The rape exception

When the story broke that several Saskatchewan Party leadership contenders were pro-life, the reaction focused on the fact that Ken Cheveldayoff did not have an exception for rape. Within 24 hours, the presumptive frontrunner in the race to replace Brad Wall was backing down from his principled pro-life position. Of course, he said, he supported a “woman’s right to choose” in “circumstances where abortion is necessary.” Not surprisingly, he pointed to an exception for rape: “let me be very clear — I believe that any victim of sexual assault has the right to make the choice to have an abortion or not.”

We understand not wanting to appear — or more importantly, be — insensitive to women who have experienced the unimaginable crime of sexual assault. But abortion is not a solution; indeed, it victimizes her again and creates a new victim in the preborn child. We understand that it is wrong, as the saying goes, to punish the son for the crimes of the father. But abortion does precisely that: punishes the child for the crime of his or her biological father.

Historically and globally, the pro-abortion movement has used hard cases like rape and incest to open the door to decriminalizing abortion (along with cases where the life of the mother is in jeopardy). We understand the political urge to tug at heartstrings, but this tactic is dishonest. The goal of the so-called pro-choice movement is abortion-on-demand, for all women at any time. Pro-lifers should not be fooled into surrendering their principles.

As this paper has noted in numerous articles over the years it is important to remember the following about the rape/incest exception: pregnancy as a result of rape or incest is extremely rare; a child conceived in this way is still a human being; a child conceived in this way is innocent of his or her father’s crime, and a woman who has been traumatized by rape or incest needs love and support, not the further trauma an abortion would cause. The circumstances of conception make no difference in the value of the preborn child nor does it make the direct killing of that child any less inexcusable.

American pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling was conceived by rape and her mother sought to abort her. It didn’t work and Kiessling has become (understandably) become an outspoken critic of exceptions to outlawing abortion. She argues that when pro-lifers accept exceptions it undermines our whole argument that the unborn are full-fledged members of the human race, and therefore deserve the full protection of the law. Kiessling says sardonically, we would not kill a born child because her father was a rapist, so why would we kill an unborn child for the same reason?

The pro-life movement must be united in this consistent, principled position and resist the public relations urge to moderate our position. We must also demand and educate our pro-life politicians to be consistent in defending all preborn life. In 2010, Nevada Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle refused to cave after media pressure that she eschewed a rape and incest exception to her pro-life position. She narrowly lost to Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid in a state famous for selling its vices. She is an example to the likes of Ken Cheveldayoff that there are some principles worth defending even if it means risking victory. But pro-life victories in the political and policy arenas will not be possible if our principles are inconsistent, upheld only when they are politically convenient. The double-standard of defending only some children in the womb will not be lost on a public that very often views hypocrisy as an indefensible political weakness.

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