buysoma.net xanaxonlinebuy.com buylevitra.net
Philippa Taylor

Why abortion is not the best solution for pregnancy following rape or incest

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at CMF. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.


The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

StormontChamber

This incredibly difficult and sensitive issue has come into public discussion again as the Northern Ireland Department of Justice reviews their law on abortion. The Department is proposing a change to the current, restrictive, law in Northern Ireland, to permit abortion where the unborn baby has a lethal abnormality and perhaps for cases of rape and incest. At the same time there is an imminent legal challenge, due 2 February 2015, by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to change the law to allow abortion in cases of pregnancy after rape, incest or ‘serious malformation’ of a fetus.

Most people, including some Christians, probably think that abortion is the best solution for a woman who is raped.

Rape is commonly used as one of the ‘hard cases’ that justifies not having a blanket ban on abortion. Most of us who are opposed to abortion will have been asked the question: ‘but what about rapesurely you’d not oppose abortion for that? Or ‘How can you force a woman to continue a pregnancy after rape?’

In fact, I suspect most people probably regard abortion as the most compassionate response to a woman violated by rape, who would otherwise be ‘forced’ to carry the rapists child, thus compounding her violation and prolonging her suffering even further.

Before I take on the challenge of offering an alternative view, a brief context setting is important. Most people do not realise how rare it is that a pregnancy arises from rape, at least certainly in the West, which is the context for this Northern Ireland review (unless rape is carried out repeatedly).

There are in fact few official statistics on the numbers of women who have had abortions or become pregnant as a result of sexual crime. Even the Northern Ireland Government review can only cite anecdotal evidence (p42), that that in one Sexual Assault Referral Centre in England just three women who had been raped became pregnant as a result of rape and of these only one chose abortion. Numbers of conceptions after rape are similarly hard to come by in the US, but some  US data suggests that perhaps 1% of all abortions are after rape (p3).

So, in the West, not only is rape itself uncommon (thankfully), conception after rape is even less common.

Pro-abortion advocates may try to divert attention from the vast majority of abortions by focussing on rape because of its well-deserved sympathy factor. This leads to the false impression that pregnancy after rape is common, rather than very rare. Nevertheless, clearly this is not a statistical issue but a human one. Women who do suffer the trauma of rape and a consequent unwanted pregnancy are in an incredibly difficult situation with three possible options facing them. They can have an abortion, keep the baby or give the baby up for adoption.

Interestingly (and perhaps counter-intuitively to our expectations) the little evidence there is finds that most women in this situation actually choose to keep their baby.

As I mention above, only one chose abortion of three women who had become pregnant as a result of rape, according to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in England. The Rape Crisis Network Ireland has also found that most women who become pregnant through rape or incest did not want an abortion:In 90 cases of pregnancy through rape only 17 women and girls chose to have a termination. In another anecdotal survey, of 37 women who had a rape-related pregnancy, only 5 chose abortion.

When women are actually asked to speak for themselves, their opinion of abortion turns out to be the exact opposite of what most would predict. For example, of 192 women interviewed who had become pregnant after rape or incest, nearly all (80%) who had an abortion regretted it. Over 90% of these said they would discourage other victims of sexual violence from having an abortion.

On the other hand, of those interviewed who carried their pregnancy to term, not one expressed regret about her choice.

Why this surprising outcome?

First, abortion is not an ‘easy solution’ to rape and cannot alleviate or undo in any way the crime committed.

The biggest trauma for victims is the devastating crime of rape or incest, which cannot be undone. Women who are raped, and children conceived by rape, are the two innocent victims of the crime. Abortion does not ‘un-rape’ a woman or remove the violence perpetrated against her.  Research has found that those who had an abortion said it actually increased and compounded the trauma they had experienced from the rape.

For example, Patricia says: ‘The effects of the abortion are much more far reaching than the effects of the rape in my life.’

Remarkably, one woman who counsels and runs a support group for rape victims, says that: ‘A baby is the only good thing that comes out of rape.’ (p5)

Many women – not all, of course – who have been raped believe that abortion is wrong, and that if they get through the pregnancy they will have conquered the rape. Giving birth in such circumstances is a display of courage, strength and honour. Abortion, by contrast, simply sacrifices a second innocent party to the crime.

Ending the life of an innocent unborn child is not the best route to hope, restoration and new life for either. The options of adoption or fostering provide a far more positive option for women to take, if they cannot keep their baby.

Women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need real support and resources that meet both their needs. In many cases, however, these needs are not met because most people assume that they will choose abortion to ‘get rid of’ the problem.

Second, we should never rank the value of people based on the circumstances of their conception.

In the past, people used to value a woman based on who her father or husband was but those days (should) have long gone: the worth of children should not depend on whether their fathers were better people or not. The point here is not how a child was conceived or by whom, but that he/she was conceived. The child is not a despicable ‘product’ of rape but a unique and wonderful creation of God.

I think rape is horrible, but what I want to say to women out there is: you can take something that was terribly done to you, and make something good out of it. And that’s, [voice breaks] that’s me.’ Said Ken, who was born of a rape. He urges people to see that children conceived in rape are just as human, just as ‘real’, as everyone else.

Why is it that pro-abortion advocates are always saying the unborn child is really the mother’s, not the father’s, until she is raped then suddenly the child is viewed as just the father’s, not the mother’s?

Third, crisis pregnancy counselling and support can make all the difference to the woman’s decision.

Those who have been involved in counselling rape survivors agree that understanding and openness are needed more than anything. There are no ‘normal’ reactions to rape and pregnancy,although rage, panic, denial, revenge, depression and shock are all common. Many women are plagued with fears about their unborn infant and ask themselves: ‘Will she/he look like the rapist? Will I hate my own child?’  Their families are often not initially supportive of a decision not to abort and can feel helpless and confused in the situation.

Counsellors of rape survivors also know about post-abortion aftermath and that women who suffer depression, guilt and anger over the rape commonly have those feelings compounded after an abortion. The process of counselling can give women time, space, practical and emotional support and the opportunity to think about options and consequences.

One counsellor for sexual assault victims found that two-thirds of women who continued their pregnancy developed more positive feelings toward their unborn child as the pregnancy progressed. Their feelings of self esteem and contentedness improved during the pregnancy, while initial negativity, anxiety, depression, anger and fear decreased.

Abortion is not an inevitable choice. The loving support of family, friends and counsellors can make a huge difference to the outcome.

So, difficult as it appears to be, I have to conclude that abortion does not bring healing to a rape victim. And creating a second victim never undoes the damage to the first victim.

Therefore I am led to the more compassionate (and also the Christian) solution, which is the need to care and offer comprehensive support and privacy for the mother and child, at least until birth when adoption can be considered, especially if the mother is young.

Women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need a safe environment to consider their options, with holistic support, accurate information and resources to meet their needs.

Too often, however, they are denied this opportunity because most people just assume that abortion will ‘solve’ the problem. Some women will choose abortion, but let’s not swallow the widespread myths that most women do want an abortion after rape and that it is the ‘best’ and most compassionate response.

Posted by Philippa Taylor
CMF Head of Public Policy
By commenting on this blog you agree to abide by our Terms and Conditions. Although we will do our utmost to avoid it, we reserve the right to edit, move or delete any comments which do not follow the guidelines provided.

Tags: , ,