If Roe V. Wade Were Overturned, Would Women And Doctors Be Punished?

If Roe V. Wade Were Overturned, Would Women And Doctors Be Punished?
Anti-abortion rights activists don't always agree on what the punishment for violating a potential abortion ban would be.

Anti-abortion rights activists have generally agreed that women who undergo the procedure should not be punished. But the issue is coming into renewed focus as some states are considering new legislation to place curbs on abortion — or even ban it altogether.

A bill proposed in Ohio's House of Representatives would outlaw abortions entirely and redefine the term fetus as an "unborn person," which could potentially lead to criminal charges — and possibly life in prison and the death penalty — for women who seek them and doctors that administer them. However, those in the mainstream anti-abortion movement say the focus of the punishment should be solely on those providing the abortions.

"We believe that pro-life legislation should be aimed at protecting the baby, protecting the mother and punishing the abortionist," said Matt Lamb, director of communications at Students for Life of America. 

The issue came up during the 2016 campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump suggested women should be subject to "some form of punishment" for getting abortions if the procedure is ever banned. 

After Trump's comment, anti-abortion groups quickly condemned it. In a statement, National Right to Life wrote the organization "has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed." However, the group added, "penalties should be imposed against any abortionist who would take the life of an unborn child in defiance of statutes prohibiting abortions." 

But not all members of the community are united on how to approach abortion providers.

"I believe there should be an opportunity for everyone to have an awakening, a change in perspective, a paradigm shift," said anti-abortion activist Alveda King. "And when they do, that should be accepted and just be the end of it."

And there is still plenty of gray area when it comes to legislating abortions. As far as the Ohio bill goes, it's unclear what would happen to women who self-induce an abortion or women that are coerced into getting abortions by abusive partners. So far, the co-sponsors have not addressed those questions.

New laws, like the bill being considered in Ohio, could ultimately lead to legal challenges to Roe v. Wade. And abortion rights groups have expressed fear that it could be overturned following the confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices appointed by President Trump.

Currently, four states — Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, and South Dakota — have statues in place that would ban abortions if the decision were reversed.