Shouldn’t We Allow Abortions to Help Victims of Rape?
Some people disclaim their natural heritage. I always name my origin. It didn’t hold me back and neither has my color. I was born in poverty. My father raped my mother when she was 12. Now they’ve named a park for me in Chester, Pennsylvania.
— Renowned Gospel singer Ethel Waters1
From an ethical and logical standpoint, a baby conceived through violence is as blameless and innocent as one conceived in marriage and is therefore deserving of the same protection. If you challenge a person to look at two babies, one conceived in a loving marriage and the other through the violent act of rape, that person will not be able to tell them apart. Either all preborn babies are worth saving, or none of them are.
As the pro-abortion group “Religious” Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) says, “Opponents of abortion rights walk a fine line within their own movement when they condone any abortion. Based on their own definition, they are guilty of being accessories to ‘murder’ in certain circumstances by accepting rape and incest exceptions.”1
RCRC correctly points out that pro-lifers must never condone a single abortion and must never apologize for fighting abortions due to rape and incest. If we allow that preborn lives are disposable for any reason, we set the life of the preborn below that of other human beings ― and these “hard cases” are what started our nation and our world on the road to abortion on demand in the first place. If we had stood firm at the beginning, more than half a century ago, we would not be where we are today.
Does Abortion Help the Rape Victim?
As reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson has so eloquently stated:
Rape is a heinous, ineradicably humiliating act of violence imposed upon a defenseless woman. The key word is “ineradicable,” for the destruction of the innocent human being created as a result of that act can never eradicate the unspeakable emotional and psychological residue of that rape. To the contrary, it can only compound the residue with another deadly act of violence.2
As with any other pregnancy that was unplanned, the woman’s problem is not that she’s pregnant. The main problem that she has after the trauma of rape is how others think of her and treat her. Rape and incest victims have always unjustly been victims of the “Scarlet Letter Syndrome,” but “treating” this problem of societal perspective with abortion says that the woman is a hopeless case or “damaged goods.”
Former rape counselor Sandra Mahkorn, M.D., says:
The central issue then should not be whether we can abort all pregnant sexual assault victims, but rather an exploration of the things we can change in ourselves, and through community education, to support such women through their pregnancies. The “abortion is the best solution” approach can only serve to encourage the belief that sexual assault is something for which the victim must bear shame ― a sin to be carefully concealed.3
What is more caring ― to ignore a pregnant rape victim’s problems and tell her to “just get rid of it,” or to respect the life within her and give her the real help she needs?
In summary, the tragedy is the rape ― not the child that is conceived. Contrary to what pro-abortionists apparently believe, two injustices do not equal a right or a healed life. The greatest pain of the first injustice lasts nine months, but the pain of the proposed abortion “remedy” lasts a lifetime.
Some may answer that the woman has a right to be free from assault. This is true, of course, but in the case of abortion for rape, the assault has already happened. Just as the woman has a right to be free from assault, so does her preborn baby. Promoting abortion for rape under this argument is similar to saying that anyone else who is physically assaulted can find healing and peace by going out into the street and punching the first person he or she sees in the face.
Finally, how many people believe that there should be capital punishment for rapists? Obviously, a very small minority. If the majority of people do not favor capital punishment for the obviously guilty rapist, why then should they favor it for the innocent child, who has committed no crime whatsoever?
How Many Abortions Due to Rape Are There?
Since pro-abortionists and the corrupt media exclusively emphasize the “hard cases,” they have persuaded the public that the number of women obtaining abortions for rape is huge. A national Wirthlin poll found that the average respondent’s guess at the number of abortions committed for rape and incest was 21% of the total number of abortions in the United States.4
However, the actual number of abortions due to rape is actually miniscule. Six states have surveyed 2.44 million women over the time period 1996-2020 who had abortions and found that only 0.39% chose abortion because of rape or incest — that’s one out of every 250.5
Like all of the other abortion exceptions, the exception for abortion after rape is routinely abused by lying pro-abortionists, as the following stories show:
- Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer admit in their A Woman’s Book of Choices, “Before abortion was legal, women sometimes got abortions by claiming that they had been raped.”6
- The Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1988 required women who claimed to be victims of rape or incest to report their crimes before getting a free abortion from the state. The reporting of rapes jumped significantly the very first month the law was in effect, and police reported that many women admitted that they were reporting rapes just to get their free abortions.7
- Such lying seems to be second nature for people like Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, who fought to get federal funding for abortions. She said, “I’d tell my constituents, ‘Send a letter. Say you were raped. Say it was incest. Say you have heart disease.'”8
- Naturally, women lying to obtain abortions is also common in other nations. Al Jazeera published a tearjerker story about Brazilian women who were “forced” to claim that they were raped so they could get abortions. Articles like this one from the corrupt media are typically low on details and high on emotional manipulation as they work to undermine pro-life laws in other nations.9
Of course, pro-abortionists could not care less that such lying makes it much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute real rapists and opens up the very real possibility of innocent men being prosecuted for rape.10
Rape Protocol in Catholic Hospitals
Catholic health care professionals have developed a rape protocol that has been approved by the bishops. The doctor uses a simple test to determine if the victim has ovulated. If she has not ovulated, she is given a drug that prevents ovulation. If she has already ovulated, she is not given the drug because it may prevent implantation.11
It is not enough to simply administer a pregnancy test, because even if it were negative, a conception could have taken place in the weeks before the sexual assault.
This “ovulation approach” protocol is based on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services [¶36], which states:
A woman who has been raped may defend herself against conception resulting from sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there were no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
In addition, the victim should receive continuing spiritual and psychological counseling and support to assist her in dealing with the trauma of the attack.
Abortion for rape victims can never be justified for several reasons.
- A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, no more than a child conceived in a loving marriage.
- Abortion after rape wreaks more violence, provides no genuine healing, and leads others to believe that the “problems” caused by a rape have largely been solved. The solution to rape is not abortion, but prosecution of the rapist so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing.
- Finally, abortion for the “hard cases” such as rape is always used by pro-abortionists as a wedge to obtain abortion on demand. This has occurred in almost all of the developed nations and is now happening in many developing countries. If pro-lifers allow laws with a rape exception to be passed, they will soon be facing abortion on a massive scale.
 “Religious” Coalition for Abortion Rights (now the “Religious” Coalition for Reproductive Choice). Booklet entitled “Words of Choice” (Washington, D.C., 1991), page 24.
 Bernard Nathanson, M.D., statement to the Virginia State legislature, February 11, 1982.
 Rape counselor Sandra Mahkorn, M.D. “Pregnancy and Sexual Assault.” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion (Washington, D.C.: University Publications of America), 1979, pages 65 and 66.
 Results of a 1990 Wirthlin poll described in “The Week.” National Review, December 3, 1990, page 12.
Tabulation of reports on “Induced Termination of Pregnancy” from Florida (1998-2020), Louisiana (1996-2018), Minnesota (1999-2019), Nebraska (2001-2019), South Dakota (1999-2019), and Utah (1996-2018).
 Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer. A Woman’s Book of Choices: Abortion, Menstrual Extraction, RU-486 (New York City: Four Walls Eight Windows Press), 1992, page 39.
 Andrew Sheehan.”New Abortion Law Brings More Reports of Rape.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 25, 1988, page 5.
 Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D. NY), Chair of the House Reproductive Choice Caucus, on what to do when eligibility for abortion funding under the Hyde Amendment was expanded to include rape and incest in the Summer of 1992. Quoted in Michael Kramer. “Will Abortion be Covered?” Time Magazine, September 27, 1993, page 40.
 Jill Filipovic and Ana Siedschlag. “To Get an Abortion in Brazil, I Lied and Said I Was Raped.” Cosmopolitan, April 11, 2014. Azmat Khan. “Brazil’s Abortion Nightmare: Why One Desperate Woman Lied about Rape.” Al Jazeera, May 2, 2014.
 Ferris B. Lucas, Executive Director of the National Sheriff’s Association, has said:
We do, however, wish to comment on the provisions that would allow federal funds to be paid for abortions performed for treatment of rape or incest victims only. The wording would lead a person desirous of an abortion to make false reports to law enforcement agencies which would have to be checked and investigated to some length. These crimes are not easy ones to prove or disprove and resultantly require many man-hours of investigation. American law enforcement agencies are presently overburdened and do not have this vast amount of time available”
July 18, 1977, quoted by Congressman Thomas J. Bliley (R-Va.) in his July 25, 1983 testimony printed in the Congressional Record.
 “NCBC Statement on Connecticut Legislation Regarding Treatment for Victims of Sexual Assault.” National Catholic Bioethics Center website, October 3, 2007. For a more detailed treatment of this issue, see Father William Saunder’s article “Ethical Treatment after Rape.”
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Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.