Supporting Both Victims of Rape (en español)
By Richard M.
July 19, 2013
Some call abortion
the "third rail" of American public debate, endangering anyone who touches
it. Commenting on abortion in cases of
rape is a uniquely high-voltage risk. The act of rape is so abominable, and the trauma of the victim so
clearly cries out for our sympathy, that discussing the issue calmly almost
seems a disservice. But some news
coverage of this topic, entangled with various political agendas, has been
anything but calm. The public debate
would benefit from some facts.
The first fact, affirmed
by the U.S. bishops' ethical directives for Catholic health care, is that any
woman subjected to sexual assault needs our compassionate and understanding
care, including psychological and spiritual as well as medical support. The Church, especially, should be a place of
help and healing for a woman in this plight, as for all victims of violence.
Second, any child
conceived in rape is, like his or her mother, an innocent victim. That child,
too, has a right to life, and destroying the child does not punish the rapist
or end the woman's trauma. There is a
remarkable lack of evidence that women who abort their child in these dire circumstances
fare better psychologically than women who carry to term. Delivering the child, for parenting or
adoption placement, does require courage as well as strong support from family,
friends and society.Here, too, the
Church and its charitable ministries can play an important role.
Last year a group
of women who have conceived from rape released a petition, urging lawmakers who
support abortion to stop claiming to speak for them. The women who underwent abortions said: "For
many the abortion caused physical and emotional trauma equal to or exceeding
the trauma of the sexual assault that our abortions were supposed to 'cure'."
question has arisen whether pregnancy and abortion after rape are "rare." In a 2005 survey by the Guttmacher Institute,
Planned Parenthood's former research arm, 1% of women having abortions cited rape
as a reason – and surprisingly, only half of those women said the rape was "the
most important reason" for aborting. In
2006 the pro-abortion Center for American Progress complained that since
Congress passed the Hyde amendment – limiting federal funds for abortion to
cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother's life – the number of
federally funded abortions had dropped from 300,000 a year to "virtually none."
A single rape is
one too many. But if rape is numerically
a small part of the abortion picture, and such abortions are already allowed and
even funded under federal laws, why does it receive so much attention? One answer is that abortion advocates see it
as a weak link in the pro-life position. They want Americans to focus on it to the
exclusion of other issues – including the other 99% of abortions, which these
advocates support and most Americans oppose.
politics, not reality, and it's a cynical misuse of women who have suffered deeply
from acts of sexual violence. Or as the
women mentioned earlier say: "Just as we were once used, without our consent,
to gratify the sexual desires of others, so we continue to be used, without our
consent, to gratify the political goals of others. "Women who have been through this nightmare,
as well as their children, deserve better.
Mr. Doerflinger is Associate Director of the Secretariat of
Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.For more on the bishops' pro-life activities
The petition mentioned here is at www.theunchoice.com/pdf/OnePageFactSheets/HardCasesPetition.pdf.