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(Last Updated: 24 Aug 2000 )
I thought I'd write down what I wanted to say on this topic. That way I wouldn't forget anything and I'd have more time to think about it (and we could have our discussion outside of work time!).
It seems that whenever I've talked about abortion with anyone, the subject of abortion in the case of rape always comes up. In saying that abortion is OK in this case, you are arguing out of compassion for the mother, which is a good thing, because in rape she has been horribly victimised and deserves all the compassion she can get. But I guess my main objection to abortion in this case is that the child she is carrying deserves some compassion too. It's just not fair to create another innocent victim.
I guess the hard thing about this issue is not so much whether an innocent person deserves to die for what his father did (that seems reasonably clear-cut), but rather whether an innocent person should be forced to take on childbearing and possibly motherhood (if she decides not to adopt) for which she was not willing or ready. What is needed is for family, friends and society to be as caring and supportive to the mother as they can be, and not to turn their rage at the rapist onto the innocent child.
In a rape case, if there's anyone who deserves a death sentence, I think we'd agree that it's the guy who commits the crime. But to say that the child deserves death is to punish a totally innocent bystander. He (or she) had nothing to do with his mother's rape, but now he should be killed? The baby is a living human being, not a cancer that has to be cut out.
I guess if you could prove that a preborn child was not a person then he or she would really be an it, so it would be OK to kill them. (By the way, about a month ago I spoke in a debate about the personhood of the unborn child, so I've done a bit of looking into that whole issue). But since the preborn is a person, then to actively harm this powerless other person through abortion is a lot like the action the rapist took against the mother (although I know the motives are different). The violence of abortion isn't a solution to the violence of rape. Here's a quote I saw in a book about abortion: "When a woman exercises her right to control her own body in total disregard of the body of another human being, it is called abortion. When a man acts out the same philosophy, it is called rape."
To put the issue another way, here's what I was thinking the other day when we started talking about this: suppose we found out that someone in our team at work was the "product of rape" and that his mother hadn't wanted him when she found out she was pregnant; in fact, she wanted to erase all memory of the vicious trauma she had been put through. But, for one reason or another, the baby was born and grew up to work with us. Should that person be put to death? I reckon we'd all agree that that's a stupid idea. But let's go back in time. Should this person, conceived through rape, be put to death at age 12? At age 5? At age 2? What about when he's just been born? What about just before he's been born? How about a few months before that? My point is, the person's done nothing wrong. If we don't think he should be killed now, why should we want to kill him at any other point in his life? If you found out today that your biological father had raped your mother, would you feel you no longer had a right to live?
When you say that abortion is OK in the case of rape, you are implicitly saying that abortion is not OK in other cases, like maybe abortion for convenience ("I've got my whole career ahead of me - a baby would just get in the way..."). Is this what you really think? If so, you have to carefully decide exactly when the mother's right to get rid of a baby she doesn't want starts to override the baby's right to live.
Abortion in the case of rape is a difficult subject because the woman has been through such a terrible experience that we want to do everything we can to help her recover. But the solution is not to put an innocent person through another terrible experience. Besides, abortion is not a therapy. Rape is a trauma, and abortion is another trauma, for the baby particularly, but also for the mother. Without even going into the physical aspects of surgical abortions and their potential side-effects, it's hard to think of a worse therapy for a woman who has been raped than to add the guilt and upset of having her child killed. Even if she is convinced that it's not a real child or even her child, some day she'll realise that it was.
People often think that a child conceived by such a terrible act as rape will be a constant reminder of the mother's pain. But in reality, the innocence of the child often has a healing effect. Besides, the woman can always give the baby up for adoption, which might be the best thing if she is not ready to look after a child.
Another point is that conception after rape is very rare - much less than 1% of all abortions are done because the mother has been raped. And since conception doesn't happen straight after sex, pregnancy can actually be prevented in nearly all rape cases by medical treatment that removes the semen before the ovum can be fertilised.
I've got a book at home by a guy who does
a lot of speaking about pro-life issues. An interesting quote is
that one time after he had spoken to a group about some of these abortion/rape
issues, a woman came up to him in tears and said:
Compassion for the mother is really important, but we don't show much compassion when we destroy the innocent. We need to find an alternative that is compassionate to both mother and child (but you can throw away the key on the rapist, as far as I'm concerned). Instead of encouraging the mother to kill her child, we need a better solution. If the mother has the baby adopted, the rape has had a nine-month physical effect on her life. If the baby is aborted, the effect on his or her life is huge, painful and permanent.
Just over half of all abortions in New Zealand
occur at between 10 and 12 weeks gestation, because by this time the woman
can be pretty sure she's pregnant - the pictures below are at 11 weeks
and 14 weeks. The whole abortion discussion centres on what is being
killed - is it a person or a thing? If it's a person (and it is)
then even in the case of rape we have to find an alternative to abortion.
Thanks for actually being open-minded enough
to discuss the issue (a lot of people aren't). I respect what you
think, and am pretty confident we can avoid a punch-up over this interesting
issue. Sorry to write so much, but there's a lot to say! And
sometimes I find it easier to make my points in writing!
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