It’s the kind of question designed to make pro-life politicians squirm.
“Tell me,” Wendell Goler asked Senator Sam Brownback during Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, “Since you’ve opposed abortion in every instance except to save the life of the mother, how would you explain to a rape victim . . . why her trauma should be compounded by carrying the child to term?”
Brownback acknowledged that it was “a terrible situation where there’s a rape that’s involved or incest.” But,” he added, “It nonetheless remains that this is a child that we’re talking about doing this to — of ending the life of this child.”
I, of course, had a few more minutes than the candidate on the hotseat to think about it, but: Oh, Sam! You could have done much better than that. What you should have said was this: “Wendell, pregnancy following rape is a terrible situation for a woman to find herself in. If this happened to a woman I loved, I would want to do whatever I could to ease her trauma, and I’m sure you would want to do the same. But you and I may not know the best way to help, so we should listen to women who have been through this.”
And then Brownback should have told Goler about Lee Ezell, who was raped in 1964, when she was 18 years old. When Ezell discovered she was pregnant, she considered going to Mexico for an abortion, but in the end, gave birth to a little girl and placed her for adoption. Twenty years later, that daughter — Julie Makimaa — tracked her down, and learned the shocking details of her conception.
Horrified, Makimaa asked Ezell, “Why you would even want to see me, then? How could you want to even be a part of my life?” Her mother replied, “You know, you don’t remind me of the assault at all. You remind me of the good thing that happened out of that tragedy that I went through.”
Mother and daughter began traveling across the country to speak out against abortion even in the most traumatic circumstances. They eventually formed Fortress International, a support group for rape victims and their children.
“It was a terrible thing that happened to her,” Julie says of her mother, “But I and my children are here today because she sacrificed those months of her life to give us a lifetime.”
Or Brownback could have told viewers about Janet Warriner, an accounting clerk for a Fortune 500 company who was raped and impregnated by a family member in 1981. A Planned Parenthood counselor pushed abortion hard, arguing that Warriner would not want a daily reminder of the rape. “But I was never informed as to how the abortion would affect me,” Warriner says. “It was a case of, ‘In a couple of days, you’ll be fine.’”
She wasn’t. Over the next two decades, Warriner attempted suicide five times and abused drugs and alcohol. “I don’t think people are aware of the devastation abortion causes in a woman’s life. All I could think of at the time was that I didn’t want to bring a monster into the world like his father,” Warriner told me. But “I punished an innocent child for what the father did — and the father is walking around scot-free.”
Warriner’s story is not unusual. A few years ago Fortress International surveyed hundreds of rape victims and discovered that women who aborted their “rape babies” reported more pain, guilt, and anger than women who did not abort. For these women, carrying a baby to term didn’t ”compound their trauma,” as Goler put it: aborting their children did.
And yet, nobody seems interested in their stories. In 2004, when the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault (WPSA) petitioned Congress to hear about “our unique needs and concerns,” nobody was interested. Certainly not Senator Barbara Boxer, who was demanding federal funds to pay for abortions for military personnel who become pregnant through rape. “In virtually every case,” the petition reads, “the people who claim to be defending our interests have never taken the time to actually listen to us to learn about our true circumstances, needs, and concerns.”
Makimaa and others have collected the stories of nearly 200 rape victims in a book titled Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault. It’s the largest collection of rape-pregnancy stories ever gathered. One contributor, Kathleen DeZeeuw, who gave birth to a son following her attack, writes of feeling “Personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest. I feel that we’re being used to further the abortion issue, even though we’ve not be asked to tell our side of the story.”
Equally offensive to these women are laws mandating government funding for abortions in the case of rape, because they send a message that abortion is the “right” solution.
Instead of demanding abortion funding for rape victims, assuming rape victims are better off aborting their babies, and that no-exception-for-rape pro-lifers are heartless, perhaps we should listen to the real experts on this emotional issue: Women who became pregnant through rape — and say their abortions only prolonged the agony of their rapes. Women who, like Julie Makimaa’s mother, survived the horror of rape, but ultimately viewed the birth of their “rape babies” a great gift.
That’s what Senator Brownback should have said.