Is being pro-life and pro-death penalty contradictory?

Bryan Woolston / Reuters

Fact Box

  • According to an April 2021 Pew Research survey, 60% of American adults favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder, however, 78% believe there is “risk that an innocent person will be put to death.” 
  • Statista reported that 49% of voters considered themselves pro-choice, while 47% were pro-life based on a 2021 poll. The stats on pro-lifers changed just one percent from 2015, while the numbers for pro-choice lowered 2% on the same timeline. 
  • Abortion was legalized nationwide following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Since then, there have been roughly 62 million US abortions.
  • Between 1976 and 2021, there have been 1,533 executions in the US.

Noah (No)

It is in no way contradictory to be both pro-life and pro-death-penalty as both stances are concerned with justice. Being pro-life means opposing abortion—the intentional destruction of a baby in the womb—at every stage. This includes all abortion procedures as each one is uniquely horrific and unjust: Medical abortion through pills blocks progesterone so the mother's uterine lining dissolves, cutting off blood and nourishment to the baby. First-trimester suction and aspiration vacuum sucks the baby from the womb. Second-trimester dilation and extraction uses a clamp with sharp 'teeth' to remove the baby piece by piece, grasping at 'intestines, spine, heart, lungs, and any other limbs or body parts.' Third-trimester induction requires a large needle to inject digoxin or potassium chloride directly into the baby's heart, torso, or head so the woman delivers her baby dead days later. Being pro-life means opposing these violent and painful executions of innocent children and instead championing the child's essential right to life

Those who are pro-death-penalty favor justice when someone commits a capital offense in which they willingly premeditated murder, aggravated assault, torture, etc., resulting in the killing of another person or multiple victims. When these criminals are sentenced, they will have gone through due process of being convicted by a jury of peers. Pitting these two ideas together is not a fair comparison, as those who commit serious crimes that harm or kill others deserve justice for their crimes. In contrast, vulnerable babies in the womb have committed no crimes apart from not being wanted for whatever reason by their mother and do not deserve the death penalty. Killing innocent life just because of where they reside or because their value has been reduced to whether they are wanted or not is a grave injustice. Executing convicted murderers is not. 

Tyler (Yes)

Supporting 'death' in the instance of criminal capital punishment but not in the case of a woman exercising her right to choose is an inconsistent position for pro-lifers to take since, by those standards, a life is being lost in either case. While instances vary on a case-by-case basis, there are plenty of times when a woman decides to have an abortion for her own health or because she did not consent to having the intercourse that led to the pregnancy. Approximately 700 women die during pregnancy per year in the United States. If a woman did not plan on having a baby and did not consent to get pregnant, she should not be subject to this danger. While adoption may seem like a viable option, there are thousands of children already in foster care, as that realm is becoming increasingly overcrowded.

Rather than address the fact that parents may not be suited to have these children, many ill-equipped parents or single mothers raise their unwanted children irresponsibly, possibly leading these kids to take to a life of crime and victimization, which can lead them to the death penalty anyway. Rather than take action when there is still time, it seems like some in the US would rather just move the goalposts for when a person can be killed—after they allegedly commit heinous crimes.

Leaving somebody's livelihood up to a jury while not trusting a mother's judgment about her own body is quite inconsistent. If a group of people who have little connection to somebody can determine their future, a pregnant woman should also be able to determine her own.

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