[Today's post is the second in a point-counterpoint debate. See the previous post for an argument in defense of the rape exception.]
Is abortion justified to ease the suffering of a rape victim? Consider the following scenario:
A married woman and her husband make love in hopes of conceiving a child. A few days later she is brutally raped, only to soon discover that she is pregnant. With great difficulty she struggles through the pregnancy, trying to get over the trauma of the rape while hoping that the child she is carrying is the child she and her husband conceived in love.
The child is born. His racial traits makes it obvious that the child she is nursing is the rapist’s offspring and not her husband‘s child. Every time she looks into her son’s eyes she sees her rapist looking back at her and is reminded of the trauma she endured.
Is the woman in this fictitious scenario justified in ending her newborn son’s life in order to erase the ongoing reminder of the rape she endured? Most people would say no. And why? Because hardship doesn’t justify homicide. As a civil society we don’t kill human beings who remind us vividly of a traumatic experience.
That is why it is inconsistent of pro-lifers to make an exception for abortion in cases of rape. If we are pro-life because we believe the testimony of science that life begins at fertilization, then a child conceived in rape is no less a human being. If we will not justify the death of a born child whose father is a rapist and whose presence is causing his mother pain and suffering, then neither ought we justify the death of a younger and less developed child conceived in rape.
Making an exception for rape sends the message that while it is wrong to kill a pre-born human being if a pregnant woman’s struggles involve concerns like financial hardship, family disruption, social isolation and shame, an apparently greater hardship does justify the child’s death. Pro-lifers discredit their claim that abortion is wrong because it kills a human being, when they make allowances for any case other than to save the immediate life of the mother. Hardship does not justify homicide even when that hardship is extremely hard.
Bodily Rights and Unplugging the Violinist
Judith Jarvis Thompson’s Unplugging the Violinist argues in favour of bodily rights, and ever more so when a pregnancy is the result of rape and not the natural consequence of one’s own choices. Thompson argues that a child conceived in rape is like a famous violinist who hooks himself up to a woman’s kidneys without her consent and makes her life miserable for 9 months. A woman is justified in unplugging the violinist from having the support of her body, she argues, because she did not consent to such a bodily sacrifice.
Thomspon’s argument is flawed on several grounds, including the following:
1. Unlike the violinist who is a stranger, a woman’s prenatal offspring is biologically her flesh and blood, even if the father is an evil man. Thompson’s argument assumes the humanity of the unborn and consequently must grant that women have a basic obligation to their human offspring - at least to such a degree that they cause no direct harm and provide basic care for them until such a time as care of an unwanted child can be transferred to another party.
2. A pre-born child is not a rapist, nor is he enslaving the woman for his own gain. Pregnancy is a natural phenomenon in which an innocent bystander is invited into existence by the body’s natural functions. This is a far cry from a violinist maliciously kidnapping a woman and unnaturally attaching himself to her body.
3. An abortion does more than simply deny access to one’s resources. Abortion actively dismembers a human being and kills them. If the pre-born child is indeed a human being, “unplugging” him or her is not a mere passive act of independence and denying of resources, but the active infliction of death.
Death Penalty for the Wrong Party?
Rape is a horrendous and terrible crime and it is wrong because it violates the body of an innocent human being. Rapists should certainly receive the greatest penalty permissible under the law. But if we don’t even give the death penalty to the rapist, why do we justify the death penalty for an equally innocent bystander whose only crime is to have an evil and terrible man for a father?
Rebecca Kiessling’s mother was brutally attacked at knife-point by a serial rapist, and Rebecca was conceived as a result of this rape. Rebecca says:
"Please understand that whenever you identify yourself as being “pro-choice,” or whenever you make that exception for rape, what that really translates into is you being able to stand before me, look me in the eye, and say to me, 'I think your mother should have been able to abort you.' That’s a pretty powerful statement. I would never say anything like that to someone. I would say never to someone, “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now." ...This is the ruthless reality of that position, and I can tell you that it hurts and it’s mean."
Rebecca and others conceived in rape dispel the myth of the rape-child being a horrible monster, and they help put a face to the second victim in a rape resulting in pregnancy.
Does Abortion Help Rape Victims?
A woman’s bodily integrity was violated when she was raped. An abortion will not 'unrape' her or undo the rape in any way, nor is it likely to make her forget that she was raped. Instead, an abortion turns a rape victim into a victimizer. Having been wrongly violated she turns around and destroys the body of an equally innocent party and bystander in the rape.
"I felt that the abortion was like being raped again," said Nicole W. Cooley in her book Into the Light: Rape, Abortion and the Truth that Set Me Free. "Only this time, it was much worse because I had consented to the assault."
David C Reardon interviewed more than 200 women who became pregnant as a result of rape for his book Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault Of those who chose to give birth to their child, nearly all of them felt it was the right thing to do, and many felt that having had something good out of their terrible ordeal helped them to find healing and meaning for what had been done to them. Conversely, more than 80% of those who chose to abort felt that the abortion had only compounded their pain, exposed their bodies to further invasion, and led others to dismiss their need for comfort and support.
"I deeply regret having put my innocent little baby through such torture and painful mutilation, letting her be cut up into pieces while still alive with a beating heart," said Irene van der Wende after she witnessed a video of a 12 week abortion. "Killing an innocent baby is never right, even after rape. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The father harmed me, but I harmed the baby. The baby didn’t do anything wrong. The baby is a third person. I could have grown to love her, or [had] her adopted in a loving family. A baby should not carry the burden of the sin of the parent and be killed for it."
In conclusion, rape is wrong because it violates an innocent human being, and abortion is wrong because it kills an innocent human being. Abortion hurts many women and adds a new trauma and sorrow to their lives and therefore women who become pregnant from rape deserve so much more than the wound of an abortion multiplied unto their current pain. Women who are raped need the utmost care and support, whether or not they are pregnant. In a case of pregnancy, both the woman and her child are equally innocent victims of the rapist, and we have a moral obligation to do everything that we can to help both of them, without taking an innocent life.