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Friday, August 24, 2012
Legitimate Rape ?
Fr. Jim Chern, Catholic chaplain at Montclair State University, has written a thought provoking article concerning the comments made by Missouri Senator Todd Akin on the subject of rape and abortion.
The other night, a former student sent me a video with a note “Not sure if you saw this, but found this very interesting.” It was a total of 38 seconds, and so I clicked it to check it out. It was of the Senate Candidate from Missouri (who I had never seen or heard of before) Todd Akin being interviewed on one of the thousands of news interview programs on one of the hundreds of News Channels on our cable systems.
In this short 38 second clip, it was obvious the candidate and the interviewer had been discussing Akin’s pro-life beliefs when the interviewer asked a follow up question “what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?”
Years ago when I was in college, I remember that same question coming up in debates in a variety of forums. I remember declaring that I was Pro-Life and that abortion should be made illegal except in the cases of Rape, Incest or when the life of the mother was in danger. I figured that was an acceptable and completely reasonable position.
I remember our professor (a woman by the way) during one of these debates challenging me on my beliefs. First she explained that in the cases of the life of the mother, abortion isn’t the only alternative. That there are many medical approaches that can be taken. It was true that sometimes those approaches could result in the death of the mother, the child, both individuals or neither... But the difference was in the approach – try to save both lives: let the doctors work as hard as they could; allow the patients and their families to support one another and rally around the precious gifts of life that we all desire personally and want to see win out in this case; and to be open to reverence towards God, the author of life and realize how precious a gift this is. That was much different than unilaterally deciding that the baby was going to die as abortion would clearly decide.
I realized the wisdom, the gentleness and beauty of her explanation and said “I never thought of that like that – that makes sense...” and quickly augmented my stance to say “OK, I get it, so I guess what I meant to say or what I believe is that I think abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape and incest.”
At that, she pressed me further and said “Jim, why are you Pro-Life?” and I answered “Well, because I believe that abortion is killing a baby in the womb.” She said “So you believe that it is a baby in the womb?” I wasn’t sure where she was going with the debate, so I said “well yeah, what else could ‘it’ be - how many pregnant women have delivered a plant or a fish or something other than a human being.” She underlined this point “so you’re pro-life beliefs are based solely on the belief that this is a human baby and that abortion kills that human baby?” Getting a bit frustrated now and fearing I was being set up I responded “Yeah!”
That’s when she said the argument that made me even more firmly pro-life than I had ever been before. “If that’s what you believe, and if that’s the basis for your beliefs - that a pregnant woman has within herself a human baby – and that abortion is the killing and destruction of that human baby, then how could you legitimately support the murdering of any baby? How does the murdering of the baby because he or she was conceived due to rape or incest the fault of this innocent baby? Why does he or she deserve a punishment for the crimes of the father?”
I had solely based my beliefs on a mistaken thought that I was being compassionate for the victims of rape or incest and in that was ignoring the innocent human being I was so quick to defend from receiving a death sentence in every other circumstance.
All of these thoughts came back to my mind as I watched that initial 38 second clip. Because as I watched it, I focused on how Mr. Akin in his response tried to point out that many Pro-Abortion proponents often cite abortion and incest in this emotionally charged, moral debate that has raged for every year I have lived (1973 was the year I was conceived and born which was also the first year it was legal to kill a child in the womb, so I have been blessed that my mother chose not to abort me) Understandably we are repulsed by the violence that women suffer because of evil individuals in this horrendous crimes of Rape and Incest. But I remembered learning from this professor back in college how the number of abortions due to rape and incest were less than 1% because often times the women’s body in the midst of such horror shuts down as a defense, preventing conception from occurring.
So as I watched this video clip, that was what I heard in Mr. Aiken’s response: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,"
The Clip is here: http://youtu.be/fdisTOKom5I
I wrote back to the student who had forwarded the video: “Have you never heard that before that abortions due to rape are extremely rare because they rarely result in a conception?” I never believed from the tone and tenor of the conversation that Mr. Aiken was saying there was defining some instances of rape as “legitimate” or that some victims claims of rape were “illegitimate.” Hearing and watching the video, he seemed to be having a conversation that underlined his beliefs that because he was pro-life and believed that a pregnant woman had an innocent human life in her womb, that you could never make a legitimate argument for the death of that child.
From the “news” and media reaction today, it’s looking likely that by this time tomorrow, Mr. Aiken will be the former senate candidate from Missouri. The political fallout for his poor choice of words that have been characterized and interpreted as at a minimum insensitive, un-empathetic, backwards have most likely successfully ended his political career. Whether that’s fair or not? I don’t know. Politics is a tricky, bizarre game that rarely makes sense to me. (Is there a double standard in politics? Considering the Vice President gets away with saying his opponents want to put “y’all back in chains” to a large number of African Americans at a speech he gave last week and he remains on firmly on the ballot for a second term this November - I’ll let you decide if there’s a double standard or not)
But what’s sad to me watching and reading all this tonight is the hysterical outrage of our society to a few poorly chosen words taken out of context while the 38 years of continued murders of millions upon millions of innocent babies has been allowed to be“legitimate.”
You can find Fr. Chern's Blog HERE