[This post is the first in a point-counterpoint debate. See the argument against the rape exception here.]
|Art by R. Young|
Gallup, 59% of self-described pro-lifers believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape. This is a higher percentage than I expected. Anecdotally, it seems most pro-lifers I interact with believe there should be no rape exception. I’m glad to see that’s not the case, and that most pro-lifers share my view that restrictive abortion laws should have a rape exception.
In order to understand the following post, it would be helpful to first read this.
I consider bodily integrity the strongest pro-choice argument. Our society does not accept an infringement on bodily integrity in most circumstances, including when another person’s life is in danger. We don’t, for example, require all citizens to be organ donors, despite patients dying while waiting for transplants. I sometimes feel my fellow pro-lifers too easily dismiss this very serious consideration when discussing abortion.
Because of issues of consent and responsibility, I do not find the bodily integrity argument sufficient to justify most elective abortions. However, in cases of rape, issues of consent and responsibility do not apply. A rape victim does not consent to risking conception, and she does not cause the fetus’s dependent state. If abortion were illegal even in cases of rape, women in these situations truly would lose their bodily autonomy.
Rape cases are properly analogous to Thomson’s violinist: if you are kidnapped and your circulatory system is connected to a very sick man, you should have the right to disconnect. This does not mean the violinist is not human. This does not mean the violinist is not a person. This does not mean the violinist is of less moral worth than other people. It means the responsibility for another’s life shouldn’t be forced upon you in a situation you had no control over, especially when it requires giving of your own body.
It is important here to make a distinction between what ought to be legal and what is moral. The Court recognized this moral/legal distinction in the case of Shimp v. McFall. The Court described Shimp’s refusal to donate life-saving bone marrow as “morally indefensible,” but still ruled that Shimp cannot be compelled to donate. Morally, I would hope you’d stay connected to the violinist for the nine months of his recuperation. Morally, I hope a woman who has been raped will still choose life. Legally, though, these heroic actions should not be mandatory.