3rd May 2019

by Michael Robinson

unbroken 2

Let’s be clear from the outset - rape is a wicked and violent act, one of the very worst things a human being can do to another. However, abortion is also an act of violence, and, as I will argue, not the proper response to pregnancy after rape.

You can’t get very far in any discussion about abortion without the question of rape coming up. Many people legitimately want to know how the pro-life position can be justified in this supremely distressing circumstance, and it’s important that we have an answer ready, but others simply use it as an excuse to justify their general support of abortion.

The truth is that all arguments for abortion, however extreme the circumstance, rely on trying to justify the killing of an innocent human being. Ultimately, such a rationale for abortion must fail to convince those who believe in justice.

An Act of Violence

Abortion is an act of violence that kills a living human being. The circumstances surrounding the conception do not change this simple reality. Rape and abortion share this in common; they are both acts of violence against an innocent victim.

Aborting a child conceived through rape simply extends this pattern of violence.

Furthermore, abortion does not remove the trauma of the actual rape but it will almost certainly increase distress, regret and misery.

Abortion Used to Cover Sexual Abuse

Often, women who become pregnant as the result of rape are encouraged to terminate their pregnancies. However, very little attention is given to how abortion is used by rapists to cover up sexual assault. There have been some reports in the news of sexual offenders using abortion as a way to cover up their crimes. One of the most high-profile cases was the infamous predator Jimmy Savile who, in at least two instances, sent his victims for abortions to successfully cover up his terrible crimes.

One victim was sixteen-years-old when she was raped and impregnated by Savile. He told her that she must get an abortion by threatening suicide if the doctor did not authorise the procedure.

However, the doctor agreed, and in his medical notes, commented, “I understand the parents will be having a word with the gentleman concerned. I hope it will scare him off.”

The use of abortion to aid and abet rapists is criminal. Women who have already been victimised are forced to undergo an additional trauma and then may find themselves still at the mercy of their abusers.

A Culture of Love

There are very few studies of those who became pregnant after sexual assault. However, one study which was conducted by Dr Sandra Mahkorn, an experienced rape counsellor, discovered some very interesting findings. Dr Mahkorn’s study indicated that of women who become pregnant due to rape, a large number (70%) rejected abortion as an option and instead had their babies. Based on her research, Dr Mahkorn concluded that:

“[This study indicates] that pregnancy need not impede the victim’s resolution of the trauma; rather, with loving support, non-judgemental attitudes, and empathic communication, healthy emotional and psychological responses are possible despite the added burden of pregnancy.”

Furthermore, in a 2014 study of young pregnant black refugee/migrant women looked after by the UK government, all women (even those pregnant as a result of rape) chose motherhood instead of abortion despite the difficulties they faced and despite the negative assumptions of healthcare professionals.  This study highlights the power held by individual healthcare professionals to create a caring environment that is woman-centred and culturally sensitive. Rape is a horrendous crime, and a consequent pregnancy can seem like an inescapable punishment for women. However, we as a movement and indeed as a society need to empower woman to make the right choice, and not punish the innocent unborn child. We need to offer love and compassion, yes, but also practical and emotional support to help mothers see that the unborn child is a new, innocent human being that has the same right to life and potential to thrive.   

Contrary to the common assumption, many women see the child, conceived through rape, as an opportunity for hope and healing.

Married mum-of-four Jennifer Christie, 42, from Virginia, USA, became pregnant after she was attacked in a hotel by a stranger while on a business trip. Jennifer spoke recently about the moment she saw her unborn child on the ultrasound monitor:

“You can’t know how it feels to suddenly have a flame of hope flickering in your darkness. You can’t know how it feels to not be alone anymore. You can’t know how it feels to be able to protect someone else when, no matter how hard you fought, you couldn’t protect yourself”.

I’m Not the Child of a Rapist, I’m the Child of a Rape Victim

The voice which has been routinely ignored in respect of abortion and rape is the child conceived in rape. SPUC friend and collaborator Rebecca Kiessling was one such child.

One quiet evening 48 years ago a young woman was on her way to her local grocery store when she was attacked by a knife-wielding criminal.

He dragged her into a nearby field, and subjected her to a brutal, frenzied rape.

Several weeks later, the deeply traumatised 31-year-old discovered she was pregnant. Terrified, she visited two backstreet abortionists in an attempt to rid herself of 'the thing' that was growing inside her.

But, in the end, she changed her mind and later gave birth to a healthy baby girl, our friend Rebecca. Rebecca grew up to be a successful lawyer, wife and mother of five beautiful children. She is now one of the most prominent pro-life campaigners in the world. Her words are deserving of attention in any consideration of the issue of abortion as a response to rape:

“I’m sure you’ve heard abortion advocates say that it’s barbaric to force a rape victim to carry “a rapist’s child.”  First of all, I am not the child of a rapist – I am the child of a rape victim.  My mother and I object to me being characterised otherwise.  The rapist has no claim to me!  Tell those who say such things, ‘do not insult me or my mother in this way’.

I’ll end with another quote from Rebecca:

"Secondly, it is simply barbaric to punish an innocent child for someone else’s crime. Justice dictates that in a civilised society, we punish rapists, not babies. Those who would kill innocent children are the ones who are barbaric!"