging from them.
No one is fooled. Except, apparently, the editors at the Washington Post who were happy to let a vicious troll lie openly on their pages.