Fonticulus Fides

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Continuing the Pro-Life Theme

So, yesterday evening, I had a conversation with my husband’s cousin, Kayla. She said she had been considering becoming Catholic (she was raised in fairly liberal Methodist congregations) because she loved the structure and “meaningfulness” of Mass. She’s been to plenty of them over the years. Her mom’s second husband was a terrific Catholic guy, a widower with four grown kids who was very devoted to the little country parish he attended. Kayla’s current roommate is Catholic and she’s been to Mass with her a few times, and with our family once or twice.

But, Kayla said, she could never become “anti-abortion.”

I was pro-choice myself, when I was Kayla’s age (21), so I nodded and then asked her why.

“It’s just that in certain instances, I think it should be allowed.”

“Like what?”

“Like a woman who has been raped.”

And so I gave Kayla my perspective on the issue of abortion for rape/incest victims. It’s not a terribly popular opinion. Even a lot of evangelical Christians and some Catholics who believe abortion is wrong allow for an exemption for rape/incest victims. I used to, too, but now I don’t. I told Kayla why last night, and now I’m going to blog it. Comments box is open, of course.

Abortion for Rape and Incest Victims

Rape and incest are terrible, horrible crimes. Nobody should have to suffer them, EVER. When a child is conceived in the process of the crime, the immediate thought is abortion, and on the surface, this seems to be a sympathetic solution. But the reality is, abortion complicates things for the rape/incest victim and gives them more burdens to struggle with.

One theory is that the child would be a “constant reminder” of the rape and that’s why the woman should be allowed to get an abortion. The trouble with that theory is that it shows a marked lack of understanding of what a rape/incest victim actually goes through. They are reminded of the crime every time they have sex in the beginning (certainly during the initial year, which would include the time frame of a pregnancy). If they are raped in a particular room at home, work, etc., they are reminded of the rape every time they go into the room. Certain sounds, certain odors, certain physical sensations will remind them of the rape.

Some women are more sensitive to these reminders, which can last a lifetime; others are able to overcome them with counseling, prayer, etc. But the point is aborting the child doesn’t save the woman from being reminded of her crime. It just gives her a second trauma to deal with, another set of “reminders” to overcome.

The second thought process I have encountered is, “Hasn’t she been through enough?” My answer to that is, “Exactly.” Rape and incest are terrible, horrible physical and emotional traumas. And yes, pregnancy and childbirth can be tremendous physical and emotional traumas. But so is abortion.

If the rape/incest victim turns up pregnant, she’s headed into a second physical and emotional trauma whether we like it or not. She does have a choice regarding which trauma she accepts. But consider this. If she chooses to bear the child, she has a chance to make something GOOD come from her rape. If she feels she can never love the child, she can give him/her up for adoption, giving a childless couple an opportunity to parent and giving the child him/herself the chance to grow up and make a positive difference in the world.

I want to note, too, that over the centuries (especially before abortion technology became available), there were rape victims who raised the children born of the crime and were able to love the child and experience something very good as well. Women in these modern times who have refused abortion to bear their children say that pregnancy and childbirth were not nearly as bad as they thought it would be, and the whole experience gave them a sense of empowerment, a sense of being able to take this evil, evil crime and turn it around to bring forth joy. On the flipside, if she chooses abortion, she still has physical/emotional trauma, but nothing good.

Some may argue that the duration of the physical/emotional trauma of abortion is shorter than that of pregnancy and childbirth. Possibly, but from where I sit, that’s a long shot. Women who have had abortions DO deal with secondary physical trauma quite frequently: they may suffer damaged cervixes, internal scarring and even permanent infertility. As for the emotional trauma, post-abortion syndrome is well documented. Anybody who has been through one trauma (the crime of rape or incest) is going to be less able to deal effectively with a second trauma, particularly if it comes close on the heels of the first, such as an abortion would.

Somebody once told me, “The child shouldn’t have to grow up knowing that his dad was a rapist.” I have two things to say to that. First, abortion isn’t the ONLY way you can keep a child from knowing that fact. Closed adoption is another option, if you’re really that determined to hide the information from the child. Second, while the information is terrible, it doesn’t mean the child shouldn’t know. Knowing that your parent committed a crime doesn’t mean you will commit the same crime, and it doesn’t necessarily mean such emotional turmoil that the child would be better off dead. Besides, the message, “You were conceived in a rape, but your birth mother thought that you still deserved a chance to live and a chance to make something good happen in this world,” can be both positive and powerful.

The final argument I have encountered in favor of abortion for rape/incest victims is that the woman “shouldn’t have to carry her attacker in her body.” Now, I completely understand the anger a woman would feel toward her attacker, and the disgust she would feel at him. However, the child is not the attacker.

I actually find this attitude more distasteful than “abortion for any reason at any time.” At least a person who is okay with abortion for any reason is consistent in saying that the unborn human is not worth saving. The pro-life people who allow for an exemption for rape/incest victims basically believe that the unborn human’s parenthood is a determining factor on whether or not their life is worth saving: is your dad a rapist? Sorry, then, we don’t consider you human, so we’re going to abort you.

Does any Christian really think that attitude is going to fly with the Lord? No way. It doesn’t matter if your dad was the worst criminal on the planet; there’s still hope for you and I don’t think anybody should snatch that hope away from you.

All this being said, I think society as a whole fails miserably when it comes to supporting the pregnant rape/incest victim. In most emergency rooms, a rape victim is immediately offered the “morning after pill” – which effectively forces the woman’s body to end her current menstrual cycle early with the intent to prevent implantation if a child is potentially conceived.

I have a couple of problems with that: first, fewer than 1% of rape victims conceive a child in the process of the crime, so that means most women wouldn’t need this “treatment” at all. And that in turn means that society is so against the idea of a rape victim bearing her attacker’s child, they’re willing to put all rape victims through a dramatic, frightening and painful hormonal treatment just to prevent the lives of a few babies.

Second, what if the woman was pregnant prior to the rape but didn’t know it yet? She’d then be aborting her husband/partner’s child, conceive in an act of love, not violence.

Thirdly, they are asking a woman who has just been through a horrible ordeal to make an immediate decision that may mean the life or death of another human being, without giving her time to even process what just happened to her, let alone begin to heal.

Even without the “morning after pill”, however, society is not supportive of rape/incest victims who are pregnant. There are no programs, no organizations, no support groups for these women. Their boyfriends/husbands, parents, siblings and friends often encourage abortion, not to mention doctors and other medical professionals. What these women need is 100% love, 100% encouragement, 100% support and 100% protection, but they’re not getting it.

I don’t think it’s ever enough to say, “Abortion is wrong.” Women seek abortions because they think they don’t have a choice – not because they do. have to work hard to give women everything they need so that they really don’t have to choose abortion.

There is a lady in my community, a widow who never had children of her own, named Lucy. She has a big house in one of the nicer, older areas of town, and for many years, she opened her home to women and teenager girls who were in crisis pregnancy situations. She would give them a home, take them to doctor appointments, help them shop for maternity clothing and layettes. She’d help the young ones with their homework and the older ones with job skills.

If the mother-to-be was choosing adoption, Lucy stood by them through that process. If she was choosing to parent, Lucy made sure they were developing good parenting skills as well as a network of supportive friends and family members to help cope after the baby was born. I don’t know how many children in Lincoln call her “Grandma Lucy” today, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was well into the hundreds.

From what I hear, Lucy is too ill to continue the work now, but I wish I could take her place. I wish our home was big enough to give dozens of these women a private room, and I wish we had money enough to give them whatever they needed to carry the baby to term. Then I would stand outside the abortion clinic every chance I could, holding a sign that read, “FREE housing, FREE clothing, FREE transportation and EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED so you can have your baby!” Wouldn’t that be fabulous!

We all need to do something to enable women to have the babies they think they can’t, whether those children are the result of careless sex, rape, incest or any other circumstance.



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