The Rape Exception

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13~

It was a flashpoint in the argument to legalize abortion in America during the 1970s: rape. How could anyone be so cruel as to suggest that woman who’s been raped has to carry the child of the rapist to term?

The surprising answer is that abortion is frequently pushed onto these rape victims, and abortion victimizes them further.

We are half a century removed from the complete eradication of abortion laws that Roe v Wade and Doe v. Bolton enacted and in the midst of states reacting to the overturning of those cases along with Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992).

Surprising is the scant discussion of the compelling subject of abortion because of rape or incest aside from an emotionally charged but “dubious” account of a 10-year-old victim who allegedly had to go out of state to be relieved of the child a rapist implanted.

And there seems to be little interest in finding facts to support what was and still is assumed: That women/girls who suffer rape and girls who suffer incest are better off having abortions than they are delivering babies.

We have barely looked beneath the surface of this assumption.

One study of 37 women pregnant from rape showed that a large majority opted against abortion. “Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion.[1] This evidence alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims.” (Also, see here and here.)

Multiple factors play into the discussion: the woman’s view of abortion before she was assaulted and the conviction that something redeemable can result from something horrible.

It’s interesting that few have replicated such studies. As if impressions that abortion is best, even necessary, in cases of rape are universally valid, further testing is superfluous.

More likely, it seems researchers fear results that would overturn the public’s impression that abortion after rape is beneficial or even benign.

Those impressions carry the same conclusion into the discussion of incest. But in cases of incest, abortion erases the evidence of a crime and allows abuse to continue.

David C. Reardon, Ph.D.:

“Studies show that incest victims rarely ever voluntarily agree to an abortion.[4]Instead of viewing the pregnancy as unwanted, the incest victim is more likely to see the pregnancy as a way out of the incestuous relationship because the birth of her child will expose the sexual activity. She is also likely to see in her pregnancy the hope of bearing a child with whom she can establish a true, loving relationship, one far different than the exploitive relationship in which she has been trapped.”

So it isn’t the way we thought it was. No matter which study we consider, assault victims are not lining up in great majorities to abort their pregnancies. They are not claiming that abortion saved them from something more horrible.

more recent survey of sexual assault victims–one that includes a much larger sample (192 women) than the studies cited above–states that 80 percent of women who aborted children conceived from assault regretted their abortions. No woman who gave birth expressed regret.

Missing in much of this discussion is the voice of the children. Rebecca Kiessling is one such voice. Conceived as a result of rape and later adopted, she speaks for the tiniest persons involved.

“Most importantly, I’ve learned, I’ll be able to teach my children, and I teach others that your value is not based on the circumstances of your conception, your parents, your siblings, your mate, your house, your clothes, your looks, your IQ, your grades, your scores, your money, your occupation, your successes or failures, or your abilities or disabilities — these are the lies that are perpetuated in our society.”

Our worth comes from our Creator. He values the littlest ones no matter how they came to be. We can value them too by helping their mothers. Those who have suffered such abuse need not suffer more.

It’s time to tell the truth about rape and abortion. Abortion harms women. Abortion kills children–no matter how they came to be.

Speak up for mothers and children.

Photo Credit: Pexels

See also: Not Some Rapist’s Child

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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29 Replies to “The Rape Exception”

  1. Amen Ms. Nancy! We must speak truth into this publicly so that we do not surrender the narrative to those who want to subvert truth! Well said ma’am. THANK YOU!

  2. Nancy. I love you and your passion for the unborn, but I am one of those “dubious exceptions.” At the vulnerable age of twelve, I had an illegal abortion that nearly took my life- the result of incest. (Parental consent was required; could not exactly ask my rapist to sign.) I have begun telling my story, kept silent in my heart, since the leaked opinion; it hurts me deeply for you to assume we don’t exist.

    The Church’s lack of compassion in this arena wins no souls. I am pro life, sister! I’ve volunteered at crisis pregnancy centers! I’ve devoted my life and career to caring for children, weeping for my four (or more) who did not get to draw breath because I was forced to kill my child outside a doctor’s office when I was still a child myself, doing irreparable damage to my womb.

    There must be balance between “no exceptions- not even for life of the mother, rape, or incest “ and abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy.

    1. I’m so sorry that happened to you. You are indeed one of the “hard cases,” and most importantly a human soul. The primary motivation for “no exceptions” is compassion for victims, born and unborn. Too many times, men exploit girls and women and force them into abortion to cover up their crimes. Abuse then continues. It happens so much more than we realize in this age of trafficking.

      The exceptions also are often abused. Many victims (as well as anyone else with an unplanned pregnancy) get pushed into abortion without consideration of the results. An abortion doesn’t have to be illegal to cause irreparable damage to the mother.

      The life of the mother is not a concept designed to save babies and kill women. Delivering a baby early because the mother has a health concern is not the same thing as killing the child–even if the baby should ultimately die. Removing a tubal pregnancy or treating a miscarriage is not abortion.

      We cannot ignore that in cases of incest, children are victims. We can offer more than abortion. We can offer better than abortion.

      Supporting your baby until full term or even an early delivery because of your age could be best for all. Such babies can answer the prayers of infertile couples who yearn to be parents. Delivering a child rather than removing him or her to her death is healthier, obviously for the baby and clearly for the mother as well.

      Abortion exceptions require the child to die. Other treatments, which may result in the child’s death due to defect or prematurity, do not require such an end.

      You’re correct that the Church could do more. However, most abortions in the Church happen without anyone telling someone at Church.

      Our church recently walked a 15 year old through her pregnancy and beyond. This mother knew others loved her through her situation.

      I expect that most states will reach the “compromise” you seek. We should all pray for those wounded by abuse and those who suffer the negative ramifications of abortion.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Nancy! God bless you in your fight to spread awareness about the harm of abortion. It hurts many people. But I believe God prevails in all situations and cares for the born and unborn. God has a plan of compassion and care for us all. May His beautiful light shine into the darkness of this situation.

  4. Thank you, Nancy. As believers we know we can’t take God’s grace out of a situation. Walking with Him provides light and strength when we face the worst we can imagine.

  5. The discussion in the media always offers one side of this issue. We have a friend who was born from a rape. His mother gave him up for adoption. He is a minister with a family of his own now, none of which would not exist without his birth mom making a decision for life. The church does need to be more proactive in helping woman when they make the choice of life.

  6. Thank you for sharing these facts. Most people don’t know this. Most people believe all the wrong assumptions that you shared here. The women who have gone through these experiences tend not to solve the problem by murdering the children conceived. Makes perfect sense to me. A baby is a baby, regardless of how or by whom that egg was fertilized.

  7. Thank you for allowing this open conversation when opposing opinions presented themselves when their answers were given to these questions. This is entirely personal, and we often don’t know where the other woman is at in this discussion, given what may have been done to her, with or without her consent. How often we are exploited as women. The harm lasts.

  8. Nancy, this is a hard part of the ongoing debate. But, I’ve often thought the baby is the other innocent victim here. So I like how you said, “something redeemable can result from something horrible.”

    1. Thank you, Karen. You’d think, from the current discussion, that most abortions are such situations. That isn’t the case at all. Just as they did in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the other side is hauling out the hard cases to make an argument seem common that is actually fairly uncommon. God bless!

  9. “80 percent of women who aborted children conceived from assault regretted their abortions. No woman who gave birth expressed regret.” I think that says it all. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and abortion is to many a second violation of the woman. I have also known of cases where the mother sees the child as a blessing and God’s way of healing her and bringing something good out of a horrendous experience.

  10. I live in Indiana where the abortion was performed on the ten-year-old. Our attorney general looked into it, and so far the report has proven true. That said, your points about the harm done to the mom (even at ten years old) when enduring an abortion are totally valid. As a former pregnancy center director, I can attest to the fact that women regret causing further damage to the innocent life that came from rape.

  11. Our Father determines our worth and He loves each of us, no matter the circumstances of our conception. Thank you for this message, Nancy. Your courage in focusing on these hard topics continues to provide us with thought provoking messages that don’t allow us to hide from challenges.

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