“How can you deny an abortion to a twelve-year-old girl who is the victim of incest?” complains an indignant supporter of abortion. “And how can you call yourself a loving Christian if you would force a victim of violent rape to give birth to a rapist’s child?”
Every pro-lifer has heard these same challenges in one form or another. They are the emotionally charged questions designed to prove either 1) that pro-lifers are insensitive “fetus lovers,” 2) or ethically inconsistent, allowing abortion for some circumstances but not others.
Unfortunately, most pro-lifers have difficulty answering these challenges because the issue of sexual assault pregnancies is so widely misunderstood. Typically, both sides of the debate accept the presumption that women with sexual assault pregnancies would want an abortion and that the abortion would in some way help them to recover from the assault. Thus, the pro-lifer is left in the uncomfortable position of arguing that the sanctity of life is more important than the needs of the sexual assault victim with whom everyone should rightly sympathize.
But in fact, the welfare of the mother and child are never at odds, even in sexual assault cases. Both the mother and child are helped by preserving life, not by perpetuating violence.
The reason most people reach the wrong conclusion about abortion in cases of rape and incest is that the actual experiences of sexual assault victims who became pregnant are routinely left out of the debate. Most people, including sexual assault victims who have never been pregnant, are therefore forming opinions based on prejudices and fears which are disconnected from reality.
For example, it is commonly assumed that rape victims who become pregnant would naturally want abortions. But in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion. This evidence alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims.
Several reasons are given for not aborting. First, approximately 70 percent of all women believe abortion is immoral, even though many also feel it should be a legal choice for others. Approximately the same percentage of pregnant rape victims believe abortion would be just another act of violence perpetrated against their bodies and their children.
Second, some believe that their child’s life may have some intrinsic meaning or purpose which they do not yet understand. This child was brought into their lives by a horrible, repulsive act. But perhaps God, or fate, will use the child for some greater purpose. Good can come from evil.
Third, victims of assault often become introspective. Their sense of the value of life and respect for others is heightened. They have been victimized, and the thought that they in turn might victimize their own innocent child through abortion is repulsive.
Fourth, at least at a subconscious level, the victim may sense that if she can get through the pregnancy, she will have conquered the rape. By giving birth, she can reclaim some of her lost self-esteem. Giving birth, especially when conception was not desired, is a totally selfless act, a generous act, a display of courage, strength and honor. It is proof that she is better than the rapist. While he was selfish, she can be generous. While he was destroying, she can be nurturing.
If giving birth builds self respect, what about abortion? This is a question which most people fail to even consider. Instead, most people assume that an abortion will at least help a rape victim put the assault behind her and go on with her life. But in jumping to this conclusion, the public is adopting an unrealistic view of abortion.
Abortion is not some magical surgery which turns back time to make a woman “un-pregnant.” Instead, it is a real life event which is always very stressful and often traumatic. Once we accept that abortion is itself an event with ramifications on a woman’s life, then we must carefully look at the special circumstances of the pregnant rape victim. Will an abortion truly console her, or will it only cause further injury to her already bruised psyche?
I got into a debate with a pretty good friend about abortion the other day. She’s typically a pro-life gal, but she has adopted (no pun intended) the GOP’s ‘get out of a debate alive’ exception to the rule—that abortion is murder, unless it’s the fetus of a rape victim, then it’s just removal of lifeless tissue.
For some reason, she was completely dumbfounded that I don’t have exceptions to my pro-life stance. My argument is that I don’t need them.
As a former student at a medical college, I’ve taken the Hippocratic Oath in order to participate in clinicals. (Full disclosure: I quit that job in order to save America from idiotic ideas, much like this one.) Because of this, I know there is a “first do no harm” clause. So no, I don’t think doctors should have to let a mother die in order for their baby to live. I think that is up to the mother and her doctor—at least until Obamacare kicks in.
The mother is a patient of a particular doctor. It is that doctor’s job to be an advocate for their patient. I have the same opinion in the case of a young child who is a victim; if delivering a baby is going to do irreparable physical harm to that child, no I don’t think they should be forced to have it. They should be well aware of what that means, but it is that doctor’s job to ‘first do no harm.’ Not saving the life of a patient is first doing harm, and that’s against the oath.
Where I always get into trouble with my “politically correct” friends is in cases of rape. Yes, I am aware that the woman lost her choice in this situation. Most women know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, (I’m one who personally knows a sexual assault victim), so I’m not devoid of feelings here. However I don’t believe killing the baby is going to make the rape victim feel any better.
Let me cut to the chase here… if we can’t kill the rapist, why can we kill the baby? The baby is innocent. The rapist is a soulless loser who is going to get out of jail in 5 years, and in many cases will repeat the act. If I’m violently attacked, raped, and end up pregnant, killing my unborn child isn’t going to make me feel any less raped and isn’t going to bring me to peace. If my rapist was getting the death penalty… I’d at least feel safer.
I’m not saying rapists should get the death penalty. Granted… I’m not, not saying it either… What I am saying is, that being pro-life, except in the instance of rape, is one of the most illogical “exceptions” to a rule I’ve ever heard.
It’s like saying “This guy has been convicted to serve a sentence of ten years in jail for murdering your brother, but we’re going put his innocent daughter in the electric chair. Feel better?” Obviously that’s not going to make anyone feel better. In fact, I’d feel guilty for the innocent victim getting the death penalty.
I think an innocent baby is about the only positive, pure thing that can come from such a terrible situation. Is it ideal? Of course not. But whether that baby goes to a different home or stays with it’s mother, it is as innocent as the victim.
Critical thinking skills America…let’s use them.
The Elliot Institute’s survey of nearly 200 women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest – one of the only studies on sexual assault pregnancy ever done – found that:
Nearly 80 percent of the women who aborted a pregnancy conceived in sexual assault reported that abortion had been the wrong solution.
Most women who had abortions said that abortion only increased the trauma they had experienced.
None of the women who gave birth to a child conceived in sexual assault expressed regret or wished they had aborted instead.
Further, in many cases the victim faced strong pressure or demands to abort. This was especially true for victims of incest or ongoing sexual abuse. In almost case where the victim had an abortion, it was the girl’s parents or the perpetrator who made the decision and arrangements for the abortion, not the girl herself. These included cases where the perpetrator arranged for abortion in order to hide the situation and continue abusing the victim.
For example, in 2002 a judge found a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arizona negligent for failing to report a case in which a 13-year-old girl was impregnated and taken for an abortion by her 23-year-old foster brother. The abortion business did not notify authorities until the girl returned six months later for a second abortion. A lawsuit alleged that the girl was subjected to repeated abuse and a second abortion because Planned Parenthood failed to notify authorities when she had her first abortion. The girl’s foster brother was later imprisoned for abusing her.
Most of the women who shared their stories for the book said that abortion was not a helpful solution and that it only added to the trauma they had experienced.
And many said that their abortions were the result of pressure from those around them, or because they lacked support. In cases where incest or ongoing sexual abuse was involved, the decision to abort was often made by the perpetrator in order to cover up the abuse.
One woman, Edith, was impregnated by her stepfather at the age of 12. Her mother, who knew of the abuse, took her for an abortion that resulted in the delivery of a stillborn baby girl. Years later, Edith wrote:
Throughout the years I have been depressed, suicidal, furious, outraged, lonely, and have felt a sense of loss . . . The abortion which was to ‘be in my best interest’ just has not been. As far as I can tell, it only ‘saved their reputations,’ ‘solved their problems,’ and allowed their lives to go merrily on. … Problems are not ended by abortion, but only made worse.”
Another woman, Kathleen DeZeeuw, raised her son after experiencing a date rape as a teen, and wrote that she believed abortion advocates have exploited stories like hers:
“I having lived through rape, and also having raised a child “conceived in rape,” feel personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest. I feel that we’re being used to further the abortion issue, even though we’ve not been asked to tell our side of the story.”