Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Demonstrators gather at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas, following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022 (AP) Demonstrators gather at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas, following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022 (AP)

Demonstrators gather at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas, following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. June 24, 2022 (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 25, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • Donald Trump-supporting Republican lawmakers in some states have introduced legislation that would criminally punish women for having abortions. Some measures would subject these women to homicide charges.

  • Other Republican efforts aim to avoid criminalizing women. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., specifically exempted women from prosecution in a bill that calls for a federal abortion ban.

Beseeching Americans to vote Democratic, California Rep. Eric Swalwell used a provocative ad on abortion to attack Make America Great Again Republicans, those who have an allegiance to former President Donald Trump.

Swalwell, who ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced the digital ad with a tweet that made this claim:

"MAGA Republicans want women arrested for having an abortion."

The 90-second video, titled "Lock Her Up," depicts a dystopian scene. A woman, man and two young children are having a peaceful dinner at home when they see flashing lights and hear a knock at their front door. The woman answers and two male police officers arrest her as the children and the man look on. 

The officers tell the woman she’s being arrested for "unlawful termination of a pregnancy." One officer tells her that her doctor is in custody and that she will have to undergo a physical examination. The officers draw handguns on the man when he objects and moves toward them. 

"We’re just enforcing the law here," one officer says while handcuffing the woman and putting her into a squad car.

The ad then pivots to a get-out-the-vote message: "Elections have consequences," a narrator says. "Vote Democrat on November 8th. Stop Republicans from criminalizing abortion everywhere. Protect women’s rights and freedom."

The meaning of MAGA — Trump’s trademark Make America Great Again 2016 campaign slogan — is subject to interpretation. At the least, MAGA Republicans are supporters of Trump. But with a claim this sweeping, it’s difficult to quantify who might qualify as being in this category and who does not. Nor can we pinpoint what all the folks in this category "want." 

But we can provide context about what some Republicans who support Trump have said and done with regard to this issue.

A legal expert and abortion-rights supporters told PolitiFact that there are no current federal or state laws or pending legislation to arrest women for obtaining an abortion, but that they expect such legislative proposals to be forthcoming.

Some Republican state lawmakers have already proposed such laws. And existing laws in some states are vague about whether women could be arrested for getting illegal abortions, potentially giving discretion to local officials.

The movement to criminalize abortion "is not the mainstream yet, but it’s also not irrelevant in the way it was a few years ago," said University of California, Davis law professor Mary Ziegler, an abortion historian. Its supporters "are not running the show yet, but they have a seat at the table in a way that they didn’t have a little while ago."

Swalwell hasn’t laid out evidence

Emails to Swalwell’s campaign and emails and a call to his House office yielded no responses.

In an MSNBC interview about his ad, Swalwell, who is heavily favored to win re-election to a sixth term, said: "As a former prosecutor, when I looked at the Republicans’ abortion laws, criminalizing abortion, mandating pregnancy, I thought through, well, what is this going to look like as it plays out across America, and it’s that scene right there."

T.W. Arrighi, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told PolitiFact that Swalwell’s statement is "blatantly false." He didn’t provide information to rebut the claim.

Trump and a Trump-endorsed candidate statements

Trump, while campaigning for president in 2016, said at a Wisconsin town hall that women should face "some form of punishment" for having an abortion. The next day, his campaign said Trump meant that if abortion were outlawed, doctors who perform abortions should be punished.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for the open governor’s seat in that swing state, said during the primary campaign that he wants to end abortion completely and doesn’t support exceptions to allow abortion under certain circumstances, such as rape or incest.

In September, news reports revealed that Mastriano said in 2019 that women should be charged with murder if they violated legislation he proposed at the time that would have outlawed abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy. 

Some Republican efforts avoid criminalizing women

In May, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a memo highlighting opinion poll research on abortion. It advised Republicans to show compassion for pregnant women. The committee, chaired by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., wrote that Republicans don’t want to throw women in jail and "mothers should be held harmless under the law."

Scott was one of seven senators who challenged the Electoral College results that showed Joe Biden defeated Trump in 2020, but Scott has since stated that he believes Biden was legitimately elected.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in September introduced legislation that would federally ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measure included criminal penalties of up to five years imprisonment for abortion providers, but it also said, "a woman upon whom an abortion … is performed or attempted may not be prosecuted."

Graham has called Trump "the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party" in 2016, but later became a staunch Trump ally

Vague existing laws

Some states that have banned abortion have laws that explicitly say women who have abortions are not to be arrested or prosecuted; others don’t. 

For example, what is known as Georgia’s "heartbeat" law does not prohibit investigations of women who get illegal abortions. So some legal experts believe women could be investigated if there are questions about whether their pregnancies ended in a miscarriage or an illegal abortion. That leaves open the possibility of local law enforcement officers or prosecutors having discretion to investigate women, Ziegler, the law professor, said.

GOP sponsors of the 2019 Georgia measure included Trump-supporting state Reps. Josh Bonner, Micah Gravley and Ginny Ehrhart.

Bills from Trump allies proposed criminalizing women

Some Trump-supporting Republican state lawmakers have introduced measures that, if they had become law, would have  subjected women to criminal penalties. 

Some examples:

In 2021, Texas state Rep. Bryan Slaton introduced a bill that would have criminalized abortion as homicide, punishable by death, for women who have abortions. Slaton, who introduced legislation to finish a portion of a Texas-Mexico border wall and name it after Trump, has pledged to reintroduce the abortion bill. 

In the same year in Arizona, 10 state representatives introduced a bill to do the same thing. Among the lawmakers sponsoring the Arizona bill were Trump-supporting state Reps. Walt Blackman and Shawnna Bolick. Bolick said she would not have certified Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump in Arizona.

In March 2022, Trump supporter and Louisiana state Rep. Danny McCormick introduced a bill that would have subjected Louisiana women to murder charges for having abortions. 

In January 2021, McCormick signed a letter asking Louisiana's Republican congressmen to reject Biden's electors from six swing states.

RELATED: What is a MAGA Republican?

RELATED: Seizing on abortion, Democrats claim Republicans back no-exceptions bans. That isn’t true for all

RELATED: Fact-checking ads in the 2022 campaigns

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

YouTube, Eric Swalwell "Lock Her Up" ad, Oct. 17, 2022

Twitter, Eric Swalwell tweet, Oct. 17, 2022

MSNBC, "Rep. Eric Swalwell premieres ad ‘Lock Her Up’ on what's at stake as abortion bans are enforced," Oct. 17, 2022 

Interview, Mary Ziegler, University of California, Davis, law professor and historian on abortion, Oct. 20, 2022 

Email, Isabel Guarnieri, spokesperson, Guttmacher Institute, Oct. 20, 2022

NBC News, "In 2019, Doug Mastriano said women who violated proposed abortion ban should be charged with murder," Sept. 27, 2022 

New York Times, "Mastriano Said in 2019 That His Bill Would Treat Abortions as Murder," Sept. 27, 2022

New York Times, "Inside the Extreme Effort to Punish Women for Abortion," July 1, 2022

T.W. Arrighi, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Oct. 20, 2022, "Self-Care, Criminalized: August 2022 Preliminary Findings," accessed Oct. 20, 2022

The Blaze, "Police draw guns while arresting mother for abortion in front of her family in Democrat's new scaremongering campaign ad: Watch the video," Oct. 18, 2022, "Bay Area congressman releases ad portraying world where women get arrested for having an abortion," Oct. 18, 2022

PBS Newshour, "Arizona lawmakers renew push to criminalize abortions in latest challenge to Roe v. Wade," Feb. 3, 2021

New York Post, "Rep. Eric Swalwell ripped for ‘despicable’ ad showing woman arrested for abortion," Oct. 18, 2022

PolitiFact, "Headline about Texas lawmaker’s anti-abortion bill was from 2021," June 28, 2022

PolitiFact, "In Context: Transcript of Donald Trump on punishing women for abortion," March 30, 2016

PolitiFact, "What is a MAGA Republican?", Sept. 21, 2022

PolitiFact, Do Republicans want to throw doctors who break abortion laws in jail? Their plans say yes, May 5, 2022

Associated Press, "No more murder charge for women in Louisiana abortion bill," May 12, 2022

New York Magazine, "Do Republicans Really Want to Punish Women for Having Abortions?", Sept. 29, 2022

YouTube, DCCCVideo "Dangerous" ad, Oct 19, 2022

YouTube, Priorities USA "Abortion Ban" ad, Oct 14, 2022

Email, Abby Ledoux, spokesperson, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Oct. 20, 2022

Email, Kelly Krause, spokesperson, Center for Reproductive Rights, Oct. 20, 2022

Twitter, Jenna Ellis tweet, Sept. 27, 2022

Philadelphia Inquirer, "Doug Mastriano said in 2019 that women who violate an abortion ban should be charged with murder," Sept. 28, 2022

Facebook, Ginny Ehrhart post, July 10, 2018

The Citizen, "Diverse Trump supporters rally in Fayetteville," Aug. 2, 2020

YouTube, "Micah Gravley on Donald Trump Full Speech," Sept. 21, 2016

The Texan, "Texas Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Finish Trump’s Border Wall Using State Funds," March 4, 2021

Twitter, Walt Blackman tweet, Nov. 30, 2020

New York Times, "Trump-Backed Conspiracy Theorist Vies to Take Over Arizona Elections," Aug. 1, 2022

Facebook, "March For Trump - Monroe, LA" post, accessed Oct. 22, 20222

The Courier, "Two dozen GOP lawmakers from Louisiana back Trump's election fraud claims, asking congressmen to intervene," published Jan. 1, 2021; updated Jan. 5, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Ad Watch: Do ‘MAGA Republicans want women arrested for abortion'? A few do, but not all