Friday, July 03, 2009
Senator Behn, Mr. Vander Plaats: What should penalty for abortion be?
It's a line of a questioning most pro-life candidates don't like.
When I ask it, they often claim they never thought about it, that they don't answer hypotheticals.
That question: If your views prevail and abortion is made illegal, what should the penalty be for a woman who has an abortion and a doctor who provides one?
Should they be fined - like we do with speeders on our highways - or should they be strapped into an electric chair?
Misdemeanor or felony?
There's a big difference.
But pro-life candidates never talk about this.
"This may surprise you," Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats tells us. "I haven't thought through the whole 'what's the penalty piece of that.'"
That said, if abortion were made illegal, Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman who is strongly pro-life, thinks at the very least doctors should lose their licenses if they provide the procedure - if it is made illegal.
"I think for a doctor I would say he's violating the law and you take away his practice," Vander Plaats said.
And the woman who has an abortion? Should she be sent to prison or to death row?
Is having abortion a pre-meditated murder?
"It would have to be premeditated," he said.
But Vander Plaats didn't prescribe a punishment for the aborting mother.
"As far as the woman I really need to think that through," Vander Plaats said. "That's a very, very tough question."
If his side of the most divisive social issue in modern America carries the day, should the doctors be in Anamosa or Fort Madison, Iowa's two toughest prisons, for life if they do abortions?
"I think the first debate we need to have, I mean we as society need to have, is when does life begin," Vander Plaats said. "When is this life and why are we for the sanctity of human life?"
When pressed some more, Vander Plaats said that if legalized abortion is overturned, the state of Iowa would need to look at consequences and see if an aborting mother or abortionist is akin to the man who allegedly shot to death Ed Thomas, the beloved coach of the Aplington-Parkersburg football team.
Vander Plaats may find some pressure from his political right (if you can imagine that) on this issue.
One person who does have the stomach to talk about punishment in a Roe-revoked world is our former state senator, Jerry Behn, a Boone Republican who is considering running for governor.
In his two campaigns for the Senate here, Behn focused heavily on his passionate opposition to abortion. He stopped me after a Sac County Republican fundraiser last Saturday and recalled a previous interview we did in which Behn left no doubt about his views on punishment should abortion become illegal again.
He made it a point, with no prompting, to tell me that he stands by his remarks then - and would take the same position today.
In that earlier interview, Behn said he "hadn't really gone there in his mind either" when I asked him what penalties should be meted out for abortion.
But Behn, never one to dodge a question, quickly pointed out that "I frankly do believe it's murder."
In the case of the doctors who provide the abortion, Behn said, they are, in his mind, guilty of "premeditated murder."
"It's going to make it look like I'm a warmonger running around looking for doctors to execute," he said as the interview progressed.
But Behn said, "In principle it's the doctor I really get frustrated with. It is as premeditated and cold-blooded as you can get."
The Boone Republican said he'd stand by the statement that the doctor's action is murder.
"I'd be willing to have somebody make the argument that it isn't," he said.