Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rape, Incest, and Abortion

In the Sunday New York Times, Cynthia Gorney, in an article about Sarah Palin's views on abortion, writes this:

If you take the Bush/McCain position — abortion should be illegal but with exceptions for rape and incest pregnancies — then you’re saying the fetus is not a child if the woman was forced into sex, but is a child if she participated voluntarily. That doesn’t actually make any sense, which is why for 35 years now this country’s most dedicated abortion opponents have been essentially holding their noses as they accept as allies the rape-and-incest-exception people, the restrict-but-don’t-prohibit people, the overturn-Roe-and-let-the-states-decide people.

Those who allow for exceptions for rape and incest need not be saying "the fetus is not a child if the woman was forced into sex." The fetus is a child because it is a human being, with a full genetic code from conception; it is member of the human species. What else could it be? Moreover, stipulating some magical moment when it becomes "a child" is pointless. We already know the fetus is a developing human being. Why should we deny this being the right not to be killed (or the right to life) simply because it is dependent and helpless? We should, rather, grant this child special concern on that basis.

Because of the above, there is no reason to make the fetus's value dependent on the manner of conception. If a woman is pregnant, she is "with child" (as the King James puts it), however fathered. But you should not put a child to death because of the sin or his or her father. That is not right. Nevertheless, given our present legal and moral climate, the passing laws that ban abortions for rape and incest is not at all likely. Since politics is the art of the possible, it is better to have laws that ban most abortions than having laws that ban none (our present situation). Therefore, I would support laws that allow for abortion in cases of rape and incest (if proper evidential standards are enforced; it not, any woman could claim she was raped or the victim of incest--usually a form of rape). This is not because I take the child of a woman who was raped not to be a person, but because I want laws that will prohibit many women from seeking abortions and which this save many innocent, dependent human lives. And beyond the law, Christians and others committed to protecting unborn human beings can exercise persuasion and compassion to convince victims of rape and incest to keep their children.

To put it boldly: an imperfect law that allows for some abortions that should not happen is better than laws that allow for abortion at any time for any reason. (For the record, I believe that abortion is permissible when the pregnancy puts the mother in mortal danger. This judgment recognizes the personhood of the fetus as well, but I cannot go into that here.)

3 comments:

http://inchristus.wordpress.com said...

Well said, Doug. While permitting abortion in the cases of rape or incest is not optimal, it is clearly the better moral choice than abortions for any reason whatsoever as it minimizes the loss of innocent human life.

Re: The permitting of abortion when the mother's life may be at stake, see my argument, point #3, entitled Why I Can't Vote for Obama.

Gary said...

Typo Allert: I'm sure you mean "when the pregnancy puts the mother in mortal danger" rather than moral danger.

Gary said...

Got to love the extra "l" in "Typo Alert." Wish I could convince everyone it was an atempt at humor. Just bad typing.