Abortion and the death penalty: Is there a difference?
Abortion rights protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington following the decision to overturn Roe v Wade. (Photos: AP)

Dear Editor,

The US Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe v Wade ruling that stood for nearly 50 years has effectively ruled that women do not have a constitutional right to abort a child.

On the home front, the Director Of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has served notice that the death penalty will be sought for Rushane Barnett, the man alleged to have killed a mother and her four children.

Both incidents have ignited national reactions. The former has led to nationwide protests in the US, and the DPP’s declaration has sparked lively debates, especially within the legal fraternity.

One question brought to the fore is this: Can one be against abortion and support the death penalty? I argue that, philosophically, there are no real inconsistencies with holding a positive view of the death penalty and that abortion should, as much as possible, be prevented.

Paula Llewellyn

One important factor that must never be ignored is that both positions differ on the irrefutable fact that the child terminated in the womb can be imputed with innocence. Indeed, this position holds true in all cases of abortion. Consider, in moments of pure evil, that some women become impregnated by monsters posing as men, in cases of rape or incest, even then, for such heinous acts, the by-product that is the child is innocent.

I am actually aware that such a statement could be seen as insensitive, but the veracity of the claim of innocence stands. For many anti-abortionists, this fact remains a significant underpinning on which they conclude that abortion is immoral.

The adjudication of the court over a legal matter, one as serious as murder, significantly sets capital punishment apart by some distance from abortion. One sees the innocence of the accused being tried in the courts, the other, namely abortion, altogether ignores the “victim’s” innocence.

As the debate rages locally and abroad with different views being espoused, a central tenet of the legal profession is that one is innocent until proven guilty, that remains to be seen in the case of Rushane Barnett, but will no doubt be ventilated in the courts. No question of innocence arises, however, concerning the life of the unborn.

John Constantine Henry

Graduate student



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