Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Republicans absurdly debate the rape exception for abortion

     Representative Todd Akin put his foot in his mouth by saying exactly what was on his mind: that "legitimate rape" causes trauma that makes pregnancy from rape rare--or, at least, that was the strong implication of his words.  Of course, there is no science to back up this claim regarding humans (one would think a Representative sitting on the Science and Technology committee would believe in this little thing we call "evidence"), and not all rapes have trauma involved at the time of the rape (there is, of course, trauma after).  I know women personally who were raped when they were drunk, and a few of them were pregnant from it.  One I knew to be a lesbian.  She was penetrated while unconscious.  I know women who have been drugged and raped.  Even if there were truth to the claim that the trauma of rape caused a woman's body to shut down pregnancy, Akin's claim would imply that only brutal, conscious rapes constitute rape.  A woman who was drugged during her rape is no less violated, just not beaten.

     There are many forms of rape, but that's not what I want to get into here.  I think rape is an important subject, and we need to do everything we can to prevent rape, prosecute rapists, and care for the victims of the crime, but the concern for the moment is the stance Akin and people like him have on abortion.   Akin is not alone in his views.  The implication that pregnancy from rape is rare gives people like him the courage to say it should not be an exception for abortion.  I don't know that Akin believes that himself, but there are several prominent names in the Republican Party who do, in fact, believe that there should be no exception for rape or incest.  There are even a few who believe there should be no exception for saving the mother's life.

     Far be it from me to make a moral judgment here, but does the vision Republicans have for the United States really include rape victims coming into emergency rooms because they tried to end their pregnancies with twisted coat hangers, umbrella spokes, bicycle spokes, poison, sharp instruments, and other unsafe means, just because, in their view, there aren't that many of them (at least not from "legitimate rape")?   That was the reality of abortion when it was illegal.  Women sought to end their pregnancies for all sorts of reasons, and only the wealthy and connected had the means to get abortions safely.  I think all women should have access to safe abortion procedures, but when it comes to rape victims, I have a special compassion.  It's hard enough making decisions regarding pregnancy; it has to be more difficult still when the offspring is a rapist's.  I can't imagine the emotional agony over the idea of carrying a rapist's child to term.  It seems to me that it takes a special kind of cruelty to force a rape victim to bear the child of a person who forced her into pregnancy in the first place.  It's another kind of rape, in my view.

      Abortion should be safe for all women, and made rare through comprehensive sex education, ready access to contraception, and empowerment of women in general.  I know there are many who would disagree, but please, if you believe abortion is murder, consider what I have said about the ways in which women tried to end their pregnancies before safe abortion procedures were legally available.  Many women died as a result of their failed--or even successful--abortion attempts.  Poison, infection, too much blood loss...all of these things brought women into the emergency room, and many of them died.  Before you say that you believe they got what they deserved for "murdering a child", consider that your beliefs, if Christian, also include the idea of forgiveness and redemption.  How does a dead woman receive the opportunity to redeem herself?

     Of course, as an atheist, I do not share the view that women who seek abortions require redemption.  I do not see abortion as murder at all; taking a life that has not even really begun is not murder.  Yes, a fetus is alive, but does it have a personality?  It may feel pain, but does it remember it (in cases where pain is felt that is not abortion-related)?  Does it have memories?  In cases where a "morning after" pill is used, it's just a mass of cells with no possibility of any of these things being true, but the same people who will make the case for a fetus feeling pain and such will be against this method, as well, all because of the faith-based concept of the soul coming in at conception.

     Considering that children resulting from unwanted pregnancy often end up abused, poor, and generally disadvantaged, I see abortion as a difficult, but merciful, choice.  All choices regarding pregnancy are difficult.  Pregnancy changes the body and comes with its own risks.  Miscarriages can kill.  Child birth can kill.  Complications from child birth can kill.  In most cases, death is not the result, but pregnancy absolutely changes a woman's body permanently.  Giving the resulting baby up for adoption can come with its own problems, including grieving for the loss of the child, even though the child is still alive. There are no easy choices here, but in all of these cases, women should expect every effort to be made to keep them safe.


1 comment:

TinCanMan said...

Well said. Intelligent and articulate presentation. I enjoyed this post.