Are you wondering how to approach this tough topic? Check out the first blog post in this series on kindness!
I hear this statement all the time, "I’m against abortion, unless she was raped.” Usually this pronouncement is met with murmured agreement. Of course, abortion is a terrible thing. But, in certain circumstances we‘re OK with it. Why? Well, rape is a horrifying violation. A woman who has been through it shouldn’t have to put her life at risk to carry a child she never wanted and didn't invite, right?
Further, we don’t want to look like jerks. If you say you’re pro-life without exceptions you’ll be jumped on by not only pro-choice people but your fellow pro-lifers. What kind of monster expects a rape victim to carry her rapist's baby? She’ll only be reminded of her trauma and be forced to relive it each day. Not only that, but what about the baby? How will she mother a child that was conceived in violence? Perhaps it’s better for everyone involved if she has a quick abortion and can get on with her life.
Before we arrive at that all-too-common solution, let’s take a closer look.
First, what is rape? Typically when we think of rape we think of a young woman walking alone, a man attacks her out of nowhere, forces her to have sex with him, and then leaves her. The reality is that, while the situation I’ve described is certainly rape, it isn’t the only way that it can happen.
My definition of rape is anytime sex occurs but one party, and usually it's the woman, is unable or unwilling to consent to it. If she is unable to consent it could be because she is too young to consent. Any woman under the age of thirteen (in Pennsylvania) is unable to consent to sex. If she is thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen, she is only able to consent if her partner is within four years of her in age. These laws prevent older men from taking advantage of young women. In Pennsylvania any girl who is under thirteen, or too young for her partner, is technically unable to consent to sex. Therefore, even if she is willing, this is rape.
Another woman may be unable to give consent because she is using, or has been given, mind alerting substances. What if she took those substances willingly? Shouldn’t she know better? Ssome may say, "She’s putting herself in a situation where she could end up in trouble so that shouldn’t count!" That is a slippery slope, my friends. What if she lived where the party was happening, planned to avoid it, but was slipped something when she came down to get a glass of water? What if she routinely gets high with a group of friends and they invited someone new who decided to take advantage of her in a vulnerable state? Another woman who may not be able to give consent is someone who is being held against her will or has been told she or a loved one will lose their housing, food, or even their life if she doesn’t comply.
If you're pro-life except for rape, do you believe that all of these women should be able to choose abortion if they become pregnant?
Then, there are women who are able to give consent but choose not to. They’re of legal age, in their right mind, and not facing the loss of basic needs or under some sort of threat. Maybe some of them fall into our framework of walking alone and getting attacked. Others may be consenting to "fooling around" but don't want to go all the way. Still others may indicate that they're willing to engage in sex but then change their minds. Often, in these scenarios, the pro-life person will want to pick and choose when abortion is alright and when it isn't. We see women who consent to some physical activity as inviting more. Or, we think that if a woman initially said she was alright with sex she can't change her mind.
Further, realize that rape often goes unreported. According to RAINN, out of 1,000 rapes only 230 will be reported. That means that if a woman in the 770 unreported instances finds herself pregnant, what is she supposed to do? Is abortion OK if she says she was raped after the fact?
Many would say no, absolutely not. She has to "prove" that she was raped.
Are you starting to see the problem?
Before we look at the baby, let's look at a mother who has just been raped. What is going through her head? Maybe she feels ashamed, like she invited the rape somehow. Maybe, and especially if she was drugged, she doesn't quite remember what happened. Whether or not she goes to the police, she finds herself pregnant.
Now, imagine that she has heard her whole life that we need abortion when women have been raped. What message is that sending her? It's telling her that we want nothing to do with her or her child. We, as a society, want her to have an abortion and move on.
Does that sound crazy? It isn't. I have talked to women who become pregnant through rape. They're often terrified their baby will be rejected by society. Or, they believe that nobody would ever want them after they've been through such a terrible experience. So, what are we doing when we constantly harp on abortion in cases of rape? We're further dehumanizing the survivor of rape. Instead of loving her, and her baby, and helping her find beauty in a terrible situation, we tell her to run to the abortionist and add more trauma to what she has already experienced.
Not only does this attitude harm the mother, it can allow abuse to continue. Abortion covers up the evidence that a young girl has been abused and mishandled. Instead of the baby protecting his/her mother by identifying the rapist, the abortion clinic destroys the child and sends the mother (another child) back to her abuser. The cycle continues.
What about the baby?
Something else that we do when we say abortion is permissible in cases of rape is dehumanize the child. Instead of seeing the child as a second victim, we punish them as though they are a perpetrator. Their crime? Finding a home in a womb that didn't invite them. Their punishment?
An unborn child is not more or less human regardless of their conception. A child conceived outside the womb (in vitro) is just as human as a child conceived within the womb. A child conceived in fear and violence is just as human as a child conceived in love.
Will a child conceived through rape have challenges? Possibly. They may have medical conditions that are unknown if their parentage is unknown. They may struggle once they find out how they were conceived. That doesn't mean they don't deserve to live their lives. A child conceived in rape needs us to protect them.
There are many stories of children conceived in rape who were born and have become incredible human beings. Pam Stenzel, Rebecca Kiessling, and Ryan Bomberger are always the first ones that come to my mind. You know what? Even if a child conceived in rape doesn't become an incredible person they still deserve to live. They were created in God's image, and that means something.
However, while many women who have been raped would feel further victimized by an abortion, some may not. Is abortion alright then? Certainly, it isn't fair to the child, but is it right for us to condemn the mother to nine months of pregnancy and then labor and delivery? She will be risking her life for a child she doesn't want!
Unfortunately, life is full of terrible, horrible things. One of those things, rape, is not undone or made better by adding another, abortion. Is it hard on a woman to carry a child that she doesn't want? Yes. Will it be difficult and distressing for some women to experience pregnancy as a result of rape? Yes.
Does that make abortion OK? No, it doesn't. It is not acceptable to sacrifice the life of one person to benefit another. Even if the mother is facing incredible inconvenience, that doesn't make abortion a good solution.
So, what do we do? Instead of offering a rape survivor abortion, let's offer them hope. Instead of sending them to an abortion clinic and expecting them to "get over it," let's offer them help as they recover. Women who have been traumatized by rape, whether or not they become pregnant, need believers to surround them, love them, and walk with them for as long as it takes. What about the rapist? He should be punished, and he should not be allowed a say in his child's life, the mother and the child need to be assured they will be safe from him or others who may attempt to harm them.
A rape survivor may choose adoption, and that's OK. Whether or not she chooses to make an adoption plan for her child, she needs our love and support. If she chooses to parent, she will need men in her life that can be a role model for her child. If she chooses adoption, she needs encouragement and support.
Abortion doesn't help the mother or the child. All it does is shove a terrible situation under the rug so the rest of us can pretend it never happened.