Parents and sensitive persons are cautioned about the emotional and horrific nature of some of what must sadly be discussed in this article.
Defense for abortion has flooded social media feeds in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision that handed power back to the individual states regarding the regulation of the deathly practice. Much of the defense of abortion appears in the form of viral posts containing emotional stories (such as the post we’re responding to in this series) that attempt to persuade the reader that abortion must remain legal and accessible for the sake of situations such as these.
We’ve already addressed the case of “inconvenient pregnancies.” In this article, we will address rape, incest, and abuse. Is abortion a moral choice in horrific cases such as these?
Rape, incest, and abuse are often considered “hard cases” regarding abortion. Many states and countries that restrict abortion make exceptions for rape and incest. But consider this scenario before we tackle those issues: a woman is pregnant and visits her doctor for her twenty-week anatomy scan. It’s this scan that often reveals to parents whether their child is a little boy or a little girl. This mother and father discover their baby is a girl and immediately schedule an abortion—they wanted a boy. Most people (though not all) would immediately be horrified that someone would have an abortion simply because the child is the undesired sex. Why? Well, as Live Action explains,
If a mother decided to have an abortion because she is pregnant with a girl child and she wants a boy child, isn’t it obvious that it’s wrong to kill a girl simply because of her sex? Indeed we can readily come to that conclusion because human rights are not grounded in a person’s sex; they’re grounded in one’s humanity. Therefore, even in excruciatingly challenging situations — such as rape/incest — the human rights of preborn humans are just as valid.1
That baby is a person deserving of life simply because he or she is a person made by God and in his image.
Circumstances—no matter how painful, challenging, or complex—don’t negate or change the value of the person in the womb any more than gender does. The unborn person in a challenging situation isn’t a mere clump of cells, a “pregnancy,” or merely a consequence of someone’s actions. That baby is a person deserving of life simply because he or she is a person made by God and in his image.
And we would certainly go further than Live Action and say that human rights aren’t grounded in a person’s sex (gender) or even in mere general “humanity” but rather in what makes us uniquely human: bearing the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
The viral post we’re responding to states:
I’m pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted he [sic] seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.
Susan’s story is truly horrifying—rape and sexual assault are vicious crimes (under the Mosaic Law, rape carried the death penalty for the rapist—God takes rape seriously). The rape should be investigated, and the rapist prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for his selfish, violent treatment of an image bearer of God. But what about the baby?
The rapist should suffer for his crimes—not the innocent unborn child. In what scenario do we punish a child for the crimes of their parent? But, for those who advocate for abortion in the case of rape, the child pays the ultimate price—their very life—while the father, the actual criminal, receives a lesser punishment here in America.
In what scenario do we punish a child for the crimes of their parent.
It’s worth noting that the United Nation’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6 (5), states that the “Sentence of death shall not be…carried out on pregnant women.”2 In other words, an innocent child isn’t to die for the crimes of the mother…and yet many abortion advocates say it’s acceptable for the child to die for the crimes of the father. (Ironically the United Nations recognizes the humanity of an unborn child when it comes to the death penalty, but inconsistently refuses to recognize the unborn’s humanity when they call abortion a “human right.”3)
Susan’s case is heart-wrenching, and her life has been turned upside down (to put it mildly) by the despicable actions of an uncaring and debased man. But the added violence of abortion is not the answer to the violence of her rapist. Compassion, support, practical help, and the healing hope of the gospel are the answers Susan needs—not the medicalized murder of her child.
The value of a life is not determined based on how that life was conceived. It’s grounded in the incalculable worth of being made in God’s image.
I’m pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11-year-old body isn’t mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.
This is another nauseating circumstance—a precious little girl horrifically abused by a family member or other person in a position of trust. A story similar to Cathy’s, involving a 10-year-old girl from Ohio,4 was widely circulated soon after Roe v. Wade was overturned (the story was originally considered highly suspect due to a lack of details, but the mother’s boyfriend has reportedly since confessed to two counts of rape and is now facing a life sentence). Many abortion advocates also reference a 2015 case of a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay who became pregnant from rape (also by her mother’s boyfriend).5
In the case of the young girl from Ohio, the baby’s life was ended by an Indiana abortion doctor; in the case of the young girl from Paraguay, the baby girl, despite relentless international pressure, was not aborted and was eventually born a healthy baby via c-section.6 Is abortion justified in cases like these?
The value of a life is not determined based on how that life was conceived.
No! Again, the value of a life is not determined based on how that life was conceived. And, as above, the child should not pay for the sins of the father. Sexual abuse is a great evil—sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or other trusted person is even more repulsive. These are circumstances no one wants, and the guilty party should be fully prosecuted for their crimes. But, again, the unborn child is guilty of nothing more than existing, and that’s certainly not a reason to end someone’s life!
Cathy (like the precious young girl in Paraguay) needs proper and vigilant medical care and likely an early labor (probably via c-section) to ensure her safety. But inducing early labor (which carries a risk to the baby) is not the same thing as intentionally and violently ending the life of the baby. In this scenario, Cathy’s life is valued and protected but so is the life of her equally precious unborn child. Both mother (really, a child herself) and unborn child are people who deserve care and the right to life.
Before we continue to the topic of abuse, I want to point out that the circumstances outlined above are very rare, accounting for a mere 1.5% of the abortions that take place in the United States (according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute).7 Abortion advocates often bring them up to argue that abortion must remain legal and accessible, but they don’t want to stop with just these rare cases: they want abortion on demand for any reason, at any point in pregnancy. They are arguing from the very rare for the common. It’s a bait-and-switch that appeals to emotions and a lack of deep moral thought or sound and properly compassionate reasoning.
I’m pro-Jessica who is FINALLY getting the strength to get away from her physically abusive spouse only to find out that she is carrying the monster’s child.
There are three ways to look at Jessica’s sad story. (1) Does the potential that a child will be abused (or impoverished, which is a similar argument abortion advocates make) make abortion justifiable? (2) Does the difficulty of escaping from a violent man with a child from a violent man render an abortion both necessary and moral? (3) What if that child serves as a constant reminder to the mother of her abuser and her past (this argument is often used in the case of rape as well), does the assumed potential for mental anguish for the mother justify abortion?
Let’s start with the first one. In a broken world, women and children, as well as men, suffer from domestic abuse. Sadly, if Jessica’s husband is physically abusing her, he will more than likely also abuse her child or perhaps her child may grow up to follow in Dad’s violent footsteps. It’s a heart-breaking situation. But is the answer to abuse to kill those who experience it or who might someday perpetrate it?
When the authorities are alerted to a case of domestic abuse, they don’t seek out the family and kill the mother and children to ensure they aren’t abused anymore or to guarantee they won’t abuse someone else. They, as far as they are able, prosecute the abuser! Why? Because the answer to abuse isn’t to murder those who suffer from it! It’s to punish the abuser for his violence.
An unborn child shouldn’t die so that future abuse (which might or might not take place; no human knows the future) might be avoided any more than a person outside the womb should die so that abuse is avoided. There are much better solutions to abuse than killing innocent would-be victims! This line of defense of abortion isn’t compassionate—it is evil to the very core and adds violence to violence.
(And this same thinking goes for the poverty argument—we don’t wipe out populations of impoverished people to end poverty!—although this was the thinking behind 19th-century eugenics, which inspired current abortion-on-demand.)
Again I repeat, a person’s value and right to life aren’t based on the circumstances they will (or might) be born into—it’s based on their status as an image bearer of the Creator God (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139).
Now for the second scenario: Jessica is now perhaps less likely to seek physical safety because the situation is complicated by pregnancy and a baby. First off, the opposite might be true—Jessica is now responsible for the life of another person, and that might just give her added courage to protect herself and her baby to have her husband’s crimes properly prosecuted. But perhaps it does not. Is she justified in seeking an abortion?
Think of Jessica’s story this way: Jessica isn’t pregnant. Instead, she has a black-haired, brown-eyed, chubby little two-year-old girl. It will be more difficult for her to leave with a toddler to care and provide for. Would Jessica be justified in (a) fleeing, but leaving her toddler behind with the abusive father or (b) poisoning or dismembering (the actions that take place during a medical or surgical abortion8) her two-year-old to make her flight from danger easier? Any rational person with a shred of conscience would recoil at either of those scenarios! And yet the hidden nature of the womb and the sterilized setting of an abortion clinic somehow make the murder of the child more palatable to some.
No, Jessica is not justified in taking the life of her unborn child to help her escape abuse. She should seek her own physical safety, along with that of her precious child’s.
Lastly, the third scenario: the baby would be a daily painful reminder to Jessica of her past. Of course, the reverse might also happen—this child serves as a sweet reminder that beauty and love can come from hurt and brokenness for either her or an adoptive family (the mother must make a choice of how she will choose to view the life God has given her). But this aside, consider the scenario I outlined above—would the mother be justified in killing a child who is already born because the child reminded her too much of someone who caused her pain? No! Most people would rightly recognize how evil that would be. But that child is the same child in the womb as out of the womb. The only difference is location and level of ability—and neither of those determines personhood! That baby is a person, and taking his or her life, at any stage, is murder.
In no way does arguing that the life of the unborn child should be preserved remove or belittle the horror of each of these scenarios. They are all truly sickening and the result of living in a depraved world, reeling from the effects of sin and hearts dead to the things of God, including the conscience he has given us. Each of the above circumstances is complex and certainly far from God’s ideal. But horrible circumstances don’t make the murder of an innocent child morally acceptable.
Horrible circumstances don’t make the murder of an innocent child morally acceptable.
Instead of trying to quickly “remove” the most visible consequence of the actions of evil men by committing an even more violent crime (murder), we must support the women who have suffered so much and help them find hope, healing, and a new plan for the future amidst the turmoil and pain they are suffering.