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Feb. 20, 2010

What about a woman who is pregnant due to rape or incest?

1. Pregnancy due to rape is extremely rare, and with proper treatment can be prevented.

Studies conducted by Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute indicate that two consenting and fertile adults have only a 3 percent chance of pregnancy from an act of intercourse. They also indicate that there are factors involved in a rape that further reduce the chance that rape victims will become pregnant. The Guttmacher Institute says that fourteen thousand abortions per year are due to rape or incest, which amounts to just over 1 percent of all abortions. Other studies show that pregnancies due to rape are much rarer than is generally thought, perhaps as few as one in a thousand cases. Statistics are often self-serving. Starting in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control formulated guidelines for gathering data more accurately, including reporting loss of pregnancy due to rape. There are no published studies using the new criteria.

So where does the misconception come from that many pregnancies are due to rape? Fearful young women will sometimes attribute their pregnancies to rape, since doing so gains sympathy and avoids condemnation. The young woman called “Roe” in the famous Roe v. Wade case—who elicited sympathy in the court and media because she claimed to be a rape victim—years later admitted that she had lied and that she had not been raped at all.

Prochoice advocates often divert attention from the vast majority of abortions by focusing on rape because of its inherent (and well-deserved) sympathy factor. Their frequent references to rape during discussions of the abortion issue leaves the false impression that pregnancy due to rape is common.

2. Rape is never the fault of the child; the guilty party, not an innocent party, should be punished.

In those rare cases when a pregnancy is the result of rape, we must be careful who gets the blame. What is hard about this hard case is not whether an innocent child deserves to die for what his father did. What is hard is that an innocent woman has to take on childbearing and possibly mothering—if she decides to keep the child rather than choose adoption—for which she was not willing or ready. This is a very hard situation, calling for family, friends, and church to do all they can to sup port her. But the fact remains that none of this is the fault of the child.

Why should Person A be killed because Person B raped Person A’s mother? If your father committed a crime, should you go to jail for it? If you found out today that your biological father had raped your mother, would you feel you no longer had a right to live?

Biblical law put it this way: “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). And, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16). Civilized people do not put children to death for what their fathers have done. Yet aborting a child conceived by rape is doing that exact thing. He is as innocent of the crime as his mother. Neither she nor he deserves to die.

Rape is so horrible that we easily transfer our horror to the wrong object. We must not impose the ugliness of rape or incest upon either the innocent woman or the innocent child. The woman is not “spoiled goods”—she is not goods at all, but a precious human being with value and dignity that not even the vilest act can take from her. Likewise, the child is not a cancer to be removed, but a living human being. By all means, let’s punish the rapist. (I favor stricter punishment of the rapist than do the prochoice advocates I know.) But let’s not punish the wrong person by inflicting upon the innocent child our rage against the rapist.

3. The violence of abortion parallels the violence of rape.

One woman says, “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.”

There is a close parallel between the violent attack on an innocent woman that happens in a rape and the violent attack on a innocent child that happens in an abortion. Both are done in response to a subjective and misguided sense of need, and both are done at the expense of an innocent person. The woman might not hate her child the way the rapist might hate his victim, but this is no consolation to the child. Regardless of the motives or disposition of his mother, he is just as brutally killed.

The violence of abortion is no solution to the violence of rape. The killing of the innocent by abortion is no solution to the hurting of the innocent by rape.

4. Abortion does not bring healing to a rape victim.

Imposing capital punishment on the innocent child of a sex offender does nothing bad to the rapist and nothing good for the woman. Creating a second victim doesn’t undue the damage to the first.

In February 2000 presidential candidate Alan Keyes addressed 120 middle school students in Detroit. A thirteen-year-old girl asked if his position on abortion included making an exception for rape. He spoke of the pain of rape, then said, “But I don’t believe it is right to take that pain and actually make it worse. And to the burden of that rape down through the years, if that abortion takes place, do you know what I’m adding if I let you have an abortion? I’m adding the burden of that abortion. And at some point, the truth of God that is written on your heart comes back to you. And you’re wounded by that truth.”

One feminist group says, “Some women have reported suffering from the trauma of abortion long after the rape trauma has faded.” It is hard to imagine a worse therapy for a woman who has been raped than to add the guilt and turmoil of having her child killed. Even if we convince ourselves and her that it isn’t a real child or even her child, some day she will realize that it was. Those who advised abortion will not be there then to help carry her pain and guilt.

I have a dear friend who was raped and became pregnant as a result. Because of her circumstances, it wasn’t best for her to raise the child, but she gave birth, and the baby was adopted into a wonderful Christian family. She periodically has contact with them and her child.

It has not been an easy road, and I would say nothing to minimize her pain. The hardest part is not being able to raise her child, not hearing the footsteps in her home. Yet there is a bittersweet joy—the joy of knowing that God brought this beautiful little girl into the world through her and brought an immense happiness to the family who adopted her baby.

When I look at my friend, I find great comfort in knowing how she has brought joy to our Father in heaven, who has been pleased by her decisions and has brought character and beauty and life out of her suffering. Hers is not the suf­fering that comes with regret over having done the wrong thing to an innocent child. It is a suffering accompanied by the hand of God who comforts and sustains her and brings present waves of joy and contentment that are a foretaste of the fullness of joy in the heaven to come. But even now, the wonder she knows when she sees this delightful child overshadows the suffering she has gone through.

Francine Rivers’s novel, The Atonement Child deals with this subject in a powerful way.

5. A child is a child regardless of the circumstances of his conception.

On a television program about abortion, I heard a man argue, “Anything of this nature has no rights because it’s the product of rape.” But how is the nature of this preborn child different from that of any other preborn child? Are some children more worthy of living because their fathers were better people? And why is it that prochoice advocates are always saying that the unborn child is really the mother’s, not the father’s, until she is raped—then suddenly the child is viewed as the father’s, not the mother’s?

A child conceived by rape is as precious as a child conceived by love, because a child is a child. The point is not how he was conceived but that he was conceived. He is not a despicable “product of rape,” but a unique and wonderful creation of God.

Women often think that a child conceived by such a vile act will be a constant reminder of their pain. On the contrary, the innocence of the child often has a healing effect. But in any case, the woman is free to give up the child for adoption, which may be the best alternative. Aborting the child is an attempt to deny what happened, and denial is never good therapy.

One woman told me, “A baby is the only beautiful thing that can come out of a rape.” Having and holding an innocent child can do much more good for a victimized woman than the knowledge that an innocent child died in an attempt to deny or reduce her trauma.

31f. What about already-born people who are “products of rape”?

What if you found that your spouse or adopted child was fathered by a rapist? Would it change your view of their worth? Would you love them any less? If not, why should we view the innocent unborn child any differently?

After I shared similar thoughts in a lecture, a dear woman in her mid-twenties came up to me in tears, I’ll never forget what she said:

Thank you. I’ve never heard anyone say that a child conceived by rape deserved to live. My mother was raped when she was twelve years old. She gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption to a wonderful family. I’ll probably never meet her, but every day I thank God for her and her parents. If they hadn’t let me live, I wouldn’t be here to have my own husband and children and my own life. I’m just so thankful to be alive.

Singer Ethel Waters was conceived after her twelve-year-old mother was raped. Waters touched millions through her life and music. Many other people, perhaps some of our dearest friends whose stories we’ll never know, are what some disdainfully call “the product of rape.”

31g. All that is true of children conceived in rape is true of those conceived in incest.

Incest is a horrible crime. Offenders should be punished, and young girls should be carefully protected from further abuse. Decisive personal and legal intervention should be taken to remove a girl from the presence of a relative who has sexually abused her. The abuser—not the girl or her child—is the problem. Intervention, protection, and ongoing personal help for the girl—not the death of an innocent child—is the solution. Despite popular beliefs, fetal deformity is rare in such cases. Even if the child has handicaps, however, he still deserves to live.


Final Thoughts on the Hard Cases

1. No adverse circumstance for one human being changes the nature and worth of another human being.

The hard cases are also sometimes called the exceptional cases. But the fundamental question remains, “Is there any exception to the fact that a preborn child is a human being?” As we demonstrated in the responses to arguments 1 through 8, the scientific facts and commonsense evidence conclusively demonstrate that the answer to this question is no. What is exceptional is the difficult situation of the mother, not the nature of the child.

Compassion for the mother is extremely important, but is never served through destroying the innocent. One person must not be killed under the guise of compassion for another. An alternative must be sought that is compassionate to both mother and child. Furthermore, true compassion to the mother considers her psychological well-being, which is not served by abortion. Instead of encouraging her to kill her child, we should do something that requires much more com­passion and sacrifice. We should offer tangible support and sacrificial help.

Giving up the child for adoption to eagerly waiting families is often the answer in cases where the mother is too young and immature. The same is true if the baby’s handicap is so great that it takes a special person to raise him. (But willing parents often find they become just such special people.)

In cases of rape and incest, family and friends need to offer compassionate support and help find counseling that can assist in personal healing. Society needs to protect the innocent by stiffer sentences and enforced restraining orders for sex offenders. Exposing the woman to further abuse is unjustifiable. So is making an unborn child the scapegoat for a crime he or she didn’t commit.

2. Laws must not be built on exceptional cases.

Research shows that only 1 to 3 percent of abortions are performed for the rea sons of rape, incest, deformity or threat to the life of the mother. If a building is burning, it is permissible for someone to break in to save lives or property. However, recognizing the legitimacy of this exception does not mean that we shouldn’t have laws against the usual cases of forcible entry and trespassing. That an exception may exist does not invalidate the normal standard of behavior.

Suppose you disagree with my firm conviction that a handicapped child or a child conceived by rape or incest deserves to live and should be protected by law just like every other child. Nevertheless, surely you must recognize that even if there were legitimate grounds for abortion in the exceptional cases, it would in no way justify legal abortion for the vast majority of cases, which are matters of per sonal and economic convenience. These cases account for over 97 percent of abortions, while the “hard cases” account for less than 3 percent. (Of course, the deaths of those 3 percent are equally tragic.)

Some believe that laws restricting convenience abortions could go a long way in protecting the lives of 1.3 million innocent children each year in America alone. Others believe that legislation allowing exceptions for rape and deformity are an unjustifiable compromise and would be badly abused, encouraging false claims to cover convenience abortions. In any case we must seek to find ways—personal, educational, and political—to save as many innocent lives as possible.

For more information on this subject, see Randy Alcorn's book Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments.

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