Still it can't be forgotten that, already in law, not every criminal killing is murder. The law we have distinguishes between premeditated murder and, for example, negligent homicide. Surely there is room to make similar distinctions around abortion without compromising the basic premise that it always takes an innocent human life.
It is easy to see, invoking the Gosnell example, that aborting some babies is logically and medically indistinguishable from murder. But, likely more frequently are cases, especially involving early terminations by very young mothers, where abortion is more something done to women, rather than by them, and the instinct to treat mothers as the second victims of abortion is absolutely right.
Some, like Ross Douthat, have argued that abortion, even when acknowledged as the taking of innocent human life, is always sui generis. He, and many other pro-life advocates, consider that the situation of a pregnant woman is so unique that it demands its own legal approach, one which errs on the side of presuming in favor of the woman, even while bearing down upon the abortionist. I am sensitive to the instinct, which I share. And it is certainly essential to acknowledge that the damage done to so many women by abortion is far too traumatic, too soul-scarring, to give thought to legal penalties.
But getting back to the cold judicial reasoning of Williamson's argument, the logic of "abortion is homicide and should be treated as such under law", together with the instinctive emotional push back against the idea of "hanging" mothers who undergo abortions, isn't a case for being more steely-eyed about women who have abortions. Rather, it should remind all of us of the moral gravity of deploying the death penalty at all - even in clear cases of murder.
At an emotional level, I am comfortable with imposing the death penalty on the likes of Kermit Gosnell or the British child abductor and murderer Ian Huntley. I am rather less emotionally comfortable with the execution of all other murderers, sometimes for reasons I do not completely understand. But justice should never be about emotion, nor its imposition measured against our level of satisfaction versus squeamishness. In drawing a distinction between, say, Ian Huntley and a gang-land killer, am I not making the same, if inverted, determination as the abortion advocate: that one person is less deserving of life than another?
If one's opposition to abortion is rooted in a theological understanding of the sanctity of human life, rather than the more utilitarian motivations of humanism, the answer becomes even more obvious. An absolute commitment to the sanctity of human life is, at its core, a sign of respect for the image of God the creator in His creation.