CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Kalmanson on Capital Punishment for Abortion

Melanie Kalmanson has posted Death After Dobbs: Addressing the Viability of Capital Punishment for Abortion on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Pre-Dobbs legislative efforts and states’ reactions in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs indicate the post-Dobbs reality that extreme conservative states will seek to criminalize abortion and impose extreme sentences for such crimes, up to and including death. This Article addresses that reality. Initially, this Article illustrates that abortion and capital punishment are like opposite sides of the same coin, and it is a handful of states leading the counter majoritarian efforts on both topics. After outlining the position of each state in the nation that retains capital punishment on capital sentencing and abortion, the Article identifies the most extreme states on both issues, referenced as “Punitive States.”

Then, addressing the post-Dobbs reality that Punitive States could attempt to punish abortion by death, this Article shows that the current capital sentencing framework used across the country is incompatible with abortion offenses. The aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, if applied to abortion offenses, would not serve their constitutional purposes. Therefore, this Article argues, capital sentences imposed under the current framework for abortion offenses would stand in violation of the Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Further, this Article argues that attempts to write abortion-specific capital sentencing proceedings would prove to be acts in futility. Thus, the Article ultimately concludes that death is not a viable punishment for abortion.

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