People who are opposed to abortion view the fetus as a human being. They believe that human life is sacred, and that destroying it, even in its earliest forms, is a mortal sin. Many of them believe that a human being is created at the instant of conception, so even removing that fertilized egg from the womb…whether it has attached itself to the wall of the uterus or not…is murder.
However, polls have shown that the vast majority of such people are willing to grant an exception when the fetus is the result of a crime…rape or incest. In these cases, they are willing to allow the fetus to be aborted.
Think about that for a moment. An unwanted fetus in the womb of a poverty-stricken woman…married or not…must be carried to term, even though she does not have the resources to pay for the obstetric care or to support the resultant child, but an unwanted fetus in the womb of a victim of rape can be aborted. How do the two fetuses differ? Does one carry the guilt of the rapist, making it expendable, while the other is sacred in its innocence and must be preserved?
Most defenders of this idea would probably reply that the decision to allow the abortion in the case of rape is “the lesser of two evils.” The rape victim should not be forced to carry the unwanted fetus, or care for an unwanted child. The unfortunate child would be placed in a terrible situation, unwanted and unloved. Abortion is preferable to this nightmare.
I agree completely with this argument, but I ask you to look closely at what has happened here. Abortion opponents say that human life is sacred, and should never be destroyed. But in the case of rape, that sacredness must be weighed against the consequences of allowing the fetus to continue to develop, and be born.
Sacred human life vs. consequences. Who decides what consequences justify abortion? That is a value judgment that anti-abortionists don’t want to make…but they have opened Pandora’s Box (literally!) when they allow abortion in the case of rape and incest.
Nobody will argue, I am sure, that there is any difference in the two fetuses described above. So, the distinction drawn has nothing to do with the sacredness of human life. It has to do with…what? Well, if it ain’t the fetus, then it must be the person carrying the fetus in her womb. So the distinction is a moral judgment about the woman.
The victim of rape or incest was an unwilling participant in the sex act that produced the fertilized egg, but the other person might have actually enjoyed the encounter! Is that the difference? If people have sex for fun, and a fetus results, why does this change the rules about abortion?
To try to answer that question, let us look at a few examples:
Example 1: Unmarried ghetto mom isn’t as careful as she should be. She already has three kids, and can’t support a fourth…financially or emotionally. The results of an unwanted pregnancy and another child will be great stress on her, and an additional burden that may reduce her caregiving to her other children. The new child will be born into a toxic environment, unwelcome, possibly unloved and most likely with insufficient care.
Example 2: Young married couple, both professionals, busily establishing themselves in their careers. They have decided to postpone having a family until later in their lives so that they can pursue their careers, travel and enjoy “the good life” for a few years. They are careful about contraception, but…something goes wrong. The result of this unwanted pregnancy, will be arrested careers and lifestyles, and possibly higher stress levels for both parents, as they are forced to adjust their lives to accommodate the new arrival. The new child will be born into a potentially toxic environment, unwelcome and possibly unloved.
Example 3: Teenage couple, both in high school, let their passions get out of control. Both are good students, headed for college and professional careers. The result of this unwanted pregnancy could be canceled or postponed college plans, downgraded career opportunities, and higher stress levels as they are forced to adjust their lives to accommodate the new arrival. The new child will be born into a potentially toxic environment, unwelcome and possibly unloved by its immature parents, who are unprepared for their roles.
Example 4: The rape case. The result of this unwanted pregnancy will be even greater stress on an already traumatized person. The additional economic and emotional burden could be disastrous to her life. The new child will be born into a toxic environment, unwelcome, possibly unloved and most likely with insufficient care.
Notice the similarity in all four cases. How can anyone make a judgment about any of these, and decide that this case should be allowed to abort but that one should not? Clearly, there is no difference in the fetus. Why must this one live while that one is allowed to die?
Furthermore, who should make such judgments? Should society pass a laws that arbitrarily discriminate amongst these fetuses, allowing destruction of some, but not others? Who among us want to play God?
There are some anti-abortionists who do not believe that victims of rape or incest should be allowed to abort. While I disagree with them, I must admit that at least their position is logically consistent. To those who oppose abortion, but would allow it for victims of crimes, I ask: Have you really thought about this? Your position makes no sense morally or logically.
It seems clear to me that society has absolutely no business trying to intervene in these decisions. The only people who are qualified to make the decisions are the people directly involved. The rest of us should keep our nose out of their private business.
Since this was written, I ran into a very ingenious rationalization by some anti-abortionists who would make an exception in the case of rape and incest. The “sin” of abortion is transferred to the rapist! Read about it here.