Killing Is Not Healing

As someone who has spent the last three and a half years involved in some way in the pro-life movement, I hear the phrase “except in cases of rape or incest” a lot. It’s kind of a buffering clause, an apologetic little qualifier that people – especially politicians – like to throw out to soften their big mean “anti-choice” message.

The most oft-quoted figure, from a study by Planned Parenthood’s own Guttmacher Institute, states that only around 1% of aborted babies are the product of rape or incest. Yet I know a few people who are pretty firmly pro-life, but still waver on the rape/incest issue. They shouldn’t. We should be pro-life without exception, and we should declare this firmly and without apology.

I will explain why this is so using a scene from a film.

The movie Rob Roy (1995) starred Liam Neeson as the title character, Robert MacGregor, a real-life legendary Scot who lived in the 1700s, and Jessica Lange as his devoted wife Mary. A nobleman called Cunningham, believing MacGregor owed him money, paid a visit to his home while MacGregor was away and burned it down, but not before raping Mary.

Mary decided not to tell her husband, because she knew he would challenge Cunningham to a duel, and no one ever survived a duel with Cunningham.

Later, MacGregor found out himself that his wife had been raped, and when he confronted Mary about it, she told him, “There is more. I am with child, and I do not know who the father is.”

Sobbing, she told him, “I couldn’t kill it, husband.”

And he replied, “It’s not the child that needs killing.”

The filmmakers may not have intended to make the argument against abortion in cases of rape and incest, but they did, quite succinctly, through the fictional dialogue of an 18th century Scottish commoner. Having a rugged, simple man utter this bit of wisdom highlights how plainly commonsensical it is; even someone with the most rough-and-ready plebeian take on morality and logic can reason that if anyone deserves to be hurt or killed as a result of a rape, it’s the rapist, not the innocent, defenseless product of his crime.

Rape is a heinous act of violence committed against an innocent person. So is abortion.

Organizations like Planned Parenthood use this rape/incest clause to their advantage. The truth is, as long as people believe abortion is “okay” only in some cases, it is going to keep being okay in any case at all. Adding the “except in cases of rape or incest” phrase to a pro-life message reinforces the mistaken idea that abortion is somehow therapeutic to a woman who has been harmed, and that is not only false, but is a slippery slope to elective abortion on demand. If it can be argued that abortion “helps” a woman in a state of psychological trauma due to rape or incest, it can be argued that she is “helped” by having an abortion in any number of traumatic circumstances.

Proponents of the rape/incest exception argue that the woman who carries her rapist’s child to term (even if releasing for adoption) suffers great psychological trauma. Assuming this is correct for the sake of argument, it is still true that abortion causes great psychological trauma as well. The difference is, one option kills an innocent person and the other doesn’t.

There is no procedure that can erase the pain of rape. A woman does not skip out of the clinic after aborting her rapist’s baby, cleansed of all pain and ready to go shoe-shopping, nor does an abortion catalyze a profound healing process. Quite the opposite: the woman has been violated twice, first by a criminal who gets off hurting women, and second by a greedy “doctor” willing to kill her child for money.

The same goes for incest: it is a grave wrong that should not occur, but if it does, and if a child is the result, the child does not deserve killing, nor does killing it erase the crime or ameliorate the effects.

As Patricia Heaton of Feminists for Life of America said, “A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy deserves to experience unplanned joy.” This should apply even to the victims of rape and incest. A child is not guilty of its father’s sins, and even the child of a rapist deserves a life lying before her full of joyous possibility. Whether she is parented by her birth mother or released to a loving family through adoption, her fate needn’t be determined by her tragic origin.

As pro-life citizens, we fight for the right to life of every unborn child, no matter the circumstances in which he or she was conceived, and we are committed to the care of mothers as strongly as we are to their children. Women who have been raped or abused – just like all women in crisis pregnancies – deserve care and honesty, and that means not the deadly greed of an abortion clinic, but the kind of support only the pro-life community gives women and their children, through churches, crisis pregnancy centers, other non-profits and individuals. These women need special help to heal and make positive decisions for themselves and their babies. They do not need to be violated again by the abortionist’s grisly tools. Killing is not healing.

  • marycozzens

    I could not agree more. When I was nearly 12 years old, I was violently raped by my father, and gave birth to a son when I was 12. My parents covered the whole thing up and pretended he was their baby.
    it took 42 years, and years of counseling, to get my courage to tell Joe that I am his mother, and we had a DNA test which proved it [both parents were deceased by then].
    I love my son, and am very glad he is alive.
    Rapists should always be punished. Victims deserve a voice, not another kind of cover up.
    All babies deserve life and love.

    • rebeccakiesslin

      Hi Mary, if you'd ever like to write out your story for my site, I'd love to host it. http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/PregnantByRape.html
      I was conceived in rape and also have a page with stories of others conceived in rape and/or incest. And I started a private Facebook "Conceived in Rape" group which you can request to join, plus, there's the Yahoo e-mail support group "stigma_book" for those conceived in rape/incest and those who became pregnant by rape/incest. You're definitely not alone and the members of these groups are truly my favorite people on earth!
      — Rebecca Kiessling

  • godsdreamerchild

    I agree as well! I am giving a speech on abortion tomorrow in my speech class, and one of my main points is that in cases of rape, abortion only further traumatizes an already traumatized woman. To me, that is the point that I want to emphasize most.

  • jsbrodhead

    Simpler is often the best!

    God put it very simply: You shall not murder.

    The Virtual Cannibals of the "abortion industry" have a conflict of interest, when it comes to helping a new mother (from conception) decide what to do. She is making a decision which directly affects an innocent, helpless baby. They are looking to make money to put food on their own table.

  • Morghan

    Abortion, just like any other form of killing, is only acceptable in defense of you and yours.

    I support abortion as a legitimate health care procedure only when the child threatens the life of the mother.

    I can’t find the link to the study at the moment, but I read that rape, incest and health concerns combined amount to less than 5% of total abortions.

  • robertvroom

    There is another problem with the rape/incest exception as well. If abortion is only legal in these cases, a woman who decides to get a legal abortion will need to claim that she was raped by a person inside or outside of her family. It seems that this would either cause a number of innocent people to be arrested on the charge of rape, or would lead to rape being seen as an excuse to get an abortion rather than as a violent crime (oooh, you were raped, wink wink). Either option is completely unacceptable.

  • rebeccakiesslin

    Rob Roy is one of my all-time favorite movies. His line of "it is not the child that needs killing" was the pinnacle of the movie! Throughout the film, the viewers know his wife has been raped by his arch-enemy, know she's pregnant, and now are waiting to see what Rob Roy's response will be upon his return. It's just the best!
    When people say, "Don't you think it's a bit extreme to tell a rape victim that she should be forced to carry the 'rapist's baby'", I explain that first of all, I am NOT the rapist's baby! He doesn't even know of my existence, as is normally the case. And what an insult to the majority of rape victims who not only choose to give birth to their baby (over 75%), but who choose to parent their baby (over 50%) – to suggest to them that their child is "the rapist's baby"! And secondly, I think it's extreme to tell another living human being that they are garbage, that they aren't worthy of living, and that they didn't deserve to be protected. They are the ones who are being extreme!

  • Marlee51

    Kristen, for many years I have said we cannot kill a child for the sin of his father. My oldest daughter was in 8th grade, and they were discussing this (debating it) in their religion class. The topic was Abortion, and 'exceptions' came up. She was NEARLY persuaded by her classmates (sympathetic/empathetic) who really hadn't thought about it, but were simply saying things that they had heard in their short lives.

    I have two adopted children, and one birth child. My oldest is one of the former. When she came home that day and told me what they were discussing, she also said that she was thinking maybe it was OK in rape/incest cases. I asked her one question — "If someday you decide to open your adoption records and you learn that YOU were conceived as a result of rape, what would you think then?" (She wasn't, but that's beside the point — she didn't know, nor did any of her classmates…. this suddenly became PERSONAL to her).

    She thought a short time, and said… "I would not her to have an abortion!" I told her… "Then there's your answer. It is the BABY we are talking about, and why should the baby die because of what the bio father did?"

    She went back to her class and they finished the discussion the next day. Her teacher called me and told me that I would have been so very proud of my daughter if I had been there. My daughter told her classmates that IF it was OK to kill a baby because of rape/incest, and IF her birthmother had been the victim of this, and had chosen to abort rather than place the baby for adoption, then SHE would not be living, and THEY would never have met her. She made it personal for them. Debate ended. Her classmates had not realized that she was adopted until that moment.

    You have done an excellent job on this post. Keep on keeping on!! God bless!!

    • FinalEcho

      Thanks for sharing. That's a very encouraging story. You should be proud, of your daughter and yourself. Unlike many parents, you didn't just stand by and let her peers shape her beliefs. These days it's considered a bad thing to actually be a parent and guide your children. . .glad to see not all parents are buying into that nonsense.

  • BrokenAngel66

    This is my opinion on this kind of a question.
    When I was 15 years old I was forced by my then boyfriend to do things I didn't want too do. I was forced to lower myself just to make him satisfied.
    After I said no more after that ONE time he dumped me.
    3 months later after not having my regular period I've had since i was 9 years old I found out something amazing. I was pregnant.
    To make a long story short, 2 weeks later because of stress (Not because i was a 15 year old teen mother but because of the stress the father of my child was putting me under) I miscarried my baby.
    So to answer this question they constantly ask, I have my answer.
    I would have LOVED my babies/baby more then anything in the world. It would NEVER matter to me how that miracle was brought into this world. I was forced to do something I didn't want to do. And i would have loved those babies till the moment I died.
    It absolutely KILLS me to see all these beautiful babies being unjustifiably being slaughtered every single second of the day!
    What I wouldn't give to have my baby back and be able to meet them.
    Its disgusting to see all these females all my sister in the world and in the US killing a miracle i couldn't have..
    Don't punish our babies just because they were brought here out of violence.
    Give them a chance, because these poor child that get killed out of a women being forced are just being told "You were brought into this world in violence now you'll be killed with it too."
    Show them, that their loved.

  • ok_go

    I agree that it is an amazing and beautiful thing when a woman can overcome the trauma of a rape to give birth and raise her rapist's baby or her father's baby (is it called her sibling or her child when it's her father's baby?). I am pro-life and ideally this would always be the case.

    My first boyfriend committed suicide. He was conceived out of rape and he used to say that he wished every day he had been never been born. His mother was a teenager and was incredibly poor and he grew up hungry and in poverty and unhealthy and his mother never had time for him, and as a result, he got into a lot of trouble and eventually went to jail, and when he got out, committed suicide.

    So, it's really not always that simple. Let's remember that not everyone is strong and we can't just expect everyone to be strong. There are lots of weak people out there. We have to, at the very least, create support systems for rape victims; and we have to actively work to change the rape culture that exists today. An enormous number of women get raped every day in the US, and an enormous number of American men are out there raping women every single day. We have to stop this travesty and prevent rape in the first place. We have to figure out what it is that is leading men to rape women and we have to stop it.

  • Anonymous

    This column is a great example of why the pro-life movement needs women.  When a man tells a rape victim “Relax–you might enjoy it,” it just sounds callous.