So, the past 24 hours have reignited the abortion-in-the-case-of-rape firestorm. I’m not going to lie — a large part of me would like to see it doused and left for some other time to…..well, I suppose “resolve” might be overly optimistic. But I’ve felt compelled to speak up this time. And, in the process, I appear to have ruffled a feather or two.
Ultimately, I’d like to collect my tweets and thoughts on the matter into a more comprehensive essay, but a question was put to me this evening on Twitter that warrants a more immediate answer — one that won’t fit neatly into a 140 character tweet — or even several strung neatly together. So, I’m going to try to address it here briefly, then hopefully expound upon it as time permits.
Alright then, to the question: “But you can’t expect a woman to be raped and forced to go through with her pregnancy.” (Or, I suppose, to make it a proper question, “How can you expect a woman who’s raped to go through with her pregnancy?”) The answer is easy if one simply dismisses the notion of the life within her as life — or life that holds sufficient value to warrant consideration: “You can’t.” I’ve read all the arguments — even made them myself in days gone by. How much more compelling a case for terminating a pregnancy can one make than pointing out that a victim of rape should be spared even an ounce of further trauma, if possible?
But what if one doesn’t simply dismiss that notion? What if one believes that all life holds value? Even life in its infancy? (Heck, some might even argue that that is precisely when it holds the most value — innocent, full of potential.) If one holds that belief — that all life has value — then the question becomes what — if anything — trumps that? What of mine justifies my taking that from you? The only thing I can come back with is my own life — and even then, not always. (For instance, if I could save my daughter’s life by sacrificing mine, then I would. In a heartbeat.) But if we’re considering the notion of you threatening my life (or the life of another), then most would agree, I would be justified in taking yours.
Beyond that, I can think of no justification for taking your life away from you. Because I do believe that all life holds value, and I do believe that unborn child is a life. Which is how I can expect a woman who’s raped to go through with her pregnancy. As much as I abhor what was done to her, I abhor the taking of the innocent life which resulted even more.
In sum, it comes down to the value one assigns to life, and when. For those who assign little to it, or who only assign value to it after birth, or even viability, terminating it prior will seem justified — even preferred, in the case of rape. For those who assign much to it, beginning with conception, or perhaps implantation, terminating it will never seem justified, unless it is to save the life of the mother.
I’d say, “and never the ‘twain shall meet,” but folks seem to fall a number of different places along that line. I’m not naive enough to think I’ll persuade many to my way of thinking. Then again, I was once over on the other side of things, and yet, here I am. So, perhaps it is a fool’s errand…to think that by saying these things, I might actually reach a mind or touch a heart. But I won’t regret trying.
One thing I’ve often wondered, though, if true compromise were on the table — if those who fall in the “pro-choice” camp were assured that abortion would remain a legal option in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother — how many of them would agree to it?