Out of our desire to save someone from suffering, it is normal to wish we could erase a painful memory such as rape. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that as much as we want to, we can’t. Abortion doesn’t erase a memory. Abortion is a second act of violence against a woman who is raped. At one of my lectures, a Vanderbilt medical student told other students that her “abortion was worse than the rape.”
Both victims — the woman and her child — deserve our unconditional support.
Pregnancy is not a punishment. Julie Makimaa’s mother (“Victory Over Violence,” The American Feminist, vol. 5, no. 3) told her that she was the “only good thing to come out of the rape.”
When someone asks about exceptions for rape and incest, we must think of how that makes those feel who were conceived through sexual assault. Well-meaning statements can hurt. As one Berkeley grad student said to her pro-choice peers, “I have a right to be here.”
Can you imagine if we ranked the value of people based on the circumstances of their conception? We don’t discriminate based on parentage—that’s not equality! You are valuable no matter who your parents are, no matter the circumstances of your conception.
Could you look at someone conceived in violence and tell her she never should have been born? Rebecca Kiessling, a young attorney and mother who was conceived through sexual assault, asks, “Did I deserve the death penalty?” People used to value a woman based on who her father or husband was. It is similarly medieval to value a child by the actions of her father. That way of thinking is patriarchal and antifeminist, and it should have gone out with the Dark Ages.
We need comprehensive support for rape victims who become pregnant. Did you know that in most states the rapist still has paternal rights and even if convicted can demand visitation from jail? Did you know that if the rape victim is poor and can’t prove the paternity of the father, she could have problems collecting welfare benefits? We should ask women who conceive through rape how to help them in the long term, and help their children as well.
Abortion after rape is misdirected anger. It doesn’t punish the perpetrator of the crime. Incarcerated sexual offenders should not be allowed pornography, barbells, and early parole. We need harsh sentences for sexual assault without possibility of parole.