Al Mohler stirs debate on abortion abolition, whether women should be prosecuted

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, speaks at the Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit in Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 14, 2022.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, speaks at the Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit in Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 14, 2022. | YouTube/Family Research Council

Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of “The Briefing” podcast, recently contended thatsome women who had an abortion should be criminally punished.

In a March 15 episode of “The Briefing,” Mohler was asked for his thoughts on the abortion abolitionist movement, which, in contrast to the mainstream pro-life movement, believes that abortion should be banned in all circumstances and women seeking one should face some form of criminal prosecution.

Mohler said he felt “the abolitionist movement, when it comes to abortion, has made some arguments, and some I think are frankly more urgent than others and more credible than others.”

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Regarding the specific issue of culpability for the pregnant woman seeking abortion, Mohler said it was “an embarrassing shortfall on the part of many who call themselves pro-life” to “exempt women seeking abortions from any moral accountability.”

“I think there is varying moral accountability. I think a woman who’s coerced by a man into an abortion has far less moral culpability than a woman who brags about her abortion and celebrates it as a matter of personal autonomy and tweets about it,” Mohler stated.

“And this is where, by the way, the law knows how to make distinctions. The law makes distinctions between manslaughter, and between murder and first-degree murder and premeditated murder, all kinds of things. In other words, there are distinctions made in the law.”

Mohler went on to say he believes “the categorical statement that women are just victims when they seek an abortion, that’s just not morally credible.”

“That’s just not morally honest, especially in a day in which so many women, particularly in the activist community, they are actually bragging about their abortions,” he added.

“I think it’s morally insane to suggest that there is no moral culpability there, nor that the law should not recognize that with some form of criminal sanction. I think that’s just clear.”

Karen Swallow Prior, an Evangelical author and academic, wrote an opinion piece published by Religion News Service on Monday critiquing Mohler’s support for criminal punishments.  

“Where suicide (once called self-murder) is against the law, those who attempt it and fail are not tried, imprisoned or executed but are offered help and assistance. The same principle is applied in all cases of self-harm and self-mutilation,” wrote Prior.

“While the child carried by a pregnant woman is a complete, whole, individual human being, that being is connected to her body. This is a physical and biological reality. It means that the child cannot be helped or protected without supporting the mother, too.”

Prior went on to label abortion as “a failure not just of individuals but also of the village,” and said that punishing the woman for it “reinforces the idea that she is a radically autonomous being acting on her own apart from the formation of culture and her culture’s norms and laws.”

“This view stands starkly against the teaching of the Bible, from the Hebrew Scriptures through the New Testament,” she asserted.

“When societies come to grips with those wrongs and seek redress, prevention and accountability through new laws, they must do so while balancing the interests of mercy and justice and those of social order and individual responsibility.”

Megan Basham, an author and reporter with The Daily Wire, tweeted a dissent to Prior’s rebuttal, labeling it the “typical evangelical establishment word salad attempting obfuscate the fact that women know when they are perpetrating an evil act, such as killing their children.”

“You cannot advocate for women as moral equals of men and then say they’re unable to know what they do because of the ‘social imaginary,’” Basham argued.

In 2016, then-Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump garnered controversy when MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked him at a Town Hall if women who have abortions should be punished and he said there should be some form of punishment for the woman who has an abortion.

Shortly after making the comments in response to the Q&A, Trump released a statement clarifying that he did not, in fact, support passing a law that would punish a woman for having an abortion.

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins released a statement saying that Trump's opinions on who should be punished shows he "is ill informed in this vital issue."

"The pro-life movement values both mother and child and seeks to uphold the dignity of both by seeking to protect both from the damage of abortion and the predatory abortion industry," Perkins stated at the time.

"While Trump has since 'clarified' his position on punishing women, his statements suggest he should spend more time with pro-life conservatives to gain a better appreciation of what their goals and objectives really are."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, likewise criticized Trump’s initial comments, saying in a statement released at the time that her organization has "never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion."

"As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion — the destruction of an innocent human life — which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth," said Dannenfelser in 2016. "But let us be clear: punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”

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