Society & Culture

The “Punishment” of Women

Questions concerning the relationship between morality and law were reignited when, during the Republican primary campaign, Donald Trump commented on the matter of abortion and (implicitly) women’s rights.  When pressed by a journalist, Trump stated that, yes, women should be “punished” if their behavior is illegal or contrary to prevailing community standards.  Though abortion is currently legal in the United States, there is no public consensus on this highly contentious issue.  While the general trend of public opinion has favored the pro-life position from 1995 to 2009, polls indicate that support for either camp has been highly volatile since then.  Understandably, elite opinion is rattled by any talk that could lead to a reappraisal of the status quo.  This “settled question of law” may turn out to be somewhat less settled than some might wish to believe, and Trump’s rhetoric—whether or not it is sincere (a reasonable question on its own)—only fuels leftist fear of reaction against its decades-long hegemony over social policy.

Rather than evidencing any “misogynist” attitude on his part, Trump’s response in fact illustrated a commitment to a logical process of arguing from the axiom that any breach of accepted norms should naturally attract some form of societal reprisal.  His response was nevertheless described as the campaign’s...

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