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Pro-abortionists often use rape as a prime example of a justification for abortion. How, they ask, could you force this poor woman to go through with this pregnancy?
Pro-lifers typically reply that while they have great sympathy for a woman who has been so terribly victimized, the rights of the child must also be considered.
But both sides in this debate rely on one key assumption: That abortion helps to ease the trauma of a woman who has been raped, and that women who have been raped want abortions. Pro-abortionists use this as their rallying cry. Pro-lifers explain why other factors are more important.
But is this assumption true? Surprisingly, with all the studies that the government, universities, and big companies are always doing on every conceivable subject, we have only been able to find one small study on this question. Perhaps it is because everyone just assumed they knew the answer.
But in 1979 Dr Sandra Mahkorn, a professional rape counselor, studied 37 women who had become pregnant through rape. (This was apparently all she could find. Pregnancy from rape is, in fact, extremely rare. The small numbers make the study less statistically significant. But we are certainly not going to hope for more rape victims just so we can get more reliable studies!) Of the 37, 4 did not complete the study. Of the remainder, 28 chose to continue their pregnancies, and 5 chose abortion. So of real pregnant rape victims, only 15% chose abortion.
When questioned, most of these women said that they saw abortion as another act of violence. One woman said that she "would suffer more mental anguish from taking the life of the unborn child than carrying the baby to term".
But few saw the question as a conflict between her own needs and the rights of the baby. Rather, most said that the major influence leading her to abortion was pressure from others: parents, boyfriend, etc.
There is a curious thing about rape: People often place a stigma on the victim, as if she was the criminal rather than the rapist. They discuss what she might have done to invite it. Her husband or boyfriend may suddenly not want to touch her anymore. Friends and relatives shy away from her. The victim herself often falls into this line of thinking. Rape victims frequently run home and take a shower or try some other symbolic means of "cleansing themselves". Rape is one of the most un-reported crimes, because the victim so often feels guilty and ashamed.
A few years ago the lawyer for an accused rapist in Florida argued in court that his client should be acquitted because the victim incited him by wearing a short skirt. Another judge went even further, releasing a rapist because he felt that women in his area provoked rape by their clothes and manners. (In the second case, the judge didn't even say that the victim herself somehow provoked the attack, just that women in general encouraged rapists.)
Even if it is true that in some cases a woman "encourages" a rape by dressing provocatively or walking though a bad neighborhood alone at night ... That might mean that she was foolish, but it hardly makes her share in the guilt. Suppose you parked your car and left the keys in the ignition, and someone stole it. People might say that was a foolish thing to do, but I doubt anyone would say that you therefore "deserved" to have your car stolen, or that you are as guilty as the car thief. I cannot imagine someone suggesting that the thief should be released because you "asked for it" by leaving such a nice car so easy to steal. But that is apparently a common response to rape.
And so it seems that the psychological problem faced by a pregnant rape victim is not that this child will "remind" her of the rape. (Like if she wasn't pregnant, she would just forget about it.) Rather, it is that when her pregnancy becomes obvious, she will be forced to "confess" that she is guilty of being raped. (Similarly, the baby is blamed for being conceived by rape. He is not thought of as an innocent baby, but as a "product of rape" -- an ugly blot to be removed.)
Abortion does not solve rape. It simply transforms the victim into a victimizer. Jackie B. had an abortion after a rape. She later said:
"I soon discovered that the aftermath of the abortion continued a long time after the memory of my rape had faded. I felt empty and horrible. Nobody told me about the emptiness and pain I would feel deep within, causing nightmares and deep depressions. They had all told me that after the abortion I would continue on with my life as if nothing had happened. ... I found that though I could forgive the man who raped me, I couldn't forgive myself for having the abortion."
Debbie "N." wrote:
"I still feel that I probably couldn't have loved that child conceived of rape, but there are so many people who would have loved that baby dearly. The man who raped me took a few moments of my life, but I took that innocent baby's entire life."
Debbie's comment starkly shows the actual effect on the women who is aborted to "cure" rape: It shifts the focus from the violence the rapist committed against her, to the violence she committed against the baby. I would never dream of minimizing rape by saying that it only "took a few moments" of the woman's life -- clearly the fear, trauma, and sense of violation lasts much more than a few moments. But Debbie described her own rape that way, because she is now comparing what the rapist did to her, with what she did to this baby.
As one young woman put it, "The solution to rape is not abortion. The solution to rape is stopping rape."
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Posted 9 Sep 2000.
Copyright 1996 by Ohio Right to Life.
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