An Idaho Republican lieutenant governor candidate says people who get abortions should be punished if Idaho ever makes the procedure illegal.
“I have always been a pro-life supporter. That means classifying abortion as murder. Since abortion is murder, I believe we should consider penalties for individuals involved in these procedures,” said Bob Nonini, a current state senator, in a statement on Facebook. “There is no way a woman would go to jail let alone face the death penalty. The statute alone, the threat of prosecution, would dramatically reduce abortion. That is my goal.”
He wrote the post after backlash about comments he made supporting the death penalty for people seeking abortions. During a candidate forum hosted by the conservative Christian podcast CrossPolitic on Monday, Nonini said that “anyone who has an abortion should pay,” according to the Associated Press, and then nodded in agreement when moderators asked if he supported the death penalty as punishment. The Associated Press then confirmed the position with him in a phone interview.
Nonini is now arguing that no one in Idaho will be prosecuted for undergoing an abortion and that the primary goal of re-criminalizing the medical procedure is simply to deter people. But this likely won’t work. Abortion rates are similar in countries where the procedure is outlawed and where it is not, according to a comprehensive global report from the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute.
“It is my understanding that in the history of the United States, long before [Roe v. Wade] was foisted upon this country; no woman has ever been prosecuted for undergoing abortion,” Nonini wrote in an attempt to clarify his views. “That is for practical reasons, as well as for reasons of compassion.”
Conservatives in Idaho have tried to criminalize the procedure. A 2011 ban tried to make abortion after 20 weeks a felony, but a federal court permanently blocked it. And Abolish Abortion Idaho is trying to gather enough signatures to add a ballot initiative in November that would charge abortion providers and pregnant persons with first-degree murder.
If calls for punishing people that get abortions sounds familiar it’s because the president made similar comments during the campaign. At a town-hall-style forum with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in March 2016, Donald Trump said people who get abortion should be subject to “some form of punishment.” He later walked back the comments in a statement. If abortion was outlawed, Trump said in a statement, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
Five Republicans in Idaho are running in the May primary election after the incumbent-lieutenant governor announced he was running for governor.